A Whisker Away follows the young junior high school student, Miyo “Muge” Sasaki, who is head over heels for her classmate Kento Hinode. While the bubbly Muge does not hold back from expressing feelings for Hinode, the boy does not seem to give it much attention. But things are different whenever Muge transforms into the cat, Tarou, using a mystical mask she had acquired from a mysterious merchant. As Tarou, Hinode gives her all the attention she wants from him. But it all comes with a price, and Muge will soon have to make a final choice between being a human or a cat for the rest of her life.
The film was originally planned for a theatrical release, but due to the pandemic, it goes straight to the streaming platform Netflix. It is from directors Junichi Satoh of Sailor Moon and Tomotaka Shibayama, with a screenplay from Mari Okada, the writer of Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day.
Watch this if you:
Appreciate anime, be it a part of your lifestyle or an occasional affair. If you’ve watched all Hayao Miyazaki films on Netflix, this is also a nice starter if you plan to delve into other anime films outside the Studio Ghibli brand.
Also watch this if you are a fan of Mari Okada, whose stories often focus on the changes that people go through when growing up. Stories that can really make us nostalgic.
What I think:
A Whisker Away is a reminder of our teenage years; the budding romantic feelings and the urge to just get away included. It’s a somewhat, symbolic depiction of depression– escapism to a point of no return.
On its surface is a story of young love with a fantasy adventure spin, but the film draws more strength in its subthemes like family matters, choosing one’s career path, and the irreplaceable bond between a pet and its owner.
While its story as a whole packs a lot of meaning, certain parts of the execution felt off-putting. The prime example is the protagonist herself, Muge, who is so desperate for Hinode’s attention that it can be kind of cringey at times. Due to this, getting emotionally attached to her character was a bit of an effort.
The story ties everything together, but the balance between romance and fantasy was in a see-saw. Romance predominated the first act and then fantasy took in charge halfway through. Just imagine watching Your Name and then suddenly it’s Spirited Away. After seeing it whole, I was able to appreciate the sub-stories– specifically Hinode’s and Kaoru’s– more than its main premise.
In terms of animation, it is not flawless but it is not bad either; and the showcased sceneries have that familiar charm exclusive to the medium. All in all, A Whisker Away offers a warm story and a fantasy adventure that different age groups may freely appreciate in their own ways.
A Whisker Away will stream on Netflix on June 18.