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My Favorite Anime Movie: Whisper of the Heart

Updated on January 15, 2010

My favorite anime movie -- and quite possibly my favorite movie period -- is Studio Ghibli's Whisper of the Heart. It's about the most important issues in life: how to find our life's work, what love is and how we should handle the fact that sometimes our dreams are so big that they can't all be accomplished instantaneously when we are very young, no matter how hard we work at it and how determined we are.

Whisper of the Heart is the story of Shizuku Tsukishima, about to enter high school and considering dropping out to pursue a career in writing. She loves to read, but she hates school. She's facing a battery of very rigorous academic exams that are supposed to determine the future course of her life, but all she really wants to do is write a novel.

The screenplay is by Hayao Miyazaki, and I think it his his best work.

Trailer for Whisper of the Heart

When the movie starts, it is summer vacation, and Shizuku, instead of studying for her high school placement exams, is busy checking out "fairy tales" from the library. Every book she selects turns out to have been previously checked out by someone named Seiji Amasawa.She tries to imagine what sort of person this Seiji Amasawa might be. Finally, she finds a book that hasn't been checked out by him, only to learn that the Amasawa family has donated the book to the school library.

Shizuku is a budding lyricist, and she is working on a song for her class's junior high graduation, based on John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

A stray cat on the train leads her to a different neighborhood and an enticing antique shop with a magical cat figurine and a grandfatherly proprietor who fixes clocks and is full of stories. This in turn leads to Seiji Amasawa himself, a boy from Shizuku's school who dreams of apprenticing under a master violin maker in Cremona, Italy.

My favorite scene in English

My Favorite Scene: Japanese Version

Inspired by Seiji's dedication to his craft, Shizuku decides that she must prove herself worthy by writing a novel right away. She neglects all her studies and works night and day on her masterpiece.

The adults in this movie are as delightful as the children. Instead of pressuring Shizuku to study, as most real life parents would, they allow her to set aside her studying until her project is complete. When it is done, she takes her work to the old man in the antique shop, who sets everything aside to read it. In the end, Shizuku realizes that while she has potential as a writer, her work as it stands needs a lot of polish. She decides to stay in school.

In a similar turn of events, Seiji, who has been to Italy to interview with the master luthier, realizes he's not quite ready to become an apprentice yet. He will put off his plans until after he graduates from high school.

Seiji and Shizuku decide that they will marry ... sometime in the future. For the time being, they take a chaste bike ride into the rising sun.

Shizuku and Seiji

Image Credit:
Image Credit:

Miyazaki on "Whisper of the Heart"

What is this movie really about? Here's what Hayao Miyazaki has to say:

"To the middle-aged people who have unspeakable regrets and remorse towards their salad days, the movie should be able to deliver an inciting feeling to today's youngsters. Deep in the minds of these young people, they are assuming in great faith that they can never play the main roles in the stage of life. Indeed, they are the reflections of the old selves of the middle-aged people like us. Therefore, we hope to revive the wishes in their hearts, and reveal to them the importance of embracing their dreams."

If you ignore the odd use of English, then the true breadth of his vision comes through. "That is because, no matter how the middle-aged people try every effort to complain about the fragility of the story, criticizing it as a dream with no regard to reality - they cannot deny that the story has illustrated, in a frank and healthy manner, the youngsters' hope of meeting their partners, as well as their admiration for a pure, innocent relationship. This is exactly the true and valuable part of youth."

The relationship between Shizuku and Seiji is young love, but entirely devoid of any sexual overtones. I remember being surprised and bowled over by this aspect of the movie. They are unquestionably in love, and even committed to each other, and yet the closest they come to touching is when Shizuku leans her forehead into Seiji's back as they take a bike ride together . It is a "pure, innocent relationship," as Miyazaki describes it in his notes. "We can freely point out in a sarcastic manner that the so-called "health" is actually a feeble behaviour under protection, or an unachievable accomplishment even in an age of no obstruction. Nevertheless, why can't we try to use an even stronger force majeure to show the goodness of wholesome love?"

The language in which Miyazaki's pronouncement is couched is somewhat cryptic. One can't help but wonder what force majeure he is referring to. Is it the magic of grandfather clocks and cat figurines? Or the power of Miyazaki himself to create a benevolent universe?

(c) 2010 Aya Katz

Image Credit: The Wikipedia
Image Credit: The Wikipedia

Shizuku and Seiji

Image Credit:
Image Credit:


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    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 4 years ago from The Ozarks

      I did see The Borrower Arriety. It was enjoyable, but not on the same level of excellence as Whisper of the Heart.

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 4 years ago from USA

      I had watched this along with other Ghibli's animated films :) Beautiful, I loved and enjoyed all of them. By the way, have you watched The Borrower's Arriety? How was it? Just curious :) I only had seen the trailer and it looks like one that will keep me glued too on the screen.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 5 years ago from The Ozarks

      Thanks, Mythbuster. I'm sorry about the videos not working. YouTube and Studio Ghibli seem to be cracking down on unauthorized use of the Miyazaki movies.

    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 5 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      I'll add this to my list of shows to watch. The article held my interest even though the videos didn't work while I was here to view the hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks

      Glassvisage, thanks! I think you will really enjoy Whisper of the Heart.

      Alas, no, I do not speak Japanese, although I would love to have an opportunity to learn it.

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California

      Lovely! I haven't seen this film, but I see that it is one to add to my list. It looks beautiful and meaningful. By the way, I wonder if you speak Japanese, because it wouldn't surprise me if you can! :)

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks

      Here is something that will be of interest to Miyazaki fans:

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

      DubDub, thanks for your comment. You will not be disappointed. Whisper of the Heart is the best of the Studio Ghibli movies.

    • DubDub profile image

      DubDub 7 years ago

      I've seen a lot of the Studio Ghibli's movies but not this one. I'll be checking out. Thanks for bringing this movie to my attention.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Rhiannon, yes! That is such a great comment! This is exactly how I feel about this movie, and those are great lyrics. Isn't it awful that the young are expected to keep their courage hidden, bottled up inside?

    • profile image

      Rhiannon 7 years ago

      I definitely think that this has to be one of Ghibli's best creations. While it's definitely a fantastic adventure, it holds that sense of realism that let's us hope that something like this might happen to us as well. This movie is definitely about what hides inside the hearts of all young people, and embodies the wishes of what older people wish their lives were like when they were younger.

      "I dreamed of living alone, but fearless.

      Secret longing to be courageous.

      Lonliness kept bottled up inside.

      Just reveal your brave face;

      They'll never know you lied." :)