‘A Whisker Away’ Provides a Delightful and Whimsical Adventure for the Whole Family – Review
Growing up is hard. Especially, when a magical feline wizard wants to permanently turn you into a cat. These are the growing pains that Miyo encounters in A Whisker Away. From directors Jun’ichi Satô and Tomotaka Shibayama and screenwriter Mari Okada, the story follows a young schoolgirl who transforms into a kitten in order to spend more time with her crush.
The eccentric Miyo Sasaki (Mirai Shida) is completely obsessed with her classmate, Kento Hinode (Natsuki Hanae), to the point where her only mission in life is to get him to like her. Miyo’s infatuation leads her to a mysterious “mask seller” who offers her the ability to turn into a cat through the use of an enchanted mask during a rainy festival night. She uses this new power to sneak out at night and spend time with Hinode, who is captivated by this adorable kitten that has taken a liking to him. Kento affectionately names the stray Taro after his former dog and becomes attached to his new pet. All to the delight of Miyo, who struggles to get his attention as a human, but as a cat, she’s his loyal companion. As all this is going on, the mask wizard wants her to remain a cat, so that he can take her human form. Is her life as Miyo worth living out, even though she’s made fun of at school and can’t get her crush’s attention? Should she instead remain a cat forever and live in the arms of Hinode? These are the questions Miyo struggles with throughout the film.
Obviously, the themes of adolescent love are seen all throughout the A Whisker Away, which is a common entry point for a younger audience. However, the stronger points of the film are introduced with the familial elements. Miyo is struggling not only with her social life, but also her family life. Her mother and father are separated, and she feels betrayed by her mother. Now, she finds herself living with her father’s new partner, Kaoru, which is difficult for her to cope with. Throughout the film, Miyo’s father does everything he can to make sure she is comfortable with the situation. Still, Miyo never fully accepts her father’s attempts at connection and instead recedes back into her fantasies of Hinode. However, the possibility of permanently being transformed into a cat allows her to reflect on the different forms love takes on and how her family always cared about her.
The film is certainly geared towards a younger audience, with its whimsical premise and animation style. The “mask seller” provides a Cheshire Cat-type persona, filled with wacky lines and extraordinary magical abilities. The film is a charming example of how so many complicated themes can be communicated in a young love story. Miyo starts out as an immature, school girl whose only dream is to marry her young flame. She struggles to express her real emotions of confusion and pain within her family life and instead wears a mask of joy and exuberance. By the end, she discovers that it’s okay to express one’s negative emotions and not simply bottle it up inside. Miyo eventually realizes that wearing that cat mask was just another way to avoid confronting her real issues.
A Whisker Away is a delightful tale with various complex themes sprinkled throughout. This is a great watch for the whole family and opens the door for a deeper conversation. Netflix continues to promote the Anime genre and believe in its importance. I hope to see more Anime films and series that showcase just why this style is special to so many people around the world.
A Whisker Away is available to stream on Netflix June 18.