A Whisker Away
Miyo ("Muge") Sasaki is an unhappy young girl who would like to find solace in a relationship with classmate Kento Hinode, but he finds her over-the-top behavior embarrassing and repellent, so THAT approach has been a miserable failure. But Hinode does feel affection for, and is willing to unload his most secret thoughts to, a stray white cat he names Taro- and which, in fact, IS Miyo, transformed by a magical cat-mask "given" to her by an enormous (and highly questionable) talking feline called the Mask Seller.
With a story written by Mari Okada, of the marvelous Maquia (although also of the LESS marvelous Anohana), and with co-direction by anime legend Junichi Sato, this show should have been a lot more original than it is. Specifically, it recycles a number of plot elements from the 2002 movie The Cat Returns. As one who also prefers that crises be resolved by cleverness rather than brute force, I was a little disappointed there, too.
That said, there really are many positives here. The best part of the show is its human drama rather than the derivative fantasy elements. Miyo's mom walked out on her dad years earlier, but now wants Miyo to live with her; while Miyo is now living with Dad and Dad's fiancée, named Kaoru. Kaoru is trying to please Miyo and get her to trust and accept her, but by trying so hard to avoid being a "wicked stepmother", Kaoru is avoiding confrontation with Miyo, though Miyo certainly could use a little discipline and guidance. Miyo's approach to everything is physical, ranging from outright dangerous (jumping off a rooftop), to just publicly embarrassing (her "Hinode Sunrise Greeting", where she butt-bumps him every morning on the way into school.) This form of adolescent awkwardness is not uncommon, but it doesn't help her get close to Hinode, who's much more reserved, and who has some family problems of his own. (Hinode's dad's dead, and his obsessively pragmatic mom is about to pull the plug on his beloved grandfather's one joy in life.) Miyo somehow does have one (long-suffering) close friend, named Yori.
I'm going to say more about Hinode, but first I have to mention that Kaoru has a cat named Kinako, who will be a catalyst (I'm sorry) for much of what takes place later. I was very pleased with Kaoru herself in a later scene, where she demonstrates genuine concern and affection for Miyo (stepdaughter or no) during an argument.
As for Hinode, I'll say this: he was SIMPLY UNJUSTIFIED in lashing out at Miyo in the way he did at the show's "breaking point", no matter HOW sensitized he'd become by her embarrassing "pranks". She may have picked a bad venue for her communication (shoe lockers seem to be standard for this sort of thing, at least in anime), but she was as embarrassed about what happened as HE was, AND SHE WAS ABSOLUTELY NOT THE VILLAIN THERE IN ANY WAY, AND DIDN'T DESERVE THE WAY HE TREATED HER. Whether he tried to repent or not, this colored my view of his character for the entire rest of the show.
The show's art is uniformly good, though I thought a twilight scene in a park was especially beautiful. And there are the show's two startling vertigo-inducing scenes, which may have been its most memorable moments for someone with acrophobia (such as the current reviewer!)
The show's sweet and well-intentioned; it's just AWFULLY familiar. But if you HAVEN'T seen The Cat Returns, feel free to give it one more star than I did. — Allen Moody
Recommended Audience: Violence and some irresponsible behavior. No fanservice. Netflix rates TV-PG.
Version(s) Viewed: Netflix video stream
Review Status: Full (1/1)
A Whisker Away © 2020 Studio Colorido.
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