A Whisker Away (2020)

People who know me in real life know that I am 100% a cat person. Up until the death of my previous cat, I couldn’t remember a time where I didn’t have at least one fuzzball in my life. In fact, as I am writing this sentence, I have one (Willow) in my lap wondering why I’m ignoring her while she’s being so cute, and another (Xander) is thankfully silent, sleeping on the floor and waiting for me to go to bed. So when I saw that Netflix was coming out with a cat-themed anime movie, I was excited. And it’s more wholesome than the harem anime Nyan Koi!

Nakitai Watashi wa Neko o Kaburu, AKA Wanting to Cry, I Pretend to Be a Cat, AKA A Whisker Away is about middle school student Muge. She is overly dramatic and in love with Hinode, a much more reserved student who doesn’t really return her affection. Why does she persist? Well, she has a magical noh mask that lets her transform into a cat, and as the white kitten Taro she visits Hinode, who adores her as a cat. She uses information gained as Taro to get closer to Hinode, but a stolen love letter and some drama crushes her dreams. Some family drama piles more drama on, and she decides to give up being a human. Her human face is taken by the Mask Seller, a fat cat that may be a bakeneko? I don’t know enough about yōkai to confirm. Anyway, her face is then taken by Kinako, her step-mom’s cat, who wants to live past her normal cat lifespan and be a human girl for the rest of her life. Muge has second thoughts when she finds out she’s about to become a cat forever and travels to a secret tree full of cat people, hidden from the eyes of humans, in search for the Mask Seller. Meanwhile, a repentant Kinako reveals the truth to Hinode and the two also travel to the tree to stop the Mask Seller and give Muge her face back. It all almost fails, but with the help of some cats who had once been humans, the day is saved, Muge’s a human again, Hinode no longer has giant paws for hands, Kinako’s a cat again, Muge and Hinode are adorable together, and even their friends may get together. An anime happy ending!

Logically, I know that romances that start in middle school rarely last, but god damn it, this is the sappy happy ending I wanted that The Half of It didn’t want to give. Muge is bordering on manic pixie dream girl, but the movie goes out of its way to explain why she’s like that. Speaking of, what’s up with the name “Muge?” Her real name is Miyo Sasaki, and Muge is an acronym for Miss Ultra Gaga and Enigmatic. Now I didn’t take Japanese (3 years Spanish), but I hear “Muge” coming from the Japanese voice actors (at the time of writing there is no English dub, and I only watch dubs to spite a friend of mine). But when the subtitles display that they said her full nickname, I don’t hear it in English. So they’re saying it in Japanese, but using the English acronym? It’s entirely possible it’s a translation trick and “Muge” is her name for completely different reasons, but it was something gnawing at the back of my brain the entire time. But not annoying enough that I’d learn Japanese just to figure it out. I dunno, maybe I’ll check Reddit or something.

Where was I? Oh, right, this is a cute movie and I highly recommend it!

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