Runtime: 104 Minutes
Directors: Junichi Sato, Tomotaka Shibayama
Writer: Mari Okada
Voice Actors: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae, Hiroaki Ogi
By Bianca Garner
Back in 2020 “A Whisker Away” (Nakitai watashi wa neko o kaburu ) was meant to premier at the cinema in Japan and the USA but because of the Corona virus outbreak it was picked up by Netflix instead and premiered worldwide on Netflix. It was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed the film to be seen by a wider audience, and it’s a film that should be seen by as many people as possible for it’s charming, feel-good-factor and it’s rather attractive animation. It may not be the most visually impressive animated film to emerge out of Japan in the last five years, but there’s something about “A Whisker Away” that draws you in and keeps you invested in the narrative and the characters.
Miyo (Mirai Shida) is a schoolgirl who has a secret, she can turn into a cat whenever she wants to be close to Hinode (Natsuki Hanae), a young boy who she has a major crush on. Sadly Hinode doesn’t seem to be interested in her. However, this doesn’t deter Miyo, who is able to watch him work on pottery with his grandfather, by putting on a cat mask that instantly turns her into the most adorable white kitten with sparkling blue eyes. Thinking that the cat is a friendly stray, Hinode even names this cat after his beloved old pet Taro, a gesture among many that makes Miyo silently swoon. However, soon the lines between being a cat and a human become blurred.
As a representation of a female teenager, the character of Miyo is an interesting one. She’s not afraid to speak openly and honestly about her love and devotion towards Hinode. Perhaps, she’s too open and honest, which may be the reason why Hinode gives her the cold shoulder- could he possibly be intimidated by her? However, there’s much we, the viewer, can admire about Miyo. Her openness’s regarding her crush and her forwardness is something that could help many young girls in their ability to build their own self-confidence and self-esteem.
“A Whisker Away” may not be the most imaginative or visually impressive animated film out there on Netflix, but it has enough charm and positivity to make it a good source of escapism.”
There are important lessons to be learned from the film. Firstly, we shouldn’t change for anyone, not even our crushes. Miyo becomes so obsessed with gaining affection from Hinode when she’s in her cat form, that she loses her sense of identity as a human. So, an important lesson to take away from the film is that even though you may be eager to gain attention and affection from someone you love, it’s not a good idea to change into a cat. Okay, you know what I mean. No-one should change their identity and personality to suit the preferences of another person. As adults, the morale of “A Whisker Away” may seem simplistic, but for young adults and pre-teens it’s an important lesson that needs to be embedded in them.
Miyo isn’t the only one being forced to become something she’s clearly not meant to be. Hinode is battling his own conflicts. He doesn’t want to work in his grandfather’s pottery studio, and the film also addresses the conflict between the generations. However, things are all neatly and nicely resolved in the end, which may frustrate older viewers, because in all honesty, in reality there are no neat and tidy resolutions.
Once the film embraces its fantasy elements, it becomes a lot more entertaining. The introduction of the Island of Cats, manages to grab our wavering attention. And, soon the two characters are in a race against time to save Miyo before she remains a cat for good. Once, the film is back on track and isn’t so caught up in the boring ‘human’ drama it becomes far more fun and exciting. Overall, “A Whisker Away” may not be the most imaginative or visually impressive animated film out there on Netflix, but it has enough charm and positivity to make it a good source of escapism, which was definitely needed in the last two years.
“A Whisker Away” is currently available to watch on Netflix.