THE CAT RETURNS
NEKO NO ONGAESHI
2002, Studio Ghibli, 75 min, Japan, Dir: Hiroyuki Morita

In this sequel to WHISPER OF THE HEART, quiet suburban schoolgirl Haru is pitched into a fantastical feline world and must find her inner strength to make her way back home. Walking with her friend after a dreary day at school, Haru eyes a cat with a small gift box in its mouth. Attempting to cross a busy street, the cat fumbles the package in the middle of the road as a truck is rapidly bearing down. Haru manages to scoop the cat away to safety. To her amazement, the cat then gets up on its hind legs, brushes itself off and thanks her very politely. Strange behavior indeed, but this is nothing compared to what happens later that evening when the King of Cats shows up in a feline motorcade replete with vassals, maidens, and even Secret Service cats. In a show of gratitude for saving his son’s life, the king cat showers Haru with gifts - including a large supply of individually wrapped live mice - and decrees that she shall marry the cat prince and come to live as a princess in the secret Kingdom of Cats.


HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE
HAURU NO UGOKU SHIRO
2004, GKIDS, 119 min, Japan, Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

Sophie, an average teenage girl working in a hat shop, finds her life thrown into turmoil when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome but mysterious wizard named Howl. After this chance meeting, the young girl is turned into a 90-year-old woman by the vain and conniving Witch of the Waste. Embarking on an incredible adventure to lift the curse, Sophie finds refuge in Howl’s magical moving castle. As the true power of Howl’s wizardry is revealed, and his relationship with Sophie deepens, our young heroine finds herself fighting to protect them both from a dangerous war of sorcery that threatens their world. HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE was the second Studio Ghibli film to be nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.


MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO
TONARI NO TOTORO
1988, Studio Ghibli, 86 min, Japan, Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

The third Studio Ghibli feature from former Toei animator turned writer-producer-director-entrepreneur Hayao Miyazaki tells the story of young sisters Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe, who move with their father into a new house near a vast forest, in order to be closer to their ailing, hospitalized mother. Discovering wondrous forest spirits, they also encounter Totoro, a giant, lumbering, bunny-esque creature. "Here is a children's film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where, if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO has become one of the most beloved of all family films without ever having been much promoted or advertised." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.


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