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.


OCEAN WAVES
UMI GA KIKOERU
1993, Studio Ghibli, 72 min, Japan, Dir: Tomomi Mochizuki

This subtle, poignant and wonderfully detailed story of adolescence and teenage isolation is rarely seen outside of Japan. Taku and his best friend Yutaka are headed back to school for what looks like another uneventful year. But they soon find their friendship tested by the arrival of Rikako, a beautiful new transfer student from Tokyo, whose attitude vacillates wildly from flirty and flippant to melancholic. When Taku joins Rikako on a trip to Tokyo, the school erupts with rumors, and the three friends are forced to come to terms with their changing relationships. OCEAN WAVES was the first Studio Ghibli film directed by someone other than studio founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, as director Tomomi Mochizuki led a talented staff of younger employees in an adaptation of Saeko Himuro’s best-selling novel. Full of shots bathed in a palette of pleasingly soft pastel colors and rich in the unexpected visual details typical of Studio Ghibli’s most revered works, OCEAN WAVES is an accomplished teenage drama and a true discovery. Not available in any North American home viewing formats.


HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE
HAURU NO UGOKU SHIRO
2004, Walt Disney Pictures, 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.


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