Anime Film Review: Whisper of the Heart
Whisper of the Heart is a 1995 Studio Ghibli movie about a junior high school student named Shizuku. Shizuku is sullen and strong-willed, but has a passion for reading, probably due to her intellectual parents. Despite her college-age sister's insistence that she work harder and quit daydreaming, she is drawn to the world of fantasy and imagination.
One day, she notices a cat riding the subway and follows it. It leads her to an antique shop run by a kind, elderly man. Shizuku is mesmerized by a beautiful old grandfather clock that seems to tell a tragic fairy tale about lost love. She's also intrigued by The Baron, the eerily lifelike figurine of a cat furry wearing a gentlemanly suit.
It turns out that the boy who has mysteriously been checking out every book before Shizuku did was also the grandson of the old man who runs the antique shop. He later confesses that he likes her, and that the books were all to get Shizuku's attention. Which he'd never been able to get even by sitting next to her in the library, because she was always so focused on reading.
The boy, Seiji Amasawa, is brilliant and gifted at making violins. He was planning to study after Junior High at a violin-maker's school in Italy. He would have to go there for about a month to see if the school was right for him and if he was right for the school, but then after his last year of Junior High, he would study there for ten years. Shizuku is devastated by this news, but is motivated by the nice grandfather to look within her own heart to find the hidden gems of her talent. She discovers her own special gifts by writing a novel called "Whisper of the Heart", starring The Baron and the fat meandering cat that had led her to the store in the first place. The Studio Ghibli movie The Cat Returns is like a sequel to Whisper of the Heart in that it's similar to the story she wrote in this movie.
A minor subplot involves Shizuku's first writing attempt: translating "Take Me Home, Country Roads" into Japanese, and the movie opens with the Olivia Newton-John cover of the song and ends with a Japanese version by Yoko Honna.
I thought this movie wasn't the best Ghibli film because it felt a little bit slow in the beginning, but towards the end, it gets sweet enough to make the most cynical person get that warm and fuzzy feeling. The ending was incredibly sweet. The movie was a really cute coming-of-age story, and also a cute, innocent love story. It's well-written, and the animation includes incredibly rich detail. I usually prefer films with more action and violence, but for what this movie is, it's good. I guess it could use more magic, but if you're into simple slice-of-life heartwarming romance anime, and would like to see Studio Ghibli's take on it, Whisper of the Heart is the movie for you.