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AKA: Mimi o Sumaseba, If You Listen Closely, Whispers of the Heart
Genre: Middle school romance
Length: Movie, 111 minutes
Distributor: Licensed by Disney / Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Content Rating: G (nothing to worry about)
Related Series: The Cat Returns
Also Recommended:
Notes: Based on a manga by Hiiragi Aoi.
Rating:
 

Whisper of the Heart

Synopsis

Tsukishima Shizuku is the kind of 14-year-old girl you might expect to run into anywhere in Japan. School and helping out with chores around the house are her biggest concerns during the day; in her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her best friend Yuuko, reading lots of books (Shizuku is somewhat of a bookworm), and occasionally trying a little writing.

One evening, she notices that all the books she checks out from the library have been read before by someone named Amasawa Seiji, which eventually leads to the start of a rather serendipitous friendship with an antique shop owner and his grandson. Shizuku is inspired to try and make something of herself as well, but also begins to question her pathway in life at an age where everything already seems uncertain and scary. Now, she finds herself struggling with questions of her talent, future, self-worth, and maybe love?

Review

Tired of giant mecha, space battles, evil overlords, and martial arts? Take heart -- Whisper of the Heart just might have that cure for anime burnout, with enough warm fuzzies to make a Tribble farmer green with envy.

Although I categorized WotH as a romantic comedy, the flick contains little of the typical antics normally found in an anime of the genre. The flavor is much more bittersweet than madcap, and watches more like an extended episode of Life Goes On or perhaps The Wonder Years. Although Miyazaki didn't exactly direct the movie (he wrote the screenplay, and directed two short scenes only), his hand and influence can easily be found in this magical yet down-to-earth story.

The plot, as one might surmise from the summary above, is somewhat understated, and is actually secondary to the character development. Here, the story _is_ the characters, and WotH has done an exquisite job creating for his viewers a complete cast of three-dimensional, believable, and fully _likable_ characters to sympathize and fall in love with. Anyone who still remembers ever feeling insecure or confused as an adolescent will find themselves smiling and nodding.

The animation quality is really nothing outstanding (for anime), but ten minutes into the flick you won't notice. The film's picturesque backgrounds and meticulous attention to detail (and I do mean DETAIL) draw you in, making you feel that you're really right there. Another minor but nice touch is how none of the main characters are drop-dead gorgeous or hyperglycemically cute, helping add that extra touch of "this could have been you" closeness. And the evocative and sympathetic musical score is extremely well done.

Sappy? Yeah, a tiny bit in places, but who cares? The only complaint I had with this flick is in the last forty-five seconds or so of the movie, where director Kondou Yoshifumi takes a heartwarming, nostalgic story and does something that, to me, seems quite unnatural and sudden (although I suspect some cultural differences may be in play here). However, the ending tends to grow on you, and the more I see it, the smoother it goes down each time.

All in all, Whisper is a lovely feel-good movie, and a welcome break from the mainstream stuff that stocks the rental shelves. Watch it with someone you like. ;-)

Perfect until the last sixty seconds, where the ending seems a bit unnatural. Forgivable, though, considering how enjoyable the ride is up to that point.Raphael See

Recommended Audience: Absolutely nothing objectionable with this film whatsoever. Little kids (especially boys) might be a bit bored from the lack of action, though.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Whisper of the Heart © 1995 Studio Ghibli / Tokuma Shoten Publishing / NTV Broadcasting