Starring: Takeru Satô, Aoi Miyazaki, Mieko Harada
Director: Akira Nagai
Running Time: 103 mins
If Cats Disappeared From The World is a Japanese film about a young man who discovers he has a terminal illness, and is going to die within one day. However, after meeting the devil on his last night, he is able to keep living on, but with one important thing to him being eliminated each day.
This film is undoubtedly melodramatic, and a little cheesy at times, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an engaging, and even surprisingly moving and emotionally powerful watch. With an original and intriguing premise, its story surpasses a generic development to bring a whole lot more drama to the table, furthered by elegant directing and great acting that all come together to make a fully engrossing film that does well to tug at your heartstrings come the end.
I want to start off, however, by talking about the story. There are a good few Japanese films that focus on the emotion and drama of a character living through their last moments on earth (A Litre Of Tears springs to mind as an example), however what this film does so well is bring more depth and originality to a story that’s been a little overdone, and as such more often than not a rather dull watch.
So, while there is the sadness of watching characters experience the beauty of the world around them for the last time, there’s more of a deeper, reflective element to this story, as we look back on the best parts of our main character’s life, and how the smallest things have had such an impact on it all.
In that, the film, through its focus on romance, friendship and family, is able to grab you with a relatable and emotionally engrossing story, which focuses on the brightest and best parts of life, and the bittersweet nature of it all coming to an end.
That premise does sound extremely cheesy on the face of things, and there’s no denying that this film strays into rather melodramatic territory at times, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be an engrossing and moving watch all the same, and that’s what really impressed me about it.
Because as well as the original and affecting story, the film is directed beautifully by Akira Nagai, who counterbalances the most melodramatic moments with an incredibly powerful and truly elegant dramatic atmosphere, the sort which will not only really start to tug at your heartstrings, but also to the point of tears, which I really didn’t expect to see at any point here.
The visuals, the music, and everything around the film are absolutely beautiful, all of which creates an engrossing enough atmosphere to grab you on an emotional level, and as such feel more of the impact from the story’s impressive depth.
Finally, there’s the performances, which are also far better than I expected. Again, despite moments of melodrama and occasional overacting, Takeru Satô is fantastic in the lead role, proving both a likable and engrossing young lead with enough experience on his shoulders to make his situation all the more bittersweet. What’s more is that his performance is diversified well by his portrayal of ‘the devil’, a doppelgänger of our main character who creates an interesting dilemma at the centre of the story.
The supporting actors, although not featuring as significantly as Satô, are also excellent, with the likes of Aoi Miyazaki and Mieko Harada in particular bringing strong emotional depth to their characters to add to the moving atmosphere of the film as a whole, in turn engrossing you more and more as we see our main man reminisce about his time with both of them, as well as a collection of other interesting supporting players.
Overall, I was really surprised by If Cats Disappeared From The World. It may be a bit of a melodramatic and often cheesy affair, but its depth and originality work wonders in making for an emotionally engaging watch, furthered by wonderfully elegant directing and strong acting across the board, which is why I’m giving it a 7.8.