a.k.a. If You Listen Closely
a.k.a. Mimi wo Sumaseba
Tsukishima Shizuku is a 14-year-old student living each day of her city life as if she were just going through the motions. Not knowing what she wants to do with the rest of her life, she often escapes reality by planting her nose deep into fantasy novels. Sifting through the library checkout cards in her books one day, she notices that they have all been previously read by a one Amasawa Seiji. While on her way to the library to inquire about this boy, she encounters a cat stricken with wanderlust. Deciding to break from the tedium of her existence, she follows the cat into the great unknown…
summary by Kain
Highs: Excellent love story; authentic look at everyday life
Lows: Ending is abrupt, albeit misunderstood by many; Kiki clone, though not as good
One of just a few Studio Ghibli movies not directed by either Takahata Isao or Miyazaki Hayao (though the latter did work on production, script and storyboards), Whisper of the Heart nevertheless retains much of that same, ol’ Ghibli magic; this isn’t hard to imagine, since many consider this movie a companion piece to Kiki’s Delivery Service.
For many years the animating director and character designer for the majority of Studio Ghibli films, Kondo Yoshifumi was brought in to take the helm of what would be his only directing credit; he would pass away from an aneurysm three years later. Might I add, what an impressive way to end one’s career! Whisper of the Heart has perhaps the most mundane premise in all of anime; nearly the entire movie concentrates on the exploits of Shizuku either a) reading at home or b) reading at the library. There is no harrowing plot to conquer the world, nor are there any nifty, edge-of-your-seat flight scenes. The ability to make such a story eminently entertaining is a credit to Kondo’s attention to detail. Anyone who has traversed the “concrete roads” of a large metropolis every day will feel an instant connection with the surroundings, which authentically replicate big city life.
Not meaning to sound like a broken record, but once again the ending proves to be the most oft-discussed part of a film. I must agree that I found the manner in which it was approached rather abrupt and was initially quite uneasy about the decision made by Shizuku and Seiji. Miyazaki defends this by pointing out that the entire movie centers around the characters committing themselves to their decisions and seeing them to fruition. Watch the movie carefully and you will understand.
For those unfamiliar with Kiki’s Delivery Service, Whisper of the Heart is a movie about finding one’s self. Anyone who has ever wondered what he or she wanted to do in life will find much inspiration watching this film, one of the best out there to tugs at the heart strings. It is also the first Ghibli production to make use of computer-assisted graphics and the first anime film to utilize Dolby Digital sound.