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  Puss n' Boots Travels Around the World in 80 Days A Cat-astrophic Journey
Year: 1976
Director: Hiroshi Shidara
Stars: Osami Nabe, Junpei Takiguchi, Kosei Tomita, Takuzoku Kamiyama, Ado Mizumori, Chikao Otsuka, Eiko Masuyama, Isamu Tanonaka, Joji Yanami, Keaton Yamada, Keiko Yamamoto, Kosei Tomita, Osamu Kato, Sachiko Chijimatsu, Sanji Hase
Genre: Comedy, Animated, Science Fiction, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cheerful Perrault (voiced by Osami Nabe), the Puss in Boots, works at a busy restaurant where he overhears arrogant porcine billionaire Monsieur Gourman (Junpei Takiguchi) declare no-one could possibly travel around the world in one-hundred and twenty days. Perrault replies he could do it in just eighty days! An amused Gourman challenges the feisty feline to do just that. Should he win the bet, Gourman promises to hand over his entire fortune. But if Perrault loses, he has to work as Gourman's slave. Forever. So Perrault sets off in his shape-shifting boat with his friends Carter the Hippopotamus (Takuzoku Kamiyama) and a father (Kousei Tomita) and son (Keiko Yamamoto) mouse team on an amazing adventure around the world. However, not only does Perrault still have a trio of inept cat assassins on his tail but Gourman is not a man, er, pig used to losing. He employs the sneaky wolf magician Professor Garigari (Chikao Otsuka) to ensure Perrault will never make it home.

Around the World with Willy Fogg (1985), a later and only slightly more faithful anthropomorphic anime adaptation of the Jules Verne classic Around the World in Eighty Days, charmed a generation of British children when it aired on the BBC nine years later, but Perrault the cat got there first. This was the second sequel to Toei Films' The Wonderful World of Puss n' Boots (1969) following Three Musketeers in Boots (1972) which despite drawing its title from Alexandre Dumas was more of a western. In Japan Perrault, named after Charles Perrault author of the original fairytale Puss in Boots, was so popular Toei adopted him as their corporate symbol in much the way Disney did with Mickey Mouse. Interestingly, despite telling a different story in a different time zone Perrault remains recognizably the same quick-thinking, fast-talking cat and is still on the run from assassins working for the cat guild for being kind to mice. Although truncated by nine minutes, the American dubbed version is quite accomplished. It was supervised by actor and voice director Peter Fernandez, one-time voice of Speed Racer (1966). He handled numerous anime dubs around this time as well as the occasional live action import from Japan such as ultra-violent actioners The Executioner (1974) and The Tattooed Hitman (1976). They are worth tracking down if you ever wanted to hear Speed swear.

Scripted by Tadaki Yamazaki, who penned episodes of the seminal Lupin the Third television show as well as the hilariously bad Dracula: Sovereign of the Damned (1980), the madcap narrative reduces Verne's story to a string of colourful vignettes and one-shot gags. Blink and you will miss Spain, Italy, Greece, India and America pass by in a frantic blur. It is basically one long chase, lacking the lyrical flavour and emotional nuance of the original Puss n'Boots film but good fun for fans of Looney Tunes humour and outlandish gadgets reminiscent of The Wacky Races. True to Japanese genre fare the plot makes room for wild set-pieces involving elaborate steam-punk mecha. Among Perrault's many talents he also happens to be an ingenious engineer. Over the long journey he transforms his Heath Robinson-esque little boat into a rocket car, submarine and airplane while the bad guys ride about in a giant mechanical piranha and death-dealing mammoth. Aspects of the film seem tailored to keep up with science fiction anime like Time Bokan (1975) that were wowing Japanese kids at the time.

Toei's creative team fashion a vivid world of beautifully detailed fairytale backgrounds and charming animal characters. Despite ditching all of Verne's original subplots the film exhibits a genuine sense of wonder at the world with all its diversity and occasional eccentricity, without once lapsing into lazy racist caricature. Perrault makes friends easily, is always willing to help a stranger and learns something new from each person he meets. There is a weird detour into psychedelic territory when Perrault gets drugged by a duplicitous feline Southern belle working for Professor Garigari resulting in a trippy quasi-romantic (because it's all in his head) musical montage. Although clearly modelled after the delirious climax to The Wonderful World of Puss n'Boots the breakneck finale race to the top of the clocktower is dizzying fun and genuinely thrilling.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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