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Score: 8.26/10

Synopsis

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.

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.

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