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Movie Review: If Cats Disappeared from the World

Japanese Title: 世界から猫が消えたなら
Release Date: May 14, 2016
Director: Akira Nagai

First off, the movie’s plot does not revolve around cats. Well, not specifically, though they do play a part. Based on a novel written by Genki Kawamura, it deals with love, relationships, estrangement and the repercussions of the choices made throughout the entire story.

It is about a mailman with a brain tumor who made Faustian bargains with the devil to prolong his life. In order to gain something, something else must be given in exchange. His wish to live was granted, but what did the devil take away in return? First, he made all phones disappear from the world – losing phones, however, led to the loss of many other things in the mailman's new reality.

The pain of being forgotten and losing your connection with important people is probably more painful than death. Still, the mailman chose to lose those things in exchange for one day of life.
The movie shows how the little things that we take for granted every day, could actually have shaped how we are, the friends that we have, and the way we live our lives. Every item erased from the world in this story is accompanied by flashbacks showing us how important they were – and how different the main character’s alternate reality is without those things. In this way, it emphasizes how each person is significant. It shows that even though we are just one of many people on this earth, we can actually have a valuable impact on another person’s existence.


The Actors and their Characters

Although this is not the first time Takeru Sato has played multiple characters in a film, it is still amusing to see how good he is at it. I first saw him do this in Kamen Rider Den-O, but he has grown so much as an actor since that time and it shows here. The mailman and the devil had contrasting personalities, and he managed to do both nicely.

I was expecting the mailman’s ex-girlfriend (Aoi Miyazaki) to have more of an attachment to him because that’s the usual cliché that happens in a lot of movies, but instead, the movie bucked this trend by showing a stronger emotional connection between him and his friend, Tsutaya (Gaku Hamada), rather than his ex. The way Tsutaya showed his grief upon hearing about the mailman's condition was so heartfelt that his character became more and more likable as the story progressed.

Of Remembering and Erasing- Crying a Bucket of Tears

This film could make you cry multiple times once you get immersed in it, especially in the scenes that could make the viewer dwell on certain realizations. It could be the fact that the mailman kept fighting to live despite losing the things that gave meaning to his life one by one. Or it could be how he remembered all of the memories that he had with his friends in their previous reality despite them forgetting all about it. Or, maybe, it may be the very idea of living in a world without cats.


The Verdict

If the mailman feared death, then why would he choose to "die" multiple times in different ways?

Although the movie was quite sentimental, it was hard for me to empathize with the main character’s decisions, simply because choosing to be alive physically kills him in another way. It is unclear to me why he would choose to “die” in other people’s memories rather than accept his own physical death in the given situation. Nevertheless, I felt a sense of sympathy for the mailman’s hardships despite not being able to agree fully with his decisions in the first few parts of the movie. This is undoubtedly a tearjerker. The film’s emotional resonance with me was great and it struck me hard at various instances.

I feel that this is a good movie to watch. It teaches us that everything has value. It shows us the tragedies that could follow as the result of our actions and the strength to stand in the face of inevitable misfortune. And, perhaps most importantly, it tells us that there is no need to imagine a world without cats.

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