Shizuku Tsukishima is a free-spirited and cheerful 14-year-old girl who is currently enjoying her summer vacation. She loves spending her free time at the local library where she notices that the books she reads are often checked out by a boy named Seiji Amasawa.
One day while riding the local train, Shizuku notices a strange cat sitting near her. Why would an ordinary cat ride a train? Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it can also seriously harm a young girl. Shizuku decides to follow the mysterious cat to see where it goes, and soon stumbles upon an antique shop run by a violin maker named Nishi, the grandfather of the mystery boy who shares her taste in literature. Seiji and Shizuku soon become friends and while Seiji is sure of his dreams and how to follow them, Shizuku is still unsure of her own talents. However, when she sees a strange cat statuette, “The Baron”, in the shop, it seems as if that statuette whispers something to her, tugging at her heart and giving her the inspiration she so desperately needed. One voice pushes Shizuku further than she could have ever imagined, changing her life forever.
The strength of Whisper of the Heart is the strength all films that have been touched by Miyazaki seem to have. That is, the details. In this film the things that have impressed me were the little extras that are contained in each characters movements. It's something that you very rarely get—at least this consistently—outside of Miyazaki films. Whether it be reaching for the lamp cord from bed, failing, and needing to sit up to do it properly, or whether it be the normal silences in conversation (as apposed to dramatic silences), everything just feels a lot more real, a lot more vibrant than most films.
Regarding this film in comparison to other films Miyazaki has been a part of, this one seems to by far have the fewest fantastic elements (that is, elements which contain impossible occurrences or imaginary creatures). If I could compare it to any other Miyazaki film, I would say that it is most like My Neighbor Totoro, in that they both focus on the more or less ordinary lives of their characters, rather than large, sweeping plots. It is something that needs to be watched with a mind set that is not waiting for something to move forward, or endanger the characters lives, or otherwise throw them into an absurd situation. Everything that happens in the plot is very believable, yet has its own magic about it because of the playful way it is presented.
One thing that was especially impressive about this film, although most Miyazaki films carry this trait, was the accuracy of the child psychology (and psychology in general). When you watch the characters of this film interact with each other, and when you see things happen to them and how it affects them, you get a feeling of profound truth. This film is dramatic, but it was not cinema dramatic, it was true dramatic. If a character is sad, that doesn't become their entire personality, it is something that affects their personality. The reason I ramble so long about this is because of how rare it is to see in any medium of art. It is something that if you are looking for it, it is truly beautiful and astounding. This quality of work is not easily imitated.
If you ask me why I rate the art a "9" I will tell it is because of its expressiveness. The landscapes are beautiful, sure, but the real reason I give it a 9 is because of the work put into the animations of every character. There is nothing lazy about it, and there is a uniqueness to the characters movements that takes serious attention. Most films will cut corners in this department, but even though you could call this movie's art dated, that doesn't decrease the pleasure gained from its attentiveness.
Still, I will hesitate to recommend this to everyone. If you want a plot that 'actually goes somewhere,' so to speak, this film will not give that to you. If you want a film with a tonne of weird and unbelievable things (such as you may be used to with Miyazaki), this film will also not deliver that. What this film delivers is a very detailed picture of its characters which is at times heart warming, at other times heart breaking, and at all times true.
Whisper of the Heart is unique with respect to its Ghibli film counterparts in that it seems almost mundane. Here we have our main heroine Shizuku Tsukishima and her life as a middle school-aged girl. While the film is essentially a slice-of-life with a hint of the "boy-meets-girl" rom-com trope thrown in, the way in which its characters are presented is not only relate-able to the audience but also endearing; an adult could sympathize with Shizuku just as much as a child could. As someone who values character development greatly, I feel that the creators efforts really pay off in showing how our main heroine develops over a short period of time, providing insight into her stream of consciousness with her full range of emotions on display. Combined with a diverse ensemble of a supporting cast, Shizuku's character really comes to life over the course of the film.
True to form as a Ghibli production, this film complements its character driven narrative with a slew of wall-paper worthy long shots and vibrant animation schemes which I have yet to see that often even in more recent large scale production anime ( there are several such scenes in the latter half of the film, but no spoilers here of course!). Not much else to say here, I recommend you watch the film and see for yourself.
Sound quality in the film was solid throughout. But what really won me over was the Japanese rendition of Jon Denver's country road. Not only was it an impressive rendition by itself, it was incredibly appropriate for the small town slice-of-life feel that the creators seemed to be going for. Even after hearing it on replay throughout the film, I did not tire of that song, which in my opinion, speaks volumes for how fitting the song was for the film's overall atmosphere. Sadly, the other background music did go relatively unnoticed, but upon re-watching the movie and listening to the original soundtrack again, the rest of the background music was quite good as well.
When we think of studio Ghbli we often times think of Hayao Miyazaki and sometimes Isao Takahata. In the case of Whisper of the heart, we have a tale with all the flavor and style reminiscent of these Ghibli greats, and yet was directed by neither Miyazaki nor Takahata but instead by a man named Yoshifumi Kondō, whose life was cut tragically short after the release of his 1st and only film. A darn shame too, because at the time he was considered a legitimate candidate to succeed Miyazaki as head of the studio.
As a film that seems almost forgotten among the plethora of excellent productions from studio Ghibli, Whisper of the Heart is a much watch as an entry level anime for people just getting into the medium and as a deeper exploration into the world of anime film for seasoned veterans out there. In addition, as with all Ghibli films, Whisper of the Heart feels like it was made with a general audience in mind, so you needn't be a fan of slice-of-life to enjoy watching it.
Even if you end up not liking this film I hope you found my review helpful. Of course I am always looking to improve, so feedback is always appreciated.
Just leave a message on my profile thread if you have any comments, criticisms, or just wanna talk about anime!!
Mimi wo Sumaseba, which literally means If You Listen Closely, tells the story of Shizuku, a junior-high school student who is struggling to find out who she is. The movie takes you on a journey through her imagination and daily life as she makes decisions that will ultimately decide her future.
This is the first anime movie I watched,Ghibli movie too, that wasn't packed with interruptions and magic to HELP the characters fall in love. Their love is PURE and honest that even if the plot moves very slow, its adorable. Whisper of the Heart helped me through one of my worst years, as its calming atmosphere and charming love story brings a smile to my fave every time I watch it. The movie takes place over either a few weeks or a week, its not really clear on that, then shows Shizuka's struggle through two months. The slow pace of it builds to the sweet ending, but I just wish they would have kissed, or some kind of epilogue was inserted after the credits.
Also, this movie is kind of a spin-off of the Ghibli movie "The Cat Returns". If you've seen the movie, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Other than that, Whisper of the Heart still remains my favorite Ghibli movie.
I'm a huge fan of the Ghibli style. The thing I was a little unsure about was how the characters looked much older than they actually were. I did like the character designs, as each character had their own look. The backgrounds were beautifully done, as always. The Baron seemed to be the one the animators paid most attention too. He and his "mate" were so intricately detailed and beautiful, that he stole the scenes he was in! Don't get me wrong, I loved the Baron, and the story Shizuka created with him.
I watched this movie 3 years ago for the first time, and in English. I think Im being weird when I say that I prefer the English script over the Japanese, but the Japanese voices over the English. Seiji's voice is so much more adorable in the original Japanese, and not deep and weird sounding (No offense to David Gallagher, who I used to crush on during my 7th Heaven days). The background music was quirky and sweet, and I loved it. My favorite BGM music is the one that plays while Shizuka is storming home, calling Seiji a STUPID JERK. ITs so funny. The entire theme song, "Take Me Home, Country Roads" used to be one of my favorite songs, and hearing it in Japanese was amazing. Now I prefer the Japanese over the English version.
Every single character in this movie is a pleasure to watch, their stories each being different. My favorite just happens to be Seiji (Though I love even more in the manga.), who loved Shizuka for who she was. And his violin playing, I think, was the thing that started my love for the violin. Shizuka is just a girl who likes Fairy Tales and is trying to figure herself out. The love between these two characters is so cute and overflowing, and HONEST. I will never stop saying that. Their love is honest. Nothing twisted their minds, no magic was involved, no one tried to ruin them. Nothing you usually see in anime. No, Ghibli did an amazing job at keeping their love sweet and honest. I never cried once, though I did fan-girl over the romance and Seiji. LOL
Overall Enjoyment: 10/10
I cannot just watch this movie once in a sitting. No, usually I watch it twice, when I have it. I have yet to own in, but it is on my list if things to buy, at the very top. It's such a cute, honest, beautiful movie, and the manga (Mimi wo Sumaseba) isn't bad either! Ghibli knows how to tell stories that make me smile. Like I said, if I watch this movie when I'm depressed, it lifts all the pain away and makes me happy. Anyone who likes slow paced, pure romances, will love this movie. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone out there. Its worth watching, and you will not be disappointed. read more
Adolescence is among the most memorable phases in one's life. During this time, we tend to make decisions based on adrenaline instincts, work as we wish to, while repudiating any advice. Some of us even develop endearing feelings of love for someone, while also chasing our own dream or even remoulding them for the sake of someone else, often out of inspiration and seldom out of desperation.
Working on the themes of adolescence and infatuation giving rise to a wonderful journey of self discovery, Studio Ghibli presents us with Mimi wo Sumaseba also commonly known as Whisper of the Heart. The story mainly revolves around the female lead, Shizuku Tsukishima, a junior high school girl living in New Tama Town. The story progresses as Shizuku constantly finds a certain someone, named Seiji Awasama, always issuing books before she does at her town library, which leads her to grow a sense of respect while her imagination weaves together a personality of Seiji as one could only describe as the "Prince Charming of her life." Much to her disappointment, Seiji is any thing but the "prince charming" she had imagined him to be; but Seiji had a unique charm of his own. One thing led to another and soon, Shizuku starts facing typical teenage life problem ranging from the urge to rebel against her parent's wishes, unnecessarily squabbling with her siblings, while also realising she has fallen in love with the "not-the-prince-charming-she-had-imagined", Seiji. Hereby follows a movie about self discovery, presented in the most heartwarming way possible.
Now it may seem like any other teenage-romance on pen and paper, but Whisper of the Heart, has its own charm, specially due to the way it presents itself. The problem with most romance shows now a days is that they tend to be extremely dull or overly melodramatic and their predictable plot structure doesn’t help them much either. While being melodramatic, most also tend to be highly unrealistic with their character interactions, their behaviour, body language and much more which just brings their over all quality down. Whisper of the heart, throws all these out of the window and carves its path through this genre in a rather realistic and dramatic way, without crossing the dreaded line between the dramatic and the melodramatic. Character interactions are seamless and seem as realistic as it can get for a story of such sorts. Characters behave as a mere reflection of any other ordinary teenager, as they would to the shown circumstances and these strokes of realism are even more integrated into the movie with the help of detailed, subtle body language of the the characters through which many emotions are shown, rather than told through mere dialogue exchange.
The characters themselves are rather eccentric even though they are fairly ordinary people. The female lead, Shizuka, is a rather charming and adorable girl. Her relation with her family and her friends is well portrayed through meaningful dialogue. Her monologues of what she thinks about her sister, mother, her best friends and her general view of the situations she faces helps build up her base character along with her relationship with the side characters in a gradual and methodical way. The development that Shizuka goes through the movie, simply put, is phenomenal. From a naive junior high student, who didn’t know what she wanted to do with her talent, and on the bigger scale, with her life; Shizuka realises her field of interest and recognises her talents. Her love for writing also explores her vivid and colourful imagination. She comes to realise the importance of family and meeting up with family expectations, while chasing her individual dream too, but the main motivation behind most of her development is her love interest, Seiji.
Seiji is quite the character himself. He is shown as an ordinary boy, working at his grandfather’s small antique shop, while learning both, to build and play the violin. The development between Seiji and Shizuko’s romantic relationship, albeit a bit cheesy, was handled with great care. While Seiji doesn’t receive as much development as Shizuko on screen, most of his character development is rather implied. While maintaining Seiji’s lively manner, we see a sense of responsibility grow in him which we naturally see in most teens as they go through their phase of adolescence. His growth in sense of responsibility is established through his interactions with Shizuko, specially, the conversation they have on the school rooftop where they realise they have to work their way so that they could live and spend more time together in the future.All these character interactions which lead to their subtle development, was neatly woven together by the skilful hands of the director, Yoshifumi Kondou, who is known for his works in various other critically acclaimed works such as Omoide Poroporo and Akage no Anne as an animation director.
Studio Ghibli has always been known for sending the audience into another magical dimension with their various works, but sometimes, due to the lack of proper direction, the whole magical element backfires, and in the end, the movie tends to become a mess. Thankfully, Whisper of the Heart, is not one of these movies! Even though the movie is highly realistic at its core, Studio Ghibli didn’t stop from adding their key fantasy elements into the movie. And with the efficient direction, these were used to enhance the whole experience of the viewer. Shizuka’s main writing work is dynamically shown, rather than being simply narrated. These scenes range from talking rabbits wearing monocles to riding an air stream to an unknown mysterious castle. All these fantasy elements are integrated into the movie with great caress without leaving deep scars on the strokes of realism, the movie portrays.
The animation delivered by Studio Ghibli, as usual, is fantastic. Great detail is maintained in almost every frame and the movement of characters and the general motion is as fluid as it can get. The landscape scenes are pretty eye candy and the movie is completely devoid of any ugly CGI. There are some great camera angles used when necessary, sometime to show the overarching city while some soothing music plays to evoke a strange feeling of nostalgia. The artistic direction of the movie takes credits when the fantasy world is involved, as the colour palette becomes much more vibrant and animation becomes subtly smoother and camera angles range from the typical to experimental ones where Shizuka is shown riding the winds to the castle.
Along with the magical animation, the movie imbues a deep sense of nostalgia with its musical direction. The movie begins with Olivia Newton John’s cover of the famous song, Country Road, which itself evokes a warm fuzzy feeling in the viewer, making them feel right at home. Other than that particular cover of John Dever’s, country road, a japanese rendition is sung many times in the movie and their placement couldn’t have been more correct which added to the overall atmosphere of the film, whenever they were used. A personal favourite would be when Seiji plays the violin and Shizuka sings along and the elders join in with various other instruments, to create one of the most joyous and heart warming scenes in anime for me personally, but one could feel free to disagree, I guess. Other soundtracks just add to the magic of the film and its overarching, heartwarming atmosphere. To weave such a fantastic atmosphere, and evoke feelings of nostalgia with the music alone, credits must be given to the “music director”, Yuuiji Nomi who is also known for his quirky OST’s in Nichijou.
With all that said and done, I must conclude by saying that Whisper of the Heart is a wonderful coming of age film; and a journey of self discovery. This film has something for everybody to enjoy, whether it be seeing yourself as a teenager grow up in the movie, facing similar problems or for parents, who could see how to co-operate with their child when they’re in their rebellious phase of life and let them freely chase their dreams. The fantastic musical score coupled with the fluid animation has the right balance of drama imbibed into it. It may appear to some as a typical animated work at first glance but once the experience is over, many will quickly realise that Whisper of the Heart is anything but typical.
And yeah, Country Roads, will never be the same again, for me at least.read more
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