Miyo Sasaki’s mom walked out on her when she was younger, she was bullied at school, and her eccentric personality makes her crush, Hinode, steer clear. When her dad gets a girlfriend, she is pretty much at her limits. She meets a mysterious man who sells her a cat mask, allowing her to turn into a cat. Hinode finds her in cat form and takes a liking to her. Miyo starts sneaking out of her room each night to spend time with Hinode in cat form, making the distinction between her human and cat life fuzzy.
Miyo Sasaki is unapologetically affectionate. I gave you the gist of Miyo’s story in the beginning so I won’t keep talking about what happens to her, but instead who she is as a person. Miyo is someone who puts on a brave face. After all of the things that affected her mentality, she still wants to smile. It feels fake at times. It feels fiery at others. But you can never say that Miyo doesn’t feel, because it is clear that at almost every point of the movie that she is feeling deeply. We can see this in how she used her cat form to get close to Hinode. Where so many of her forward attempts to gain his love were rejected, she continued to try to be close to him in cat form. She insisted on giving all of the love that she can give, in a way that he can finally accept her.
Kento Hinode is Miyo’s crush and want-to-be potter. Hinode is pretty much the reason we end up in the mess that we do. Hinode is a right brain kid with left brain parents. The creativity that he gets to express with his grandpa is stifled in the cram school work and homework that his mother nags him about every day. Hinode is very caught up in his inability to express how he feels. He desperately wants to tell his mother that he dislikes cram school and wants to learn from his Grandfather about pottery, but he is unable to do so. When he meets a white cat, who he names Toru after his deceased dog, he finds that this cat is the perfect outlet for the things he cannot say to people in his life. Little does he know that the cat that he confesses all of his feelings to is the same girl that tries to show him the same kind of love at school.
Yoriko Fukase is Miyo’s best friend. She didn’t really do much in the show other than run as a solid wing-woman and stick up for her friend…kind of…but not really. Yoriko has known Miyo since elementary school, when Miyo’s mother walked out on their home. She is the key to understanding the emotion Miyo is feeling and shares this with other characters as they become closer. Her role was needed, but she never felt impressive or interesting outside of the role she had to play.
The Cat Mask Seller reminds me of Cheshire Cat. Always showing up out of the blue to offer a deal you can’t refuse and push you in a direction of certain danger. The Mask Seller is first introduced during a festival where Miyo ran away and accepted a shady deal to get the mask that allows her to transform. The cat himself can transform between his semi-human and cat form. He is constantly hanging around Miyo, lurking in the background with the inevitable catch to his deal. I really liked how over the course of the show he felt more and more powerful. He became more and more aggressive towards Miyo as she became more and more trapped by her own mindset.
I actually left this section for last. Too long did I spend looking at this white page to come to the conclusion that I was pretty indifferent about A Whisker Away. My hard stance is if I watch something and feel indifferent, it gets a three in emotion. I am not someone who will favor indifference. I can respect the amount of effort that was put into this work of art, but I made a choice a while ago to not accept indifference. A Whisker Away just doesn’t invoke anything in me. It’s not that it makes me annoyed or angry, I just have a level of neutral appreciation for a cute and wholesome story about love. Cats aren’t my favorite but I wish that I could love cats more. I am sadly allergic, so my interactions with them are quite limited. So because my interactions are limited, I wanted to experience…cat. We got a cat fight, but we needed more feline energy in the movie and definitely more cat puns. Overall, A Whisker Away is just a movie that has entertaining elements but stands among many other works.
Growing up, I always heard that I would not know what I had until it was gone, mostly because my dad grew up poor and always thought I should be more grateful than I was. He was probably right too. It is incredibly hard to take yourself out of your own situation and be grateful for what is around you. Miyo quickly realizes that she has much more than she thought. The life of a cat may not end up being all that she wanted it to be, but the life she lived was full of opportunity. This might be the biggest issue with our vision. We often fail to see all the opportunities around us. I know that when I start to lose sight of the vision, I start seeing so little that someone could smack me in the face before I could be appreciative. Sometimes we need to sit down with ourselves and really take inventory of what we have. If we don’t know what we have, we can’t move forward equipped to deal with what we need to.
I always thought that people who own cats don’t know how to be loved, because if they weren’t scared of love they would have just gotten a dog. But love can be scary. Very few people are taught how to love, and even fewer about how to love themselves. Miyo and Hinode find themselves on the opposite sides of knowing how to love. Where Miyo shows all kinds of love to those around her, Hinode loves himself like she cannot. I wanted to bring this up because I feel like the classic discussion for our generation is are you able to learn to love or love yourself through others or in a relationship?
I have no desk chair in my new apartment. I actually sit on the edge of my bed with my desk pushed right up the edge. It was around midnight when the credits rolled and I flopped back onto my bed because something bothered me, a lot. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen this movie before. Maybe not this particular movie, but this story. A Whisker Away has a fairly predictable story of a girl who made a deal with the devil and has to pay the price later. There is nothing particularly wrong with creating a story that has straightforward events, but it certainly makes the pacing a lot more flat than it has to be. That said, for the story that was being told, the pacing worked well. A common trap movies fall into is that they push the story along too quickly.The dynamic between Miyo and The Mask Seller was contentious and the story snowballed into an ending that was…predictable, but not faster than it needed to be. Predictability isn’t inherently bad; I found no reason to dislike it.
I want to start with what I liked. I really liked the cats. They felt dynamic, they were cute, and they felt alive. I immediately thought of Shiro-Bako. Shiro-Bako is about a group of girls who try to make it in the anime field. One of the girls is an animator and spends an episode or two trying to get the movements of a cat correct. Animals are difficult because we spend much less time looking at them and thinking about how their bodies work. I was super impressed with the fluidity of movements, like when cats rub against the legs of the character. Sarah and Lucas have a cat named Sully that does this a lot. Whenever you walk into the kitchen, he thinks you are getting food for him and he rubs on your legs. I really like watching him do that and watching his body curve around whoever he is trying to seduce. That movement is so unique to cats and A Whisker Away really nailed some of those cat exclusive movements.
What I did not like was the people. The humans in the movie looked like their faces were bloated after a long night of eating ice cream and forgetting their medication for lactose intolerance. I don’t really have any reason for wanting this, but I really wanted everything in the movie to be cat themed. I wanted the people to be more cat-like and for their movements to be feline. You might think it’s not fair to place this expectation on the movie but there was no real personality otherwise. Katy and I were discussing the movie two nights ago and I normally love to tell her about some creative animation technique or scene that I really enjoyed, but I found myself ignoring the topic at all because I could not think of one. While that rubs me the wrong way, I really see no reason to strongly dislike the animation, especially with the cats as good as they are. And after all, the movie’s focus is cats.
So we have two pretty distinct worlds that are equally as uninteresting, the human world and the cat world. The human world is pretty much limited to Miyo’s school, her home, and Hinode’s home. All three of these locations are pretty bland. Miyo’s room has a little hide away below her bed that feels more unique than most rooms in anime, but we don’t really learn anything about any of the characters through the world. I originally had the world at a score of two, but realized that I never really had any curiosity about the world. All of my wonders came from The Mask Seller. He was the source of all the mystery and by the time that he started interacting with the world in any meaningful way, the movie was concluding. As a final thought, the way that the world reacted to The Mask Seller was very confusing. I do not want to get too much into detail for fear of spoiling the movie but he got what was coming for him and I was really shocked that that didn’t happen far, far earlier than it did.
When I think about cats, I rarely also think about the movie Aladin. Rarely, but not never. The soundtrack to A Whisker Away has two unique sound themes. The first is whenever The Mask Seller is around, we get this mysterious music that makes you feel like you are approaching a desert city from over the top of a sand dune. Perhaps a cat faced snake rises from a wicker barrel as you play the pungi, attracting spectators of all reputations. Between the winding tune of the pungi and the cosmic sounds that are layered behind the music, it feels like we are a long way away from our standard Japanese city.
The second sound is a cartoonish march. If anyone has watched Tom and Jerry, they are familiar with the use of muted horns as footsteps. A Whisker Away uses this same technique with lots of woodwind instruments around it. Hearing this in a movie where I had normally heard it in the plays that my mother liked to take me to or the cartoons that I watched years after they were relevant. While this was cute and fit the cat theme, the marches combined with a pretty standard orchestra ensemble never really hit hard enough to make it top tier.
|Category||Points Given||Points Possible|
|I am interested in the characters in the story||2||6|
|I liked the emotion the story made me feel||3||6|
|The story brings up interesting ideas||3||6|
|I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate||3||4|
|The animation in the show is beautiful||2||4|
|I am interested in the world that the story takes place in||1||3|
|I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way||2||3|
A Whisker Away is a great movie for casual cat lovers. A true armchair cat movie with a predictable but entertaining plot and great animal animations. Perhaps never reaching the heights as other movies, A Whisker Away is a good movie to watch in the living room while you own cat snuggles up beside you.