A Whisker Away is an anime film, released in 2020. It was streamed on Netflix in Japanese first, followed by the English dubbed version. This delay was caused due to the coronavirus pandemic. Junichi Satou and Tomotaka Shibayama direct the movie. The studio that animated this movie is Studio Colorido, the same studio that also animated the award-winning movie, Taifuu no Noruda.
A Whisker Away is directed towards kids. Since the movie has a simple layout, the plot is very predictable for the viewers. There is nothing that stands out much in the movie, except the high number of adorable cats. The main characters, Hinode Kento and Miyo Sasaki (nicknamed Muge), have a wide difference in their personalities.
Overall, the movie is not all bad, but it does not particularly stand out either. I think A Whisker Away is a good movie, but it isn’t the kind of movie that I would bother watching twice. The cats in the movie are adorable and definitely attracted many viewers. Despite its shortcomings, the movie ends on a happy note with a good lesson to learn from.
Miyo Sasaki is a middle schooler whose parents got divorced. After her mother went to her hometown, she comes to live with her father and stepmom. Miyo has a huge personality. Her dynamic personality gains her the nickname Muge. She is often wild and unladylike. She has a crush on her classmate, Kento Hinode, who is the polar opposite of her. He is quiet and often carries a bland face.
Hinode and Taro
As the movie progresses, we see that Muge is actually an unfortunate child. During a festival, she meets a mask seller, who gives her a mask that can transform her into a cat. She successfully transforms and is found by Hinode, who takes care of her, unknown that the cat is Muge. He even names her Taro, which was the name of his previous pet, depicting his closeness to the new cat.
Through Taro’s eyes, we take a look into Hinode’s life. He wishes to continue learning Japanese pottery, inspired by his grandfather. However, due to financial circumstances, the elders in the house decide to sell the pottery shop, which troubles Hinode. As time passes, it becomes Muge’s part of life to transform into Taro and visit Hinode. She listens to him speak his heart out, longing to talk back to him.
Hinode and Muge
One day, Muge hears two boys badmouthing Hinode. Without wasting time, she jumps all way down a building to confront them and defend him. This makes a huge impression on Hinode as he finally softens towards her. After the incident, they sit together to have lunch.
Hinode grows closer to Taro at the same time. When he starts talking to her about his feelings regarding their pottery shop, Muge realizes they are not different. Even with the vast difference in characters, they both had difficulty talking about their feelings, worth thinking about. Feeling a bit closer to Hinode and confident about her feelings for him, Muge decides to confess her feelings to him in the letter.
Confession and Escape
Muge pens her feelings for Hinode down. As she approaches her crush to give him the letter, two boys’ class snatch it away and mock her. He reads her letter out loud, which embarrasses both Hinode and Muge. He snatches the letter from the boy’s hands and snaps at her. He angrily says that he hates her and that they are nothing alike. Heartbroken, Muge cries.
Back at home, Muge still cannot stop crying. When Kaoru, her stepmother, enters her room, Muge quickly wipes her tears and pretends to be happy. Kaoru had been noticing Muge for a long time. She noticed when Muge would suddenly leave home or sneak out, but she decides not to worry anyone. When she visits her room, Kaoru asks Muge if she is comfortable around her, seeking closure. This is the first time we see Muge addressing her problems. Muge had abandonment issues that made her feel like nobody wanted her. At first, her mother abandoned her and left her with Kaoru. Finally, when Hinode rejects her so cruelly, her patience breaks, and she runs away from the window after snapping back at her stepmother.
Unable to handle rejection, Muge wishes to be a cat forever with Hinode rather than being a human without him. The mask seller grants her wish in return for her human face. Muge turns into a cat permanently while everyone else starts looking for her. On hearing the news about her disappearance, her friends get worried, along with Hinode. As a cat, Muge watches people around her searching for her, which leads her to realize that she is not alone.
Muge visits her home, where she sees her birth mother talking to her father and Kaoru. Saitou blames Kaoru for not taking care of Muge, while Kaoru blames the former for not being there for her daughter. The conflict intensifies as they begin hitting each other. Muge’s feelings towards this scene are unclear. While some may say she was happy seeing them fight for her, others believe that she resented them at the moment.
Muge, as Taro finally visits Hinode. Undoubtedly, he is sad at her disappearance. He expresses that he doesn’t really hate Muge. She starts regretting her decision. The line between a cat and a human slowly fades as she slowly turns into a cat permanently. She becomes unable to understand human speech anymore.
Things get worse for Muge when she realizes someone else, who claims to be her, had taken her place as Muge. Later it is revealed that it is actually Kinako, Kaoru’s cat, who had taken her human face to be closer to her human as she was getting old.
The Island Of Cats
To gain her life back as a human, Muge seeks help from the mask seller to realize that he had tricked her. She follows him and enters the Island of Cats, which, as the name suggests, is an island where cats live. Here, she meets people who the mask seller previously tricked into becoming a cat forever.
At the same time, Kinako understands that Kaoru loved her and was looking for her. She decides to remain a cat and return Muge’s face to her. She takes Hinode’s help and transforms him partially into a cat so that they can get Muge back.
The mask seller finds them and takes them away, but Muge saves them with the help of the cat-people that she befriended before. When Kinako tries to give Muge’s face back to her, the Mask Seller, this time, takes Muge away. He plans on stealing her life span. When Hinode tries to save her, he decides to steal his lifespan too. But, the cat-people come to their rescue and stop the Mask Seller from stealing their life.
After being rescued, they confess to each other. Kinako gives Muge’s face back, turning her into a human again.
In the post-credits, we see that Hinode has opened up about his feelings. His personality glows up, and he becomes pretty much as ‘gaga’ as Muge.
A Whisker Away has an overall good plot, but it keeps losing its audience. The protagonist, Muge, is hard to like. She is annoyed with very less aware of concepts like “personal space.” Her love for Hinode turns quite into an obsession to a point where she becomes a cat and fondles with him. If you imagine a male character doing this to a female character, the reaction would be a lot different. Even as Muge, when she is not Taro, she would bump Hinode’s butt with her as a greeting sign. She calls it a “Hinode Sunrise Attack.” Like I said, her respect towards personal space is almost negligible. As a movie directed towards kids, I think it is sending off many wrong messages, normalizing obsessing over your crush, for instance.
I sympathize with Muge. The abandonment issues that a child might face are well depicted in a movie. Although that quite explains her behavior, it’s hard to forgive her just because she has issues. Obviously, it is sad, but it does not make it less creepy when she sneaks up to Hinode’s place and watches him or sits on his lap as he unknowingly kisses her.
The general idea behind the movie was pretty good and well-illustrated. But there were major potholes in it that dull the movie. Little is known about characters other than the protagonist. Questions such as why Saitou abandoned her daughter remain unanswered. I liked how the idea of children hiding their emotions is put ahead. As emotions piled up, Muge ended up taking every wrong step in her way, which she later regrets. This was an issue that was well addressed in the movie.
Voice Cast (Japanese)
1. Sasaki Miyo (Muge) – Shida Mirae
2. Hinode Kento – Hanae Natsuki
3. Mask Seller – Yamadera Kouichi
4. Kinako – Kitamuri Eri
5. Fukase Yoriko – Kotobuki Minako
6. Isami Masamichi – Ono Kensho
7. Mizutani Kaoru – Kawasumi Ayako
8. Saitou Miki – Ohara Sayaka
|A Whisker Away||
A Whisker Away has an overall good plot but it keeps losing its audience. The protagonist, Muge, is hard to like. She is annoyed with very less aware of concepts like "personal space". Her love for Hinode turns quite into an obsession to a point where she becomes a cat and fondles with him. If you imagine a male character doing this to a female character, the reaction would be a lot different. Even as Muge, when she is not Taro, she would bump Hinode's butt with her's as a sign of greeting. She calls it a "Hinode Sunrise Attack". Like I said, her respect towards personal space is almost negligible. As a movie directed towards kids, I think it is sending off many wrong messages; normalizing obsessing over your crush, for instance.