If Cats Disappeared from the World is based on Sekai Kara Neko ga Kieta Nara, the first published novel of film producer Genki Kawamura. Cat people will probably go berserk if they see the title but don’t worry, no cats were harmed in the making of this movie. Lead actor Sato Takeru is a big time cat lover in real life, too.
Just three minutes into this Akira Nagai-directed film and I’m already in love with its cinematography.
Shot in Hakodate (Hokkaido, Japan), Sato Takeru plays a 30-something postman who has just found out that he has an incurable brain disease that leaves him with only a few more days to live. Frightened and devastated, he comes home to what should have been an empty room but instead, there sits his doppelganger who claims to be the devil and offers him a deal that he just can’t resist.
With a cheeky grin, the devil breaks the news that the postman will die tomorrow. BUT! If he agrees to obliterate something from the world, one at a time, then his life will automatically be extended for another 24 hours. I laughed out loud at the parsley response. The removing-of-the-parsley-from-the-omurice scene is necessary after all. However, the choice is not up to him. The devil is after more important things. It turns out that each item that the devil wants to get rid of has a strong connection to someone who is close to the postman: his ex-girlfriend (Aoi Miyazaki) , his best friend (Gaku Hamada), his father (Eiji Okuda), and his mother (Mieko Harada).
And so the film poses the question, “Is it worth losing all these for the sake of keeping yourself alive for another day?”
The whole narrative seems corny and gimmicky and I was worried that this is going to end up like the underwhelming Real Kanzen naru Kubinagaryu no Hi, Sato Takeru’s 2013 sci-fi movie with Ayase Haruka). Even though both movies totally defy one’s logic, Cats is nothing like Real. Director Akira Nagai successfully presented strong fantasy elements layered with metaphors through picturesque rural backdrop, intense vanishing sequences, and dramatic shots from Argentina featuring the Iguazu Falls.
It’s an exquisite film but aside from the fantastic visuals, much of the credit for the effectiveness of this kind of storytelling goes to the brilliant performance of its cast especially Sato Takeru and his adorable feline buddy!
After Rurouni Kenshin, Sato Takeru starred in tearjerker dramas such as Tonbi and Tenno no Ryoriban; and now with If Cats Disappeared From the World, he continues to prove that he is more than just the go-to live-action hero.
If Cats Disappeared From the World is a sentimental fantasy so watch it without expectations that the events that will transpire are going to make sense since deleting the fact that movies and gadgets were ever created will certainly cause a butterfly effect in the world. The point of the film, however, is not how technology has evolved and how things would have changed once we turn back time. Rather it’s more focused on human elements that make us, the audience, reflect on how we view death and how we have been living our lives thus far. And I have to admit, I was left teary-eyed.