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Los Angeles Japan Film Festival 2008 – Atagoal’s Cat Magical Forest

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This 2006 computer animated movie, Atagoal wa Neko no Mori directed by Mizuho Nishikubo, is about a boisterous cat whose morality is suspect, but whose passion for life saves the day. Based on a popular manga by Hiroshi Masumura, this screenplay by Hirotoshi Kobayashi condemns mindless conformity for the sake of peaceful existence. The title literally means Atagoal: The Cat Forest, but is translated as Atagoal's Cat Magical Forest.

Atagoal is a town of cats (with some humans) and Hideyoshi (Koichi Yamadera) is the biggest party animal there. His fun veers toward destructiveness and infuriates the other villagers, particularly since he snatches a few tuna fish. He escapes and his friends, humans Princess Tsukimi (Aya Hirayama) and Tempura (Asahi Uchida), run after him, finding him with a sealed chest. Thinking that there must be something to eat in it and warned by the slender cat with an eye patch and cape, Gilgars (Seiichi Tanabe), not to open it (Hideyoshi replies, "If you tell me not to do something I simply must") he mistakenly opens a magic seal that releases the beautiful Botanical Queen Pileah (Mari Natsuki). Pileah's voice hypnotizes the cats and the people of Atagoal, turning them into plants. As queen, Pileah wants to bring world order and peace by turning the cats into mindless, though happy, zombies. Her only obstacle is the King of Plants, Kagayakihiko-no-Miya, or Hideko (Tesuko Kozakura).

Hideko has chosen Hideyoshi as his father and because of this, he never grows into a large, majestic plant, but remains a small, cute little seedling. Hideko has greater moral strength than Hideyoshi but gains strength from the big cat's strong life force.

The story is basically about how even children or the child-like beings can have great spiritual power and be severely underestimated by the bigger, more adult-like beings. In that respect, it is not unlike The Chronicles of Narnia although less spiritual.

Sometimes the subtitles are not not spot on, but this movie is exuberant and family-friendly, especially for those who love cats. This DVD is not currently available on Amazon (26 April 2008).

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