Whisper of the Heart / Mimi wo Sumaseba
Review by: John Fragglepuss Evans
Genre: Slice of Life, Drama, Romance, Studio Ghibli, Country Roads
First Released: July 1995, 111-minute film
Summary: Shizuku is a 14-year-old on summer vacation who spends most of her time at the local library. She begins to notice how most the books she checks out have recently been checked out by someone named Seiji Amasawa. Shizuku follows a mystery cat off the train one day and ends up at an antique shop ran by Nishi, Seiji’s grandfather. On top of all this library mystery, Shizuku is writing a song about her city based on the tune of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”.
Directed by Yoshifumi Kondou, Whisper of the Heart is the first Studio Ghibli film not directed by Hayao Miyazaki of Isao Takahata, although Miyazaki was a producer and storyboard artist for the film. Kondou is successful in telling the story of a young girl that is unsure of herself and her future. It utilizes the slice of life genre in a captivating way where the storyline progresses at a perfect pace without feeling rushed. Sometimes slice of life shows drag on and get boring, but Whisper moves along well. It’s a refreshing change how the stakes are not high in this film. Most of the Ghibli films have crazy-high stakes that involve the world ending or being changed forever. I like those films as well, but it provides a relaxing change of pace with Whisper and how the story is simpler. It’s just about a girl trying to find her place in the world.
The art is amazing, but that should not come as a surprise for a Ghibli. The backgrounds are well done and full of detail. You can tell when the wind is blowing and which direction the sun is facing. The soundtrack is my favorite part of the film, especially with it being a central plot point. Shizuku is writing lyrics throughout the film and it’s fun to watch the lyrics and sound develop. I’m not one to judge on the subs vs dubs debate, but it’s fun to listen to all the singing in Japanese to hear how beautiful it sounds.
You might not like it if: You hate music in all its forms. This movie has it all: singing, violins, stand-up bass guitar, tambourine, etc.
Note to the Viewer: Whisper of the Heart was the inspiration for the 2002 Studio Ghibli film, The Cat Returns, which focuses on The Baron and his life.
Whisper of the Heart Official Trailer
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