While the "mask" metaphor is a frequent motif in the poetry of angst-ridden teens contending with issues of identity and first crushes, this movie finds a beautiful originality in the premise. This coming-of-age anime explores the different ways in which adolescents (and adults) might hide (yes, "mask") their true feelings in their public personas, and how these differences, particularly when it comes to deeper attraction, aren't as far apart deep down as they appear. Besides identity, A Whisker Away also explores the infatuations of first-time crushes, the challenges of adjusting to new family situations, acceptance of those who are "different," depression, friendship, and how it's ok not to always be happy and cheerful, especially when one doesn't feel happy and cheerful inside.
What's particularly enjoyable about A Whisker Away is that it manages to steer clear of the typical tendency of anime to overload a movie with far too many themes, side stories, and minor characters. It does this while still keeping all of the style, surrealism, and unusual humor that defines the best anime. For example, there's a scene in which humans trapped as cats hang out in a gritty "cat bar," lamenting their questionable life choices that got them to this point. Scenes like these keep the movie entertaining for adult anime fans as well.