Computer animation may have taken Hollywood by storm, but traditional line-drawn toonery is alive and kicking in Japan thanks to anime giant Studio Ghibli. Their latest effort about a teenager's dreamlike visit to a feline kingdom can't quite match the invention of 2003 Oscar-winner Spirited Away. But The Cat Returns is still an enchanting, magical fable with a twisted vein of surrealism that makes you wonder exactly what they're smoking over there in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Japanese teenager Haru's adventures begin when she stops a moggy from becoming road-kill at a busy intersection. Not only can her new feline friend talk; he's also the son of the Cat King, who insists she come and visit his tabby realm. Haru can hardly refuse, but she wishes she had when she begins sprouting ears and finds herself facing an arranged marriage to the pussy prince.
"SOME DELICIOUSLY BIZARRE TURNS"
Director Hiroyuki Morita may lack the delirious imagination of Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki, but his Lewis Carrollesque fantasy still takes some deliciously bizarre turns on the way to a stunning finale high above the rooftops of contemporary Japan. Given its distinctively Oriental flavour, it's a pity the dubbed version contains such US slanguage as "busted", "babe" and "jerk". But while anime purists will no doubt seek out a subtitled print, the starry alternative has its moments - most of them supplied by Elliott Gould's chatty raven, Tim Curry's crafty royal and Peter Boyle as the ultimate fat cat.