A Whisker Away
A Whisker Away (2020) movie review
A Whisker Away, or Nakitai watashi wa neko wo kaburu, follows a highschool girl in love with her classmate who is given the opportunity to get closer to him by transforming into a cat. The film was directed by Jun’ichi Satô and Tomotaka Shibayama, the later of whom worked on the recent film The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (Toki o kakeru shôjo), with Mari Okada writing the screenplay, whom I admittedly didn’t recognize any work for… Anyway the Studio Colorido film was released as a Netflix Original on June 18th in to moderately positive reviews.
When it comes to reading too much into anime, A Whisker Away walks a fine line between heartfelt and creepy. In terms of its story and themes, the film is a joy that shows the impeccable nature animation has at capturing emotions and characters. Yet it is often difficult to get past the idea of stalking as acceptable, even when used in the confines of character development. Overall, I thought the film was enjoyable and often heartfelt, highlighting more than one key theme that makes the film often more enjoyable than it deserves to be. However somewhere between the first draft and the final product, the layout of the film seems lacking in both setup and payoff, resulting in a film that is charming and enjoyable, but not altogether great.
At the start, we are given a strong setup for our protagonist Miyo, as well as the odd story. She is introduced as a particularly outgoing individual, yet one who has trouble expressing her feelings. She is given an opportunity to do what she thinks can accomplish her fault, turning into a cat where she can avoid her family troubles and connect with her crush. As the film progresses, seeing these two story ideas slowly pull against Miyo as something she must now grow away from becomes a powerful analogy for being careful what you wish for, creating both drama and tension as the film progresses, without losing its light tone of course. This is where A Whisker Away hits its stride, exploring different notions of drama through a unique idea that allows said drama to lead to even more unique explorations of that drama! All while playing more than a few story elements against convention. Unfortunately the film struggles to land on its feet, spending too much time away from what works on favor of excitement that the audience can’t connect with as well, aided by elements that could have been introduced sooner. Bringing up interesting ideas near a film’s climax can be distracting, and in this case, shuffling around some of the runtime could have gone a long way.
All that said, I didn’t find much fault with the rest of the film. The voice cast does an incredible job, and Mirai Shida’s voice work as Miyo goes a long way towards making her occasionally stalker-type character arc really seem compelling and relatable! Plus, and this is no surprised based on how stunning Girl Who Leapt Through Time was, the film looks great! Really the biggest drawback is the misplaced time. The film isn’t too long, but it does have some moments that could be cut short to expand on the wonderful concepts brought up in the last act of the film! That or they shouldn’t have been there at all, since they take away from the already strong drama. Honestly though, I really liked this one! I think it is heartfelt, unique, and just defiant about little conventions enough to warrant a watch, even if it has some happy clichés in the end. 7/10.
So A Whisker Away? Did you see it? What did you think? And if you could turn into one animal, what would it be and why? Seriously I’d love to know! I think it would be pretty fun to be a bear for a while. Nobody messes with bears. Anyway, be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let me know!
-review by Ryan Prince