Review: Neko No Ongaeshi (The Cat Returns, 2002)


Turning into a cat doesn’t sound like much fun, I’m sure there are crude jokes I could make, but not now, not now!

Screenplay By: Reiko Yoshida
Directed By: Hiroyuki Morita

A somewhat sequel to the fine Mimi Wo Sumaseba, Neko No Ongaeshi follows the exploits of Baron, the statue of a gentleman cat that in this movie can come to life. Most Studio Ghibli films tackle hard subjects, but every once in a while, read not often, they come out with a film that is meant to be more fun with only a minor issue at its core. Neko No Ongaeshi isn’t a deep film, but it is an entertaining hour and change.

Entertaining sums up Neko No Ongaeshi rather succinctly. There are moments that are cool, such as the cat processional being a call out to the fox wedding in Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams. There are moments that are funny like the fighting between Toto and Muta. The theme of believing in yourself is touched upon in a minor way, but they don’t go too deep into it because Neko No Ongaeshi isn’t a deep movie. It may sound simplistic, but Neko No Ongaeshi is fun and entertaining and that’s all there is to it.

Animation wise Neko No Ongaeshi is good, but it’s not finely detailed, it looks ordinary and plain compared to what I know Studio Ghibli is capable of. The slow motion catch of Prince Lune by Haru in her lacrosse stick looks great, and so do some other moments, but otherwise it is a very ordinary looking animation feature. The story is a decent surface story, you get what the characters are saying and you understand what is happening on screen, but it doesn’t go beneath that surface, what you see is all you get. There’s really only a few moments in the film where there is a noticeable dip in quality, once our protagonists have entered the Cat Kingdom there are some odd jump cuts in the animation that didn’t make much sense.

You won’t find Neko No Ongaeshi on the long list of great Studio Ghibli films, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film. Neko No Ongaeshi is an entertaining film, it is fun and there are elements that will appeal to you. But, it isn’t a deep film, it won’t impact you or stay with you in any way. Studio Ghibli fans need to check it out, fans of Baron need to check it out, otherwise Neko No Ongaeshi is a movie that’s cool to watch if you stumble across it but I wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.




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