It was an afternoon of International Premiere this Saturday at Fantasia. The prestigious Shochiku House introduced its crowd-pleasing/ feel good movie, Kôichirô Miki‘s The Traveling Cat Chronicles (from the book by Hiro Arikawa). And they hit the jackpot.
There was laughter, drama and a lot of tears. In fact, as far as I could remember, the last time I had seen an audience cry their hearts out that much, was during the International premiere of Poppoya (Japan, 1999), also in Montreal.
Without spoilers, we can say that, for circumstantial reasons, young Satoru (Sôta Fukushi) hits the road with Nana, his beloved (no-CGI) cat, whose various (often funny) thoughts we hear as a voice over. While it is an attempt at finding a foster home for his furry friend, the trip is an occasion to revisit friends and family, revisit a recent past (Satoru is still young). A great deal of a life span from a cat’s point of view…
From a critic’s standing point you may try to argue that director Kôichirô Miki pulls a lot of the strings of manipulative melodrama 101, but there is more to it and he deserves praise because he makes it work with patiently crafted images and situations, striking the sensitive chords more than once with some strong sweet and sour scenes. He skillfully tackles issues of family (two and four legs), friendship, deceptions, hope and… deaths. Family stuff? Your kid can take it with a little explanation afterward. Girlie stuff? There was an equal amount of baritone sobbing in the room…
The (real flesh and bone) cat, Nana? There was some good training from the department in charge of such things because it conveys a lot of emotions and humor. Obviously the production team knows more than a few things about this Anarchist fur ball.
The Traveling Cat Chronicles comes up as a spirited, seductive and highly effective melodrama. Guys at Shochiku, you’re in business!