Saito’s series of children’s books could be likened to a more feline-centric Incredible Journey. A plucky young
kitten is indeed determined to reunite with his owner. However, he will learn
some hard lessons about what it means to be a cat in Kunihiko Yuyama & Motonori
Sakakibara’s Rudolph the Black Cat (trailer here), which screens
during the 2017 New York International Children’s Film Festival.
his own boneheadness, Rudolf (named after the Habsburg prince, not the
reindeer) lands in a Tokyo bound lorry. Prior to this misadventure, he had no
conception of the scale and intensity of the larger outside world. He is an
older kitten, but he is still ill-prepared for the life of a stray.
Fortunately, gruff, street smart Gottalot (a.k.a. Tiger, a.k.a. Boss, a.k.a.
etc., hence his preferred handle) takes the naïve black cat under his wing (and
teaches him Kanji).
also makes pals with Bucchi, a randy calico with a mild case of ADD, but the
notorious bulldog Devil gives Rudo (as he is now known on the streets) some
seriously bad vibes—with good reason. Of course, Rudo and his new friends concoct
a workable plan to get him home, but there will be unforeseen complications
that really put a cat’s life in perspective.
terms of animation, it is no Studio Ghibli masterpiece, but Yuyama & Sakakibara
(of Pokemon and Final Fantasy fame, respectively) keep it lively and inviting.
Their cats (and dog) are enormously expressive and their Tokyo backdrops are surprisingly
evocative. Technically, it should earn a pass from animation snobs and its big
heart will win over a wide spectrum of viewers.
lessons will be learned and throats will get choked up, but there is still a
lot of mischievous fun to be had along the way. Yôichi Katô’s presumably
faithful adaptation also makes sure young viewers end up at a safe and comfy
place—just not the one they were probably assuming. Frankly, it is probably
just challenging enough for youngsters and just sophisticated enough for
Cat is sort of a variation on the Finding Nemo theme, but Rudo and company
take it in a very different direction. Kids will most likely find it far more
captivating than adults, but the latter should still appreciate its charm.
Recommended as a sweet and worthy work of animated storytelling, Rudolf the Black Cat screens again on Sunday
the 19th, the final day of this year’s NYICFF.
Labels: Animated films, Japanese Cinema, NYICFF '17