whisker

(Courtesy of Netflix)

Cute cats? Naive romance? Unexpectedly emotional content that leaves viewers crying -- or at the very least appreciating their life to a higher extent?

"A Whisker Away," a new anime movie that was released on Netflix in June, has all of the above.

The storyline is a bit strange, focusing around a middle school love story. An exuberant girl, Miyo, constantly tries for attention from her shy and withdrawn crush, Kento, but simply makes him uncomfortable. However, after school she dons a mask that turns her into a cat, which her crush takes care of and speaks to about his worries. Then as the line between Miyo’s worlds of cat and human begins to blend, Miyo is forced to make a choice between the two.

Before you dismiss this movie as one of those weird anime films, "A Whisker Away" actually has value for all types of viewers.

For starters, the animation is breathtaking, whether it is showing the mundane world through a nostalgic, summery filter, or introducing a light-filled, whimsical secret world of cats. The many cats are a welcome source of cuteness, and the coloring of the scenes perfectly sets up the mood, transitioning effortlessly between emotions or even dreams and reality. The new world that the film sets up is integrated beautifully into the modern world, making it seem like there just may be magic around the next corner.

More than that, however, "A Whisker Away" is deceptively emotional. It doesn’t stray away from dealing with the often dismissed emotions of younger children. Miyo struggles with adjusting to a new family structure, living with her father and his new girlfriend and away from her mother. Kento deals with the expectations of his family and his struggle to find the courage to say and do what he wants. Miyo questions the value of her life as a human as she is constantly knocked down but welcomed with warmth as a cat.

It’s a bit strange to see these very real issues juxtaposed against the fantasy land of cats, but that really is what makes this film so beautiful. It doesn’t get swept up in world building. Instead, it lets the story unfold naturally, introducing this fantastical world but retaining the focus on the humanity and development of the characters. In its 104 minutes, the movie retains all the wonder of fantasy, the sweetness of puppy (or kitty?) love, and the emotional punch of a coming-of-age story.

This film is so refreshing in the face of the world we are living in, a respite from the stress and uncertainty of the present. The bright imagery and sweet innocence are uplifting and help viewers who are stuck at home to live vicariously through the characters and experience summertime adventure. Plus, the soundtrack is so cute and sweet that it feels nostalgic from the first listen.

"A Whisker Away" really is worth a watch!

Cara Pedrosa is a 2020 graduate of Davis High School.