SYNOPSIS: A peculiar girl transforms into a cat to catch her crush's attention. But before she realizes it, the line between human and animal starts to blur.
Our main character Miyo Sasaki nicknamed Muge is a loud, obnoxious high school student who has a crush on her smart, introvert classmate, Hinode. The exact opposite of Muge you might think. But deep down, Muge is struggling with the divorce of her parents and she yearns for the attention of her love ones. Until one day, a mysterious “mask seller” in the form of a big fat cat offers her a chance to adopt the identity of a cute kitten so that she can spend some alone time with Hinode who named her Taro after his former dog companion.
As time goes with Hinode’s increasing distancing from the human Muge, the latter decides to remain a cat forever under the persuade of the “mask seller”. Will Muge able to return to her human form in the end or risk turning into a feline that no longer possess the ability to communicate with her beloved Hinode?
A Whisker Away is a highly imaginative anime in the vein of Spirited Away. It’s a fantasy drama filled with both whimsical elements and complicated family issues that even general audiences will appreciate. Muge in general is a complex character. Undeniably, she is irritable in the beginning but as the story unfolds, there is a brilliant display of emotion and also an appealing side of her being showcased. To many, Muge is a happy-go-lucky girl who is not afraid to voice out her feelings but, in the end, she has the same trait as Hinode, the quiet matured kid who aims to take over his family pottery business from his aged grandfather but is afraid to tell his mom. Similar to Hinode, Muge is suppressing her dislike for staying with her father and girlfriend and pretends to be carefree on the other hand. Ultimately, both characters suffered from being unable to open up their true feelings to the world.
Despite being occasional talky, the anime kicks into high gear during the last 30 minutes with Hinode venturing into “Cat Island” to rescue Muge. “Cat Island” is a huge tree inhibited by cats and also former humans who chose to be turned into cats. It’s interesting to learn of this group of former humans who voluntarily surrendered their human souls to the “mask seller” in exchange for being a cat probably to escape difficult life issues. There’s not much further plot development of this group of cats to pack an emotional wallop but you can’t deny it should be heart wrenching to see.
There’s no doubt A Whisker Away is a fine rich hand-drawn animation. It’s always a joy to watch beautiful, “handcraft” drawings instead of precision engineered CG animation for a change. Coming from Junichi Satoh (known for Sailor Moon) and Mari Okada who wrote last year’s Her Blue Sky, the anime hits the right emotion notes and is genuinely moving. Those hoping for a wildly imaginative tale won’t be disappointed by the unravel of the mask seller’s evil intentions. Packed with fun, lots of heart and a solid script, A Whisker Away comes highly recommended.
Review by Linus Tee