24th Animation Division Excellence Award
A Whisker Away
Animated feature film
SATO Junichi / SHIBAYAMA Tomotaka［Japan］
Cheerfully oblivious junior high schooler SASAKI Miyo is nicknamed Muge by her classmates. But Miss Ultra Gaga and Enigmatic is misunderstood. Muge is ever vigilant of her surroundings and spends her days suppressing her emotions. Muge has a crush on her classmate HINODE Kento, but her daily overtures have no effect, until one night during a summer festival, a stranger gives Muge a mask that can physically transform her into a cat. Thereafter, Muge becomes “Taro,” straying into HINODE’s home as a cat and learning about the undisguised self he dares not show at school. Produced by Studio Colorido, an advocate of digital illustration, this film uses hand-drawn images and 3DCG to vividly portray Muge’s realization of what is truly important to her as the boundary between being a human and being a cat becomes blurred.
What are the means we possess to convey our thoughts and emotions? The protagonist’s antics are unexpected and perplexing, but this is likely a strategy employed by the two directors, who leave the tricky and oft-overdone switch from ordinary reality to the extraordinary world pleasantly subdued. The powerful genre device of fantasy limns the bold and resourceful protagonist’s feelings and the characters’ miscommunication and missed opportunities. It combines reality, escapism, and adversity to deftly portray the everyday difficulties of telling someone what we feel and what we’ve done. As a viewer, I enjoyed the film’s ability to deliver its message, simply and foursquare, in a single work. The consistent communication leads to feel-good vibes, though no doubt with great energy spent in the surprising means of its telling. (OHARA Hidekazu)