Japanese Film Festival 2018: The Travelling Cat Chronicles will remind you to hug your cat a little tighter

I never thought I’d cry so much during a movie about a man and his cat but this deeply moving film featuring Sota Fukushi as main character Satoru reaffirms your faith in humanity (and might even convert some cat haters). The Travelling Cat Chronicles directed by Koichiro Miki skillfully combines humour and tragedy to deliver a story that is sure to tug at your heartstrings and remind you to hug your cat a little tighter.

Adapted from Hiro Arikawa‘s bestselling 2012 novel, the film sees Nana, our feline protagonist who’s turned from cocky stray cat to pet, and Satoru’s journey across a picturesque Japan. Nana (voiced by Mitsuki Takahata) and her snarky and cynical quips provide most of the humour while Satoru’s character as a soft-spoken cat-lover helps bring out the sentimentality for the film.

The story begins with the pair leaving their home, with Satoru’s aim being to find a new home for Nana because — for reasons which remain a secret until the end — he can no longer keep her. During each of the stops they make, Nana narrates (but mostly serves as eye candy) as Satoru’s encounters with his old friends — at a provincial photo studio and a countryside inn. Each stop reveals the young man’s backstory, in flashbacks, such as the staggering tragedy that leaves him an orphan when he’s a child and the love triangle he’s entangled in during his high-school days.

Unable to find Nana a new family among his old friends, Satoru reaches out to his aunt Noriko (Yuko Takeuchi), who actually halts her own rising career as a judge and moves to the provinces to provide a home for the cat. The reason for her incredible sacrifice ties in with Satoru’s real reason in giving Nana up.

This road trip may have started as an endearing trip down memory lane, but as things unravel and Satoru’s motivations for finding a new home for Nana become clearer, the story shows itself for what it really is, the tale takes on an even deeper meaning about loss, loyalty, perseverance, and the value of friendship. Nana’s refusal to leave Satoru’s side, no matter what, speaks to that little quiet and sheltered vulnerable part in all of us. At the end of the film, there is a clear message: your actions and small acts of kindness bring your friends and loved ones closer to you. While the plot may come off as simple- the premise is essentially about a man and his cat-  The Travelling Cat Chronicles becomes a wonderfully touching and vigorously demonstrative fable. It’s a movie that we need right now, to remind us to be strong, and to retain positivity, no matter what the world throws at us.

Satoru’s perspective on life serves as an elevated example of the infinite beauty that stems from insurmountable pain. but it is Nana’s character who is most relatable as she shows that even the most hardboiled souls secretly harbour a need to be loved. With the help of Kotringo’s score, The Travelling Cat Chronicles deliver an incredibly drawn-out denouement so that even the most jaded viewer eventually succumbs.

Review Score: FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The film’s season at the Japanese Film Festival has come to an end.