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Anime Review 29: Whisper of the Heart, My Lovely Ghost Kana, and Fushigi Yuugi

Updated on February 24, 2012

Whisper of the Heart

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-seeming 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 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 because it felt a little bit slow, but towards the end it has enough sweetness to melt the heart of even the coldest coked-up sociopath (or as we call them in the US, "lobbyists"). The ending was incredibly sweet and the whole movie was a really cute coming-of-age story and also a pure, innocent love story. I think it's well written and the animation includes incredibly rich detail. In other words, it's a Studio Ghibli movie.

My Lovely Ghost Kana

A boy and his apartment ghost.
A boy and his apartment ghost.

My Lovely Ghost Kana

Warning: This manga contains adult content and should not be read by minors.

My Lovely Ghost Kana is a romance manga with some mild erotic content. Basically, a young guy with no job, Daikichi, is allowed to move into an abandoned apartment that no one else goes near because it's haunted. Kana is the resident ghost, a girl who killed herself as a teenager by stabbing herself in the chest. However, she can't for the life of her (er, death of her?) remember why, nor can she recall many details about her former life, for that matter. She just knows that she can't leave the grounds of the apartment complex she haunts. So the guy moving in to her building is very welcome company, and soon enough he discovers she isn't exactly as cold or immaterial as one would expect a ghost to be, in the places that count. Like a new married couple, they then go on to have lots of sex punctuated by Daikichi's trips to the store (I was left wondering how the heck he was getting money, but whatever) and occasional spats wherein Kana would get offended by some little thing Daikichi said that bothered her and hide in the wall, creating a face-like stain on said wall that can't be scrubbed off. I think the plot gets more complicated eventually but this is mostly what was in the beginning parts that I read. Overall it wasn't anything super noteworthy, but pretty decent as a playful work of erotica, not hardcore or threatening, and also a pretty decent love story.

My main problem with the premise was that Kana being stuck in the apartment seems like a reinforcement of expected gender roles; the wife is to stay at home. That kind of thinking is really antiquated but I guess that is the kind of thing a man would fantasize about... It's also kind of silly that the writer simply made her have bodily warmth, a heartbeat, and physical presence when things heated up between the characters, and yet Kana floats in midair and walks through things when she's not getting pounded by Daikichi. It's sort of contrived. Despite numerous storytelling flaws, the sex scenes are enjoyable as they depict a warm embrace between a couple with a good mutual bond, and I think that in depicting sexual intercourse in fiction, too many writers and artists take the concept of love out of it and make things that are all about bodily desire, but it's much more satisfying to me when I see one that's about sex but also about love and caring.

Daikichi seems like a good person who's genuinely interested in learning more about Kana and his love for her is pretty moving. This manga has a lot of flaws as a story, but manages to be both charmingly sweet and has just the right amount of lighthearted sensuality.

Fushigi Yuugi

Fushigi Yuugi

Fushigi Yuugi is about a high school girl named Miaka who, along with a friend named Yui, stumbles upon a mystical ancient book in a secret room in a large library. When Yui begins to read the ancient Chinese text aloud, it is revealed that the book is an ancient epic tale that becomes real when someone reads it. First, Miaka and Yui are both transported to a fantasy kingdom resembling ancient China, but in later episodes Yui has vanished only to return back to where she came from, reading the book as her friend lives out the life of the girl in the long series of stories. The story revolves around a magical phoenix and a priestess (Miaka) who is foretold to be destined to gather seven magical warriors to summon a god and save a country.

The story was intriguing and creative, it couldn't be more 90's if it tried which isn't really a bad thing to me, and the world Miaka stumbles into seems to be populated by all manner of dashing bishounen (pretty boys). I would like to see more of this show simply because it would be interesting to see how the story continues to progress and eventually resolve itself. All Miaka wants to do is to Dorothy herself back home, but some mysterious supernatural entity doesn't seem willing to let her... at least not just yet. I'd say Fushigi Yuugi is a bold, imaginative, exciting fantasy story that I think most people will enjoy.


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    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 5 years ago from Illinois

      I just think the Qi Pao dress makes for good fanservice ;) . Show some leg!

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 6 years ago from Illinois

      Yeah I thought The Cat Returns was better, had a little more fantasy and wonder.

      Fushigi Yuugi is good for sinophiles. :) I also like it because I like weird magical stuff.

    • Chris Qu profile image

      Chris Qu 6 years ago

      I really liked Whisper of the Heart. Though I prefer the spin-off sister film, The Cat Returns.

      Also, I'm not a fan of shoujo, so I haven't watched it but... I can't help but feel that I should at least give Fushigi Yuugi a shot. Maybe that's just because I'm kind of a sinophile though. n_n;