Starring: Mirai Shida, Natsuki Hanae, Hiroaki OgiDirector: Junichi Sato, Tomotaka Shibayama
Running Time: 104 mins
A Whisker Away is a Japanese film about an eccentric girl who, in order to catch the attention of her crush, turns into a cute cat, but soon realises she doesn’t want to leave her human life behind entirely.
From the same studio as the wonderfully insane Penguin Highway, A Whisker Away also delights with a preposterous but surprisingly enjoyable fantasy premise, taking coming-of-age drama and emotion and bringing it to life with bright energy and imagination.
While entertaining throughout, A Whisker Away is undoubtedly at its strongest in its opening half. A delightful blend of the manic sensibilities of Penguin Highway, the fantasy drama of countless Ghibli films and the coming-of-age emotional depth of the likes of Weathering With You.
In that, at its best, A Whisker Away is a really good conglomeration of so many of anime’s most enjoyable characteristics, with both a light-hearted and fun-loving fantasy story and a dramatically gripping narrative playing out alongside one another.
It’s funny from the start, as oddball lead Miyo delights with her pure and characterful persona, while the film also strikes up some good laughs in its story of the awkward passion of young love.
But along with the laughs, the more earnest side of that story fosters some thoroughly engaging and at times even challenging coming-of-age drama, looking at how even such a kind-hearted and passionate teenage girl can feel so alone, to the point of wanting to leave her normal life behind entirely.
It’s a nice balance that makes A Whisker Away both a light-hearted and still worthy watch, but it’s fair to say that it doesn’t quite keep up that balance the whole way through.
In the film’s latter half, it takes a rather more marked shift away from its more fun-loving fantasy qualities towards something a little more serious, unfolding into a story that’s reminiscent of It’s A Wonderful Life.
Unfortunately, A Whisker Away doesn’t quite manage to hit home on the same dramatic level as the festive classic, and it drags on in its second act for far too long with a fable-esque story that’s nowhere near as lovably entertaining or dramatically engaging as the first act.
On the whole, the film is an enjoyable watch all the way through, with good fantasy and imagination that blend with gripping drama and manic, lovable humour at its best moments, so that’s why I’m giving A Whisker Away a 7.5.