REVIEW: ‘A Whisker Away’ Hits Just Right

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Initially set for a theatrical release in Japan, A Whisker Away has found a home on Netflix. As the streaming platform’s newest original anime film, A Whisker Away is a beautiful and fantastical look at young love, depression, and how to cope with it all. Directed by Junichi Satoh and Tomotake Shibayama, written by Mari Okada, and produced by Twin Engine, the film is a beautifully crafted story about a young girl looking to find acceptance through escapism. Although it is worth noting that unlike other Netflix Original Anime, there is no English dub available, possibly due to the difficulties of dubbing during the pandemic.

In A Whisker Away, Miyo Sasaki, nicknamed “Muge” meaning “infinitely mysterious,” has a bright personality and is full of energy at school and at home. She is also secretly in love with her classmate Kento Hinode. Miyo tries repeatedly to get Hinode’s attention, but he takes no notice of her. When she is offered the chance to become a cat, she realizes that the only way to get close to him is to transform. But as the story progresses, the boundary between herself and the cat becomes ambiguous, and she is forced to give up her life as a human.

In an hour and 44-minutes, A Whisker Away packs in a multitude of emotions that showcases the beauty and depth of anime, and animation in general, as a storytelling medium. Through a beautiful narrative and immersive animation from Studio Colorido, the film aims to take root in your heart for longer than its run time. And, it succeeds.

The narrative beauty of A Whisker Away comes from the growth of its main character Miyo. She’s adventurous and isn’t concerned with what others think of her. But, she’s also deeply in love with Hinode. While at first glance Miyo seems entirely uninhibited, you learn that her freedom as a cat is the time she is actually herself and the facade she puts on for the rest of her friends is hiding a girl who is miserable at worst and ignored at best.

A Whisker Away

Through flashbacks, you learn of Miyo’s pain which she hides underneath her carefree attitude and smile. Having been abandoned by her mother, there is an emptiness in her heart, one that she looks to Hinode to fill, and one that she runs away from while fantasizing about a different world – whether as a cat or in her waking life. For his part, Hinode is also looking for a reprieve from his own set of troubles.

While A Whisker Away is clearly Miyo’s film, Hinode is equally as dynamic. Where Miyo expresses her love and emotions through a happy facade, Hinode is filled with anger because he doesn’t understand how to represent his emotions any other way. The pair of them present a beautiful story that is sure to resonate with those who have been in love, been scared to confess, and struggling with their own fears in addition to it.

Additionally, A Whisker Away is just a beautiful film The animation is both magical and immersive.  Each background is painstakingly detailed and as vibrant as the characters conversing in the foreground. The sky, the grass, and even the details in Hinode’s room are so wonderfully animated that there is a beautiful realism to them. At the same time, the animators at Studio Colorido have masterfully created a magical world of cats that transports the viewer into a fantasy grounded in Miyo’s emotions and struggle.

But for all of its high notes, the highest is A Whisker Away’s lesson. While escapism works in the short term, facing our sadness and our fears is the only way to escape them. While being a cat is a short term fix for Miyo, coming to realize that her life even with its faults is worth living is a topic for another article, but the purest beauty of Okada’s storytelling. Additionally the film’s conclusion is magical, heartwarming, and everything that I needed to see right now,

Truthfully, A Whisker Away comes at the perfect time, when many of us are struggling to adapt to a new world and carry our own negative emotions while relying on forms of escapism. From an impactful story to breathtaking animation, this is a must-see film that is just right in every way.

A Whisker Away is streaming exclusively on Netlifx starting June 18, 2020 with a manga adaptation in the works this year.

A Whisker Away
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    Rating - 10/10
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TL;DR

Truthfully, A Whisker Away comes at the perfect time, when many of us are struggling to adapt to a new world and carry our own negative emotions while relying on forms of escapism. From an impactful story to breathtaking animation, this is a must-see film that is just right in every way.