In human form, Miyo has a big personality—she’s known derisively by her classmates as “Muge,” meaning “Miss Ultra Gaga and Enigmatic”—and is very forward with how she feels about Hinode, though is constantly clumsy about it. She even has an act called the Hinode Sunrise, in which she speeds towards Hinode and bumps into him butt to butt. Later on, as the mental lines of being a cat and simply acting like one become hazy, Miyo even jumps off a school roof to defend his honor against bullies two stories below, scraping herself up despite landing like a cat. The story is very sincere about her devotion, even though it makes one worry about young viewers getting the wrong impression—smothering your crush is simply a bad idea, as bold as emotional openness might be.
The villain of this story is a cat known as Mask Seller, who gives Miyo the ability to transform in a rushed opening scene. Always with a big grin on his face, Mask Seller is a mighty chunky, back-flipping, scene-stealing tabby that would make a killing on Instagram, but instead harvests the souls of cats and humans alike. When Miyo foolishly decides that she wants to stay in cat form in order to be close to Hinode and escape her buried woes (like the trauma of her mother abandoning her), Mask Seller does not dissuade her from it.
In all of its equal whimsy and romance, “A Whisker Away” has plenty of lessons—or depending on the audience, reminders—that it wants to impart. Namely, that a human wouldn’t want to trade lives with a cat, even if your crush seems to embrace you more in cat-form. And as it works through Miyo’s immaturity, the progressively clever script looks at Miyo’s actions from the perspectives of others, as people realize that her exuberance is its own mask for her pain. But this film being as blunt with dialogue as it is, it also has a faceless teacher talk during a throwaway class moment about how “we can’t ever really know someone’s full emotion,” just in case we miss the way the third act underlines and puts it in bold later.