Previously published in Neo magazine #43, 2008
It must be Thursday, because another of my friends has decided to complain about the Anime Encyclopedia – a book that gives new meaning to the term “tough love.”
“I thought you were a trifle harsh on The Cat Returns,” he said.
A trifle harsh!? My co-author and I barely gave it a slap on the wrist. We called it a “minor Ghibli”, an assessment with which not even Studio Ghibli is likely to argue. Let’s face it, I said to him, it’s no Whisper of the Heart, is it?
There was a long, agonising pause, and then he admitted he’d never seen Whisper of the Heart, although of course it was on his list of things to do.
For those oldies like myself who waited for each Ghibli release with bated breath, we had no choice but to see them in the release order. Now that they’re all available on DVD, the viewing experience can be totally random. You can see the best first, or last, or perhaps even not at all. In some cases, this might actually be a good thing, a benefit of living in modern times, but now I was intrigued.
If he owned a reference book on anime, then he surely knew the relationship of the two films. Why didn’t he buy Whisper of the Heart first?
“Please don’t tell me,” I said, with mounting horror, “that you picked this one because it had the word ‘cat’ in the title?”
There was another pregnant pause.
“It might have had something to do with it,” he said.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Movie titles are simplified all the time. They want to be memorable, and they want to feel cosy. It’s why in the action world there are so many titles like Fatal This and Lethal That. Why buzzwords are so useful in selling movies. And, I suppose, why any mention of a bloody cat is liable to up sales in certain quarters. Come on, Studio Ghibli. There’s still time to change the title of your next film to Lethal Kitten Space iPhone. It might make all the difference….