A Whisker Away – Close to home, close to the heart

It’s a bit of a stretch changing from the D – tier excellence of “Sharknado” to a solid B – tier “A Whisker Away”. Some sacrifices have to be made when your favorite screen sharing sites act up so you hop on Netflix party mid-day to celebrate a birthday with a friend. And hey, if Japan wants to release a new animated movie on Netflix verses in theaters, I’m certainly not going to complain. I was going to try and see this either way.

“A Whisker Away” or “泣きたい私は猫をかぶる” is the story of Miyo Sasaki or “Muge” as dubbed by her friends. She’s a bright if not eclectic teenage girl with a very obvious crush on her more reserved classmate Kento Hinode. Miyo does her best to gain Kento’s attention but is largely ignored by him. However, she does receive attention from him but only when she transforms into a cat via a mysterious mask. As she continues to lead a double-life, the boundaries between the human world, and the world of cats begins to fade. It’s only then that Miyo realizes that she has gotten into a situation that’s much more then she bargained for.

I went in with little knowledge of the story, and studio. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. “A Whisker Away” has a lot of brilliant things going for it. The lead-off being the characters.

The first being that Miyo, is the perfect embodiment of the weird teenage girl a lot of us were in high school. She’s loud, and unapologetic about it. Her feelings are known to Hinode, and literally everyone else in school. She does weird things not in the “I’m not like other girls” sense, but just because that is who she is and who she has been the entire time. My friend and I went back and forth between the secondhand embarrassment, and joy because we too were like that and could connect with Miyo in that manner. For once, a studio made a weird girl who actually was weird like us and not weird like a manic pixie dream girl.

Left to Right; Hinode’s friend, Hinode, Miyo, and Yoriko Miyo’s bestie.

As a contrast we had the quiet, if not completely average Hinode. At first glance, there’s not much to endear you to him unlike Miyo, but he grows on you. Through Miyo’s cat escapades we get to see a side of him that literally no one, not even human Miyo is suppose to know about. His struggles between what his family wants him to do, and by default society, and his actual dreams and aspirations in life. That he does in fact admire aspects of Miyo, but would never tell that to her face since well, he’s a shy teenage boy. He’s believable in the opposite sense of Miyo with just how normal he is.

I have to say that the supporting human cast, at least Miyo’s connected characters are fairly well developed but not outstanding. They provide insight to Miyo’s strangeness, if not actually being the circumstances for why she is the way she is. The circumstances they provide are more interesting then their actual inclusion to the story. The supporting cast of cats, however are really fun to watch despite their limited screen time. If you’re looking for what side characters to watch; it’s the cats. Then again, for all us cat lovers it usually always is.

In terms of animation and art, Studio Colorido really has the perfect fine line of having a color dense animation, grounded in reality, but perfectly unfurls into the world that exists beyond the human eye. Watching how scenes would start , and then develop and progress into a world beyond ours was astounding. It truly left me with a sense of wonder, and glee I haven’t personally felt in a very long time.

Yes that is cat Miyo dropping from the roof onto Hinode, but look at the background. Truly stunning.

The locations in the film were varied and beautiful in their own rights. I wanted to borrow Miyo’s room for more then one reason. Hinode’s ceramics studio felt cozy and well loved. The realm of cats, and festivals invoked the perfect feeling of inviting otherness but also suspicion. There was a lot of consideration as to how each location should feel based on the characters that would exist in the space. Even the school had a great sense of high school ambiance that we all more or less know, and have our specific feelings on.

The animation was beautiful in my eyes. Fluid, crisp, and well executed. I would love to elaborate more, but sometimes succinct thoughts are the way to go. It certainly put Studio Colorido on my radar for future releases.

Last we have the story itself, arguably the most important part. I’m not going to lie; my friend and I made a lot of parallels to other films and studios while watching. Many elements of this story I’m sure even from my synopsis have already rang a few bells for people from other titles. And that truly, isn’t a bad thing at all.

This is a story where we have indeed ‘seen it before’. This is also a story where we have not seen it like this. “A Whisker Away” is a fun movie, with a surprising run time (1 hr. 44 mins) that allowed my slightly jaded self a bit of wonder and awe in a time were I needed wonder and awe. It’s a title that I’ll certainly be recommending to my friends, but one where if the synopsis and art don’t do it for you, you can skip. At the risk that you miss out on some really cute cats though.

So, it’s been awhile for me to write up an animated film review. I’m curious since this is on Netflix globally (to my knowledge) that many others might have seen this recently as well. Let me know your thoughts on it down below. With that I’ll see you next post!

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