Mei and the Kittenbus

UK Distributor:  N/A

BBFC Certificate:  N/A

Running Time:  13mins (approx.)

Director:  Hayao Miyazaki

Audio for Screening:  Japanese audio, no subtitles

Cinema:  Ghibli Museum Saturn Theatre, Tokyo, Japan

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


There are many things that set Studio Ghibli apart from any other animation house in the world.  Fans will proclaim how they have yet to make a bad film, or how they have kept their integrity.  They'll wax lyrical about the unique vision and attention to detail that imbues their films, or the groundbreaking way the studio is run.  But one thing few people ever point out is that they have never done a single bona-fide sequel to any of their films.

In fact this short film is probably the closest you will ever get.  Back in 2001 Studio Ghibli opened a museum dedicated to their films in the Tokyo suburb of Mitaka.  The museum was designed by Ghibli's leading light Hayao Miyazaki and one of his specifications was that a special cinema should be incorporated to show short films as 'exhibits'.  Three short films were made, each with a running time of around 15 minutes, but despite the charm of Whale Hunt and Koro's Big Day Out the one fans wanted to see was Mei and the Kittenbus.

As any Ghibli fan will suspect from the title, this short film brings back the familiar country house and some of the characters that featured in Hayao Miyazaki's 1988 film My Neighbour Totoro.  This time the focus is completely on Mei, the younger of the two sisters from the original film.  Whilst playing outside she notices a strange little tornado zipping around like it's alive so she shoos it into her house so she can try and catch it.  When she grabs it though it turns into the titular Kittenbus, which is terrified until she placates it with some caramel.  Unfortunately her time with the Kittenbus is cut short by the arrival of its parent - the Catbus from My Neighbour Totoro.  However, that isn't the end of her fun, her newfound friend returns at night to whisk her away on a magical journey to a great meeting of spirits where she meets a familiar face...

Mei and the Kittenbus is a charming short film that manages the seemingly impossible by recapturing the magic and fun of My Neighbour Totoro, a film considered by many to be the finest anime of all time.  It's not really a sequel, it's a side story that in some ways feels like a missing sequence from the original film.  The animation and art is as high quality as any full Ghibli production and the short benefits from a new, cute score from the original film's composer Joe Hisaishi.  The characters seem like they've never been away, Mei's as cute as

ever and you do get a genuine thrill to see the Catbus again.  Whilst the inevitable return of Totoro (complete with umbrella!) drew a joyful cheer from the throng of Japanese kids (and three Englishmen...) that packed the museum's tiny cinema.

The story is reminiscent in places of Raymond Briggs' The Snowman, and like that film it has a magic all of its own.  In places it's funny (the reaction of the gigantic Catliner to a piece of caramel is hilarious!), in places it's nostalgic, but all the way through Mei and the Kittenbus is superb.  There's plenty you could read into it, especially when hordes of Totoros get in the Catliner and seemingly leave our world, but in a way that would be missing the point.  Mei and the Kittenbus is a beautiful and thoroughly enjoyable follow up to one of the best animated films of all time, and it matches the quality and magic of My Neighbour Totoro perfectly.  There can be no higher praise.


None (cinema screening)


Feature:   Extras: N/A

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