|Fly, Haru, fly!|
Welcome to another "International Friday" here at Eating Kids' Media! In keeping with the September/Back-to-School theme, I have decided to review Studio Ghibli's The Cat Returns (Japanese: Neko no Ongaeshi) for today's entry.
Some of you may be familiar with Studio Ghibli thanks to its famous founder and director Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind). Although it is a Ghibli production,The Cat Returns was not directed by Miyazaki. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as the Miyazaki junkies out there (myself included!) can appreciate this lovely film for what it is, and not compare it to a film directed by Miyazaki. Now, on to the review!
The main character is Japanese high school student Haru. Like a lot of kids, she struggles with feeling confident about herself. She has a crush on a cute boy in her class, who doesn't even know she exists. And on top of that, she just can't seem to wake up on time for school!
One day, while walking home from school with her best friend, she saves a cat from being run over by a truck by running into the intersection and scooping it up with her lacrosse stick! (Badass!) She is shocked when the cat stands upright, sweeps the dust from his fur, and says in lovely honorific Japanese, "Thanks for saving me." It turns out that the gracious cat is none other than the prince of the Cat Kingdom, Prince Lune. Later that night, in a scene that words cannot do justice, Prince Lune's dad, the Cat King and his entourage, presents Haru with a scroll detailing gifts of repayment (ongaeshi) that she will receive over the coming days.
|I'm a I'm a hustler!|
To make a long story short, the gifts are not what Haru wanted or expected. When the Cat King's super-cute lackey (whose name I cannot remember) tells Haru that her final gift is her impending wedding to Prince Lune, Haru follows the advice of a mysterious voice to seek help from the Cat Bureau. And so begins Haru's harrowing adventure to find out that the only thing she really needed was inside her all along.
Why I Love This Movie
If you are a fan of Miyazaki, you've probably noticed that his characters are usually super-perfect strong females (with the exception of Chihiro from Spirited Away). That being said, I love that this Ghibli production features a strong girl with integrity (a super-athletic lacrosse-playing girl who loves cats!) who doesn't have it ENTIRELY together (she still can't wake up for school, even with an alarm.) This makes her instantly endearing and relatable. Action, intrigue, and giggles abound in this movie, but as a mother, the best part for me was the fact that Haru's character grows in the end. She's been through a lot, learned her lessons, and is stronger and better for all of it (cliched as it sounds!) Please watch it with your older children, both boys and girls!
Appropriate for ages 10 and up. No blood, gore, or sex, but some concepts about "finding yourself" that littler ones might not be interested in or understand.