Shizuku Tsukishima is an energetic 14-year-old girl who enjoys reading and writing poetry in her free time. Glancing at the checkout cards of her books one evening, she notices that her library books are frequently checked out by a boy named Seiji Amasawa. Curiosity strikes Shizuku, and she decides to search for the boy who shares her love for literature. Meeting a peculiar cat on the train, Shizuku follows the animal and is eventually led to a quaint antique shop, where she learns about a cat statuette known as "The Baron." Taking an interest in the shop, she surprisingly finds Seiji, and the two quickly befriend one another. Shizuku learns while acquainting herself with Seiji that he has a dream that he would like to fulfill, causing her dismay as she remains uncertain of her future and has yet to recognize her talents. However, as her relationship with Seiji grows, Shizuku becomes determined to work toward a goal. Guided by the whispers of her heart and inspiration from The Baron, she resolves to carve out her own potential and dreams. [Written by MAL Rewrite]
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.