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Tag Archive: Chizuru Ikewaki


Review by C.J. Bunce

Hayao Miyazaki’s Whisper of the Heart may be the anime master’s most heart-warming story.  Based on the 1989 manga by artist Aoi Hiiragi, Whisper of the Heart is a 1995 romance and drama about a teenage girl who wants to be a writer, and with the determination and self-discipline necessary, she is successful at completing her first novel.  The story within a story that she writes is about an ornamental cat in a store window that she names The Baron.  In a fun twist, Hiiragi wrote the girl’s story into another manga, titled The Cat’s Repayment, and that story was adapted into Studio Ghibli’s 2002 anime film The Cat Returns.  “The Cat” returned to theaters this week as part of the Fathom Events series and Studio Ghibli Fest 2018, and has its final screening at theaters nationwide Wednesday evening, April 25, 2018, at 7 p.m. local time.  Find theater information and order tickets here.

This month’s release of Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs was inspired by the anime films of Studio Ghibli, and you can see the influences from The Cat Returns in particular.  The Cat Returns is a much lighter film with none of the violence of Isle of Dogs.  It has rightly been referred to as “delightful,” “sweet,” and “cute.”  Its appeal for cat fans is the sincerity and authenticity of director Hiroyuki Morita (Akira, Perfect Blue, My Neighbors the Yamadas), and his use of real cats for some of the cat dialogue.  The story centers on a high school student named Haru.  When Haru rescues a cat in the road from an oncoming truck, the cat stands upright and speaks to thank her, and she soon learns he is a cat prince whose father the Cat King grants her the blessing of total happiness.  She finds she could always hear and communicate with cats, but lost that sense years ago.  Cats from the kingdom pile on the gifts, not realizing people don’t like mice and catnip as much as cats, and when the gifts and rewards get too great and the Cat King goes overboard, she is helped by a well-dressed cat at the Cat Business Office–The Baron.

Haru meets a rather skeptical, rotund, white cat along the way named Muta, who is possibly the finest, most realistic cat ever translated to film.  Soon the Cat King determines Haru should marry his son, and Haru, The Baron, and Muta embark on an escape from the palace through a labyrinthine maze.  Studio Ghibli, with creators Miyazaki and Morita, have visually presented the most believable cats in their numerous productions over the decades.  In The Cat Returns the characters are not so much photo-real as in Miyazaki’s directorial efforts (here he serves as executive producer), yet the charming story is truly everything any cat lover will love.  It is also filled with good humor, an engaging fantasy story, and lots of silliness that both kids and adults will appreciate.

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Following the success of last year’s Studio Ghibli Fest, animated film distributor GKIDS and Fathom Events are bringing back to U.S. theaters nine critically acclaimed films throughout the year for Studio Ghibli Fest 2018.  Starting this weekend the series will feature both dubbed and subtitled versions of Studio Ghibli classics, beginning with a 10th anniversary screening of the fan-favorite family adventure Ponyo (2008) on March 25 (dubbed), 26 (subtitled), and 28 (dubbed), with original actors Tomoko Yamaguchi, Kazushige Nagashima, and Yuria Nara in the subtitled version and Cate Blanchett, Cloris Leachman, Liam Neeson, and Matt Damon in the dubbed version. In a spin-off of the Hayao Miyazaki story Whisper of the Heart, the character Baron re-emerges in The Cat Returns (2002), back in theaters April 22 (dubbed), 23 (subtitled), and 25 (dubbed), with stars Chizuru Ikewaki, Yoshihiko Hakamada, and Aki Maeda in the subtitled version, and Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, and Tim Curry in the dubbed version.  Miyazaki directs his tale of a pigman pilot bounty hunter in Porco Rosso (1992), back in theaters May 20 (dubbed), 21 (subtitled), and 23 (dubbed), with original stars Shûichirô Moriyama, Tokiko Katô, and Bunshi Katsura Vi in the subtitled version, and Michael Keaton and David Ogden Stiers in the dubbed version.

Studio Ghibli’s village of magical raccoon dogs fight back in Pom Poko (1994), in theaters June 17 (dubbed), 18 (subtitled), and 20 (dubbed), starring Shinchô Kokontei, Makoto Nonomura, and Yuriko Ishida in the subtitled version, and Clancy Brown and J.K. Simmons in the dubbed version.  One of Miyazaki’s most thrilling films, the legendary Princess Mononoke (1997) is back July 22 (dubbed), 23 (subtitled), and 25 (dubbed), starring Yôji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, and Yûko Tanaka in the subtitled version, and Minnie Driver, Clare Danes, and Gillian Anderson in the dubbed version.  Director Isao Takahata offers one of the finest World War II stories in all of cinema in his gut-wrenching Grave of the Fireflies (1988), back in theaters August 12 (dubbed), 13 (subtitled), and 15 (dubbed), starring Tsutomu Tatsumi, Ayano Shiraishi, and Akemi Yamaguchi in the subtitled version, and Adam Gibbs and Emily Neves in the dubbed version.

Everyone’s favorite gentle giant cat is back September 30 (dubbed), October 1 (subtitled), and October 3 (dubbed), when My Neighbor Totoro (1988) returns, starring Hitoshi Takagi, Noriko Hidaka, and Chika Sakamoto in the subtitled version, and Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, and Tim Daly in the dubbed version.  Perhaps Miyazaki’s most acclaimed film, the fantastical, spiritual, riveting epic Spirited Away (2001) is in theaters October 28 (dubbed), 29 (subtitled), and 30 (dubbed), starring Rumi Hiiragi, Miyu Irino, and Mari Natsuki in the subtitled version, and Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers, and James Marsden in the dubbed version.  And finally, a boy and girl search for a floating castle in Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky (1986), in theaters November 18 (dubbed), 29 (subtitled), and 20 (dubbed), starring Keiko Yokozawa, Mayumi Tanaka, and Kotoe Hatsui in the subtitled version, and Anna Paquin, Mark Hamill, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, and Mandy Patinkin in the dubbed version.

Here is a quick preview of Studio Ghibli Fest 2018:

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