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'A Whisker Away' Is Surprisingly Human Underneath Its Mask

Janeen Mathisen

Posted on June 19, 2020 21:47

2 users

This gripping film is more than it seems.

Released on Netflix just yesterday is the anime film A Whisker Away, a clever, intense film with a strong central lead and solid writing. Just like its story and characters, the film itself is more than it seems. The altered title shows only one side of this multifaceted story. While admittedly clumsy to say in English, the Japanese title roughly translates to, I Wanted to Cry so I Wore a Cat [Mask], hinting at the story's very human center. Hidden underneath the film's surface are themes of the unknown, helplessness, selfishness, guilt and self-loathing.

Its story is one of opposites, from details in its engaging story to character animation and symbolic cinematography.

Miyo Sasaki feels choked and controlled by her parents; insignificant in her own life. At school, though, she is delightfully energetic as she tries to catch the eye of dismissive classmate Kento Hinode with playful, hopeless abandon. Transforming into a cute, white kitten with the power of a magic mask to spend time with him, she witnesses a warmer, different side to him. Determined to be more than a fair-weather friend, she comforts him in somber times as both of their defensive walls begin to crumble. Kento is not a one-dimensional plot device of a love interest but is written and portrayed with just as much depth as Miyo, making their relationship together, and lives apart, instantly believable. Kento is shy and friendly with a strong sense of justice; despite his lack of a magical mask, he hides his true identity for fear of exposure, just like her.

Miyo Sasaki is almost a better character than she has a right to be. She is strikingly human, filled with realistic, contrasting personality traits that result in satisfying development.  

Having grown up believing she was incapable of being loved, she develops a genuine connection with Kento as a cat but is unable to reveal the truth, too afraid of returning to that loveless void initiated by argumentative parents. After a nightmarish betrayal rooted in her own mistakes, her helplessness is riveting and believable, but so is her honest determination to fix things. Navigating new magical circumstances brimming with danger and personal risks, she never gives up on her goals and sheds self-imposed selfishness and misery on the path to becoming a better person.

The mask seller, who gave her the troublesome mask in the first place, oozes thematic terror in the plot. He is the unknown which instills fear. Branching from his deceptively clownish attitude are inescapable consequences which only get worse as they resonate and affect Miyo's and her family's lives. As she races against the clock and battles through his contractual obstacles to become human again, this film transforms into a surprising journey filled with depth that is hard to tear yourself away from.  

Janeen Mathisen

Posted on June 19, 2020 21:47

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