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247 of 251 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgetable, heartwarming, coming of age film from Studio Ghibli
Whisper of the heart is one of the most sensitive, heartwarming and beautiful films ever made. Based on a shojo manga by Aoi Hiiragi, Written and produced by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, whisper of the heart is a tale of self discovery and coming of age of a high school girl Shizuku who is not sure what she wants in life. A series of dramatic events...
Published on November 20, 2005 by Mohd Jafar

31 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not What People Are Saying
First thing you all need to know: I am a 16 year old guy.
That's right, not a "Tween" girl, and I loved this movie. (Borrowing my family account, so that's why it says Christine, btw)

True, it doesn't have any of the action or adventure that made Mononoke or Nausicaa great, but it does have something that (in my mind) makes up for it. Real charecters. This...
Published on May 31, 2010 by Christine F.

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247 of 251 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgetable, heartwarming, coming of age film from Studio Ghibli, November 20, 2005
Mohd Jafar (Hyderabad, AP India) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Whisper of the Heart (DVD)
Whisper of the heart is one of the most sensitive, heartwarming and beautiful films ever made. Based on a shojo manga by Aoi Hiiragi, Written and produced by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, whisper of the heart is a tale of self discovery and coming of age of a high school girl Shizuku who is not sure what she wants in life. A series of dramatic events bring her closer to a guy Seiji from her own school. Together they embark on a journey which will help them find their inner potentials, realize their dreams and also love for each other. Also featured in the movie is an old man who runs an antique shop stocked with amazing treasures, including a magnificient porcelain figurine "the baron" (also featured in "The cat returns). Both of these characters play an important role in the film. Though "The cat returns" is kind of follow up to "whisper" yet for some reason it was released on dvd before "whisper".

Rarely is a film as honest and realistic as whisper of the heart and that's what makes it amazingly special, charming and successful. Within its thin plot and realistic settings, whisper has its magic moments which are downright uplifting and strike a chord somewhere deep inside. The film itself is a breath of fresh air.

Whisper of the heart, though slow in pace, draws you in from the very beginning and refuses to let you go. Its a heartwarming tale which makes you feel nostalgic and helps you relive the adolescence. Except for the Shizuku's dreamy fantasy sequence, the film relies heavily on dialogues and simple and real situations. The locales and the backgrounds shown in the film are as beautiful and breathtaking as in any other ghibli film. Open spaces, beautiful countryside, deep blue sky with summer clouds, a bicycle ride atop the hill, there are numerous things and moments in the film that set the mood just right, leaving the viewer spellbound and satisfied. After a while you forget completely that you are watching an animated film. Music plays an important role in the film and is soft and relaxing though we do get lots of those silent moments too for which ghibli films are famous. Also featured in the film is John Denver's song "country roads" which makes the perfect backdrop for the film. Not to mention here, the royalty disputes which arised later, making it difficult for the movie to see an American release.

Be it character development, animation or background art of the film, attention to details is simply stunning.The incredibly detailed backgrounds of the fantasy sequences were done by Naohisa Inoue who was an established artist and a long time Miyazaki fan. Impressed by his fantasy work, Miyazaki himself invited him to work on the film. Whisper of the heart dvd released by Buena Vista in Japan includes a special documentary showcasing the dreamy artwork of the film.

Director Yoshifumi Kondo had worked on many ghibli films such as Kiki's delivery service, Grave of the fireflies and Pom poko etc, as an animator. Hayao Miyazaki, who was looking for new breed of directors for ghibli, recognised Kondo's talent in no time and gave him a chance to direct this movie. Unfortunately, whisper of the heart remains to be the first and the only film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. Just after the release of whisper, Kondo succumbed to aneurysm. It is evident from whisper of the heart how immensely talented and sensitive director Kondo was.

Films like whisper of the heart are very rare and come once in a lifetime. Watching a film like this is an experience to behold and cherish forever.

----Blu-ray RELEASE UPDATE----

Whisper of the Heart finally makes it to North America on the stellar format. The film is reported to have received a shiny new digital 1080P remaster for this Blu-ray release which will also feature English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, French 2.0 Dolby Digital Language Track, Japanese 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Original Production, English and French Subtitles. Bonus features on this release will include:

4 Masterpieces of Naohisa Inoue - Watch the evolution of four different scenes by master artist Naohisa Inoue
Original Japanese Storyboards
Behind the Microphone--With voice talent from the film
Original Japanese Trailers and TV Commercials
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109 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gem, January 2, 2006
This review is from: Whisper of the Heart (DVD)
This movie, produced by Studio Ghibli (the same company that produces Miyazaki's movies) is a gem. Unlike all of Miyazaki's movies, this one tells in a very poetic way a story about credible young people, their coming of age, and their growing awareness on their dreams and aspirations. It is also a beatiful love story between two children who are discovering that they seem to be made for each other.

This is also one of those movies that will remind you of your school years, and I find amazing the accuracy with which children's emotions are depicted. Indeed, this is something I really appreciate about most of these Japanese directors: the ability of depicting children for what they are, rather than as cute mature and witty "little" adults, as much of Hollywood instead does.

As in virtually all of Studio Ghibli's movies, the drawings are beautiful, some of them breathtaking, and the characters are lovable and well constructed. One of the major "characters" is a cat that will certainly end up loving!

If you liked this movie, I would also strongly suggest you to look for another two Studio Ghibli movies that share the same genre. One is "Ocean waves" (which centers around the complicated love-hate relation between two high school student), and the other one, which is absolutely wonderful, is "Only yesterday", the story of a young Tokio woman who rediscovers herself during a vacation in the countryside. I think both of them (especially the last one) are true masterpieces.
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63 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspirational, beautiful coming-of-age film, December 27, 2005
This review is from: Whisper of the Heart (DVD)
I am so glad that this Studio Ghibli gem is finally getting a U.S. release, so that it can get an even wider audience.

Unlike some better known Ghibli productions such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Whisper of the Heart has very few fantasy elements; it's a story that is very 'real'. The setting of Whisper Of The Heart (original title: Mimi wo Sumaseba) is a typical Tokyo suburb, and the main protagonists are Suzuka and Seiji, a girl and a boy in junior high school. Suzuka is not quite sure yet what she wants to do with her life, but Seiji on the other hand has already found his lifes work. The themes this movie cover are universal, such as:

What does it mean to have, and pursue a dream? What is the use of education? What does it mean to love someone? And so on.

This is a perfect family movie also, for kids over age 10 or so and up. The pace may be a bit too leisurely for younger kids and they may not quite get the themes of ambition, etc as well as older kids might, though there is plenty of other elements to hold their attention, such as the gorgeous animation and the cheekiest cat imaginable. (There is absolutely nothing in this movie that's 'inappropriate' for young children in any way - just that the themes may be a bit difficult for them.) Adults who remember their teenage years would love this movie also. It made me remember what it was like to be 13 and unsure of myself and what I wanted to 'do with my life', and of hanging out with my friends, and the crushes I had on boys, etc. This movie is particularly great for young girls, since Suzuka, the main character, is one of the most realistically portrayed low-teen girls I've ever seen on screen. Ironic, since she's animated. (I wonder why so many Ghibli movies feature a girl as the main character?)

I do hope that Disney doesn't dub this with hyperactive voice actors - the original voices are quite calm and 'normal'.

Incidentally, this is a prequel of sorts to The Cat Returns (Neko no Ongaeshi), since a cat statue that appears in Whisper... comes to life so to speak in the more fantasy-oriented The Cat Returns. You can enjoy either movie on its own, however.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beauty all around Us, January 4, 2006
Varjohaltia (Tampa, FL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Whisper of the Heart (DVD)
Whisper of the Heart is a wonderful Ghibli movie; although the animation style shows a bit of age, the visual compositions, the magic that makes the ordinary suddenly special, the human touch and warmth of people all make that totally inconsequential. Even if the characters might not be the smooth and flashy style, their movements, the life in them, let alone the breathtaking backgrounds are better than almost anything modern animation has produced.

The plot itself doesn't read as anything exciting that would make one pick up the movie, but that would be a mistake; Whisper of the Heart is about idealism, about love, about the emotions that make us human, that make life worth living. This doesn't make it a boring chick flick or art movie, though. The characters have enough quirks and humor to them to keep even an action aficionado entertained.

There is nothing adult about this movie, in the best senses of that word. No foul language, no sex, no drugs, no drinking, no violence. This is the kind of movie that you can show to a child of any age, from seven to a hundred and seven, and the magic will be there. It is the kind of work that inspires faith in humanity.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Artistic Masterpiece!!!, April 14, 2006
This review is from: Whisper of the Heart (DVD)
Before I saw this fantastic animated masterpiece, my only contact with Japanese Anime' was when my nieces and nephews came for visits (they were interested in watching Ninja/Karate/Sailor Moon, etc). These cartoons, although hypnotic and mesmerizing to the kids, seemed mindless with no real message (not that there's anything wrong with that).

One evening this past January, I was flipping through the channels when I came upon TCM's Thursday night special tribute to Hayao Miyazaki. I listened to the pre-feature info-guy describing the great artistry and storytelling of this director and thought "I'll give it 2 minutes and then continue flipping".

After only ten minutes I found myself totally immersed in the experience. What a beautifully crafted, artistically amazing, and poignant study of two young Japanese students encouraging one another to follow their dreams as they surprise themselves by falling in love.

As a professional artist, I was amazed at the superb quality and artistry of the background panels, each one alone a separate masterpiece, and the 3 dimensional feel in the movement/action. This was not what I had expected.

The most striking element of this masterpiece (at the risk of being trite) was the slice of modern Japanese life/culture it imparted to me. The characters were real, while at the same time decent, moral kids. There was a certain innocence in the characters that was totally refreshing and endearing. They projected an almost spiritual reverence for their elders and total respect for their teachers. Because the Japanese culture is shown to be "user friendly", their parents had no fear for their kids traveling on bikes and rapid transit throughout Tokyo. It was quite charming to follow the various characters through their daily activities and reminded me of my own childhood before our American culture became so dangerous.

I now own many of Miyazaki's films including Porco Rosso, Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, and a few others. However, my personal favorite is still Whisper of the Heart. I can't wait to introduce my nieces and nephews to these fantastic and beautiful stories.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Cel Animation I've Ever Seen, A Master Work!!, February 7, 2006
Courtland J. Carpenter (Fort Wayne, Indiana United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Whisper of the Heart (DVD)
I collect anime, and have recently had the opportunity to see the dub of this great work on TCM before it's released on DVD. I've owned the subtitled version for a few years now, and was impressed that no newer anime movies can even touch the quality of animation displayed in this film. Yes, the story is good although I'd call it less a coming of age film and more a exploring our youthful options type of story. This is a slice of life type of movie, not an action or an adventure. It's interest is in how well it can capture the audience.

Capture you it does. I recently showed a friend of mine three animations. The first was a nicely done anime episode of a series called Bleach. The second to show the higher level of detail was Mulan, a Disney animation, with at least some footing into their cel movies. Finally, I showed Whisper of the Heart. The first was fine for most watching as are most decent anime series, the art and characters don't get in the way of the viewing. The second was a Disney theatrical release which is as good as can normally be expected. Decent detail and some nice visual effects to help drive the movie plot.

Then there was Whisper... Here's a little test if you don't believe me straight up. Watch the sequence where the girl follows the cat up to the antique shop. I've never seen such an attention to detail as this before. That an artist could render drawings of a city scape with this much detail and realism, is flat out amazing. I've seen animators blog on their extra's disc about the challenge to accomplish some special effect in an animated movie or series. Looking at it from their perspective, I could see the difficulties. Then looking at it from what was accomplished in this film, I think they are just whining over minor details.

Here are some more good examples in this film, check out the color changes with the lighting at night and in the morning at the student desk in the bedroom. Check out the many transparencies and translucencies from glass doors and windows. Check out the subtle motions of background items, and the detail and functionality. Nothing seems like an after thought, or out of place. The items the characters use and react too, always seem to have function. Even the special grandfather clock in the antique store, while imaginative somewhat, still looked and operated like it could have been real.

The style of Miyasaki characters are is on display here as well. He must have provided some of the drawings, if only in conceptual mode for this film. What is amazing for him is that he can create characters that are obvious animations. This is in contrast to the growing trend to create photorealistic characters, in mostly rendered animation. Instead Miyasaki characters are simple in their appearance, and features. Yet, they react to the incredibly detailed backgrounds, and all blend together to form a smooth animation without seeming busy or cluttered. This is one of those films that sneaks up on you. You find you can remember the story long after its over with. It's a pity most animated films don't have craftsmen of this level of talent. Other studios, have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on other film projects that were so ill conceived, a focus group of children could have told them they were bad!

If you read the plot summary of this film you will not want to watch it, so don't. Just view the film when you are relaxed, and you'll have an unforgettable experience. Studio Ghibli films tend to be like that. This one doesn't do any environmental or political preaching like a few of them are known to do. It simply entertains, and shows off animes to be a true art form, a fact that is often overlooked in the commercial world of crank them out, and get them to market, cookie cutter animations.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantasy about reality..., November 21, 2006
This review is from: Whisper of the Heart (DVD)
Like chocolate milk and pancake batter, utter realism and animation rarely mix. Cartoons, completely unrestrained by the laws of physics, usually depict fanciful, imaginary, or surreal worlds and creatures that real fleshy human beings can relate to only indirectly or analogously. Talking lions, anthropomorphic toasters, ants with eyebrows, singing lawn furniture. That's the stuff of animation. "Kid's stuff," at least for many living in the United States. But, across the Pacific, one of Japan's greatest animation houses, Studio Ghibli, has continually broken this tradition by incorporating human characters so believable and lifelike they could already exist two doors down. "Whisper of the Heart" contains realism so tangible it could work as a live action movie.

Apart from a few scenes, the entire plot of this animated film takes place within the human realm. The heroine, Shizuku Tsukishima, a junior high school student in a middle class Japanese family, faces the perennial coming of age question: "what should I do with my life?" Her easily distracted squirrelish mind often wanders through fairy tales and imaginary stories. She follows tangents and roads less traveled, a habit that induces her to follow a stray cat, Muta, from a public train to an antique store. Once there she discovers an enigmatic sculpture of a well dressed cat. Its eyes radiate like fiery nebulas. The store's proprietor, Shirou Nishi, refers to it as "The Baron." Something about this statuesque cat catches Shizuku's attention and she decides to write a fairy tale narrated by The Baron. For a few minutes the movie shifts out of reality to depict pieces of this story. But reality quickly, and harshly, returns.

Along the way Shizuku gets haunted by a name: Seiji Amasawa. This person has already checked out nearly every book she has from the library. Examining the old style checkout cards - now extinct from computerized libraries - reveals this startling pattern. She begins to fantasize about the mysteriously reoccurring name. By this point her friends have taken an interest in boys, which also piques her own interest. One friend has a stultifying crush on a somewhat brutish baseball player who wouldn't notice a flaming brick thrown at his face. Shizuku tries to set them up but falls flat into a humiliating "whoops!" moment. The evasive name of Seiji wafts in the background.

When Shizuku discovers the identity of Seiji Amasawa, she's disappointed and a fight ensues. Nonetheless, the two build a relationship based on the ineffable stuff that all relationships are built on. Then Seiji, in pursuit of his life's ambition, decides to move to Cremona, Italy. This throws Shizuku into an emotional abyss. She seeks the solace of her friends. The same ones that previously sought relationship advice from her. Shizuku's own flowering fairy tale confronts reality. Will this relationship work? How can it?

Allegories of lost love permeate the story. An old clock, restored by Nishi, depicts a Prince staring longingly at his true love who only appears at twelve o'clock. Nishi himself dreams about the return of his long lost love, Louise. Even in his old age he still hopes. The lonely figure of the Baron parallels this tragedy. A companion piece, a well-dressed female cat also named Louise, disappeared along with Nishi's Louise of the flesh. Life interferes with love. And, despite the ending, life appears ready to deliver a blow to Seiji and Shizuku. Arguably, the ending remains open to interpretation. The constant refrain of "Country Roads," made famous by John Denver but sung here by Olivia Newton-John, hearkens those who have gone astray or wandered off to return home "where they belong" (at least in the minds of the amorously abandoned). Eerily, Shizuku and Seiji's story could end up mirroring Nishi's and Louise's.

"Whisper of the Heart" is one of Studio Ghibli's most poignant and beautiful films. Adults will probably identify with its themes more than children or teenagers. It searches for magic in reality rather than in fantasy, but it challenges these dreams with the vicissitudes of workaday life. It also makes us reflect on the whispers of our own hearts that tell us what we may have lost or may potentially be in the process of losing.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Animated Masterpiece Finally Comes to the United States..., February 16, 2006
This review is from: Whisper of the Heart (DVD)
Whisper of the Heart is based on a screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki, which he adapted from a comic by Aoi Hîragi. The story focuses on a teenage girl who is to find out about life's difficult journey, as she discovers a mysterious name in a library book. Nonetheless, it is not a conventional teenage coming of age story that have already been made so many times.

The teenage years are the bridge from childhood to adulthood in which the child discovers itself in a process people call coming of age. Whisper of the Heart is such a story about the young teenage girl Shizuku who does what every good girl is supposes to do -- obey her parents. Parents often try to steer their children in a well-trodden path where mistakes are minimized and choice are limited as the future is important. Thus, it is essential that children obey the parent's wishes and desires as they usually have more knowledge and wisdom.

One of the demands that the parents put on their children is to study. In Japan the school system puts a lot of pressure on the teens, as they have to take hard entrance exams right before they enter high school, which means the students who get into high school usually spend the majority of their summer studying for exams. Shizuku, who is a good girl, does a lot of studying when she does not read books, which is one of her favorite pastimes.

Shizuku makes many visits to the library where her father works and she borrows large numbers of books. Through the old way of keeping the records of who borrowed what book Shizuku discovers the name Amasawa Seiji on more than one of the books that she has borrowed. This begins an innocent and secretive romance for Shizuku who uses her imagination to create an image for Amasawa. Despite this beginning, Whisper of the Heart is not a teenage love story, yet love is an important part of the film as it illustrates the complexity of being a teen.

When Shizuku does not read she translates and writes her own poetry, carries food to her father at work, and helps out with the house chores. In the summer heat she even finds time for a little friendship, which is huge element of being a teen. The ability to socialize with friends is affected by what they do most of the time, which is studying for the entrance exams. In one of these moments she provides a translation of John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Road of which she has also created in her own Japanese version. This is an interesting scene as it displays how hard these teens work even when they are relaxing.

On one of Shizuku's short ventures with food to her father who is working a stray cat leads her astray. The cat leads her unintentionally into a small antique shop owned by an old man. In this store she gets to hear the story of Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, a cat statue, which becomes the foundation for the film Cat Returns (2002). Shizuku also meets a young teenage boy who dreams of becoming a violinmaker and who dreams of going to Italy to study violinmaking. Through this teenage boy she learns to look into herself in order to discover what she desires to do with her life.

Shizuku sets out on a quest to discover if she has what it takes to become a writer and she drops her studies and focuses solely on writing. Her older sister becomes irritated over her lack of respect for her parents and her parents are bewildered to see how she is changing. The film does not simply imply that one should follow ones dreams. Rather, it takes the notion one step further by applying hard work, dedication, and desire to the idea of following ones dreams. Thus, it does not become a pretentious teenage film, which often teaches the superficial value of "follow thy dreams". Instead, it provides a realistic perspective on success, as most of it is due to hard work and rarely only dreams and hopes.

In this process Shizuku comes of age as she discovers what she wants to do while applying dedication and zealous work ethic to what she loves the most. Yet, the film is not only about "follow thy dreams", it is about so much more. As mentioned beforehand she falls in love with this mysterious Amasawa, has friendships that go through difficult times, experiences hurt feelings, has looming exams, goes through failure, and deals with whatever else life presents. In essence, Whisper of the Heart is about coming of age while dealing with the ups and downs of life. The film does not focus on one of the moments in life, but rather on the journey through life as Shizuku is acquiring wisdom.

Whisper of the Heart is a brilliant animated film by Yoshifumi Kondo who unfortunately passed away in 1998, which makes Whisper of the Heart the only film that he directed. Kondo worked as an animator on wonderful animated films such as Grave of Fireflies (1988), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), Porco Rosso (1992), and Princess Mononoke (1997). It is sad to know that his visual talent and skill never got to make more flawless cinematic experiences such as Whisper of the Heart, which still has not been released in the United States. Hopefully, this film will also reach this nation as it has so much to offer in the sense of entertainment, enlightenment, and contemplative bemusement.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely wonderful, "heart"-felt story, brought to life Ghibli-style., March 15, 2006
This review is from: Whisper of the Heart (DVD)
Yoshifumi Kondo's first and only film for Studio Ghibli (he died a few years after it was completed), WHISPER OF THE HEART, is an absolute delight. Gentle but not syrupy, this modern-day story about a girl and boy discovering that they have a lot in common is beautifully animated, compellingly characterized, and full of heart (pun intended).

Based on a graphic-novel by Aoi Hiragi with a script by Hayao Miyazaki, the movie centers on Shizuku Tsukishima, a spacey yet sympathetic young High School student who would rather read books from the library rather than study for her school tests. Shizuku discovers that a certain Seiji Amasawa checks out the same books that she does, as detailed on the library checkout cards. When Shizuku first meets Seiji in person, she thinks he's a "stupid jerk" (he makes a somewhat snide remark about her supposedly "corny" writing abilities), but she soon discovers that he is a strangely gentle fellow who longs to become a violinist yet feels that his playing isn't as good as others say it is. Shizuku can relate to this, given that she doubts her talents as a writer. The story takes a dramatic turn when Shizuku discovers that Seiji will be temporarily leaving for Italy to train as a violinist. This inspires Shizuku to pursue her own talent, and she proceeds to write her first story.

At the surface, this would sound like a rather simple love story, but that's not all WHISPER OF THE HEART has going for it. Miyazaki's screenplay ingeniously allows the viewers to identify with Shizuku as she expresses the following emotions: frustration, disappointment, fear, joy, and vulnerability. This is displayed not only in her growing relationship with Seiji, but with her daily interactions with her friends, family, and her inner thoughts. We even see Shizuku deal with humiliation (and even guilt) when a boy reveals he had a crush on her all along, yet she only considered him a friend. Sometimes certain movies can delve a little too much on these angst-ridden elements, but in WHISPER OF THE HEART, this is handled in a way that is not so overbearing (or frustrating even) to the viewer.

The film also works in a subplot involving a captivating antique shop containing all kinds of sparkling treasures, including a charming statuette of a cat known as "Baron". The kindly owner, Mr. Nishi, is warm and supportive of Shizuku, especially when she decides to write her story based on the aforementioned "Baron" statue. He reminded me of Uncle Pom from CASTLE IN THE SKY, a similarly gentle old man who sadly only showed up for one scene; having this kind of character play an even bigger role in WHISPER is a delight.

Speaking of which, the scenes where Shizuku imagines her story are among the movie's most imaginatively animated moments. The film's artwork, typical of Ghibli, is top notch, but this sequence (one of the studio's first experiments with computer animation) is especially stunning. Here we see the Baron come alive and escort a fair young maiden (who strangely resembles Shizuku) across a graceful sky of floating islets. The character of the Baron is quite charismatic and one of the more memorable characters in the film; the only other notable feline we see is a pudgy furball known as Moon (aka Muta), who appears quite grumpy whenever Shizuku tries to talk to him.

Incidentally, both of these felines appeared in another Studio Ghibli production, THE CAT RETURNS, a pleasant but merely forgettable family flick considered by many (myself included) as an inferior spin-off. Not that Hiroyuki Morita's film doesn't have any charm, but WHISPER has something that THE CAT RETURNS didn't have, hence why it holds up better.

Interestingly, John Denver's immortal "Take Me Home, Country Roads" plays a crucial part in the story: the first half of the movie deals with Shizuku trying to translate the song into Japanese. This part of the story obviously gave Disney a lot of problems in terms of translation, hence why it was delayed from its English release for quite some time. Fortunately, their dub handles it in a way that remains true to the original intent, yet at the same time makes it easier for American audiences to connect with. Here Shizuku tries to write her own lyrics for the song, with each attempt improving as she learns to write from the heart. This approach works rather well, as I could sense little, if any, lost in the translation.

As much as I've heard people criticize Disney for the actors they've chosen to voice the characters in their dubs for Ghibli's works, I have practically enjoyed every one of their voice casts--and, in the case of WHISPER OF THE HEART, I think cynics are going to be very hard-pressed to find any real fault with the performers assembled here. As the insecure Shizuku, Brittany Snow speaks in a very expressive, believable way without being saccharine, and has an equally lovely singing voice. David Gallagher--no stranger to voice acting, given his work in KINGDOM HEARTS--provides an excellent contrast to Snow through his understated yet effective turn as Seiji. Cary Elwes reprises his role as the debonair Baron from THE CAT RETURNS. The person who takes the prize for best acting in the dub, though, is Harold Gould, who brings just the right amount of warmth, poignancy, and compassion to the kindly Mr. Nishi.

I had heard so many wonderful things about WHISPER OF THE HEART, but I never expected to like it as much as I did. And now that it is available as yet another top-notch dub from Disney (although their DVD extras are a little bit sparse here; good thing the movie looks fantastic though), it pleases me that this film will hopefully discover an even wider audience. All in all, WHISPER OF THE HEART is a real winner as both a Studio Ghibli film and a Disney revamp, and I highly recommend it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two flawed versions of a masterpiece, June 24, 2012
This review is from: Whisper of the Heart (DVD)
Many a long year has passed since a movie impressed, charmed, and touched me like _Whisper of the Heart_. Those with preconceptions about anime might be surprised to discover that this is not primarily a comedy or an action-filled melodrama but a finely detailed, believable portrait of modern junior high school students in Japan, with all the ambitions and insecurities, the longings for adventure and for love, that young teens almost anywhere might feel. In fact, it brings to mind a coming-of-age television series called _The Wonder Years_.

In _Whisper of the Heart_ the protagonist is a winsome, vaguely self-effacing girl named Shizuku--a bookworm whose encounters with a mysterious cat, an old man, and a boy with hidden talents prompt her to discover her own undeveloped gift for writing. The occasional insertion of a brief dream sequence lends an extra element of fantasy and visual variety to a strikingly beautiful movie.

Such were my initial reactions to _Whisper of the Heart_ as dubbed into English by the Disney studio. The DVD edition, however, provides other choices: watching the film as it was first released in Japanese (with or without English subtitles) or even viewing the original storyboards--more than a thousand pencil sketches by Hayao Miyazaki, which flash by in synch with the soundtrack of your choice.

The Disney dubbing emerges as a characteristically slick feel-good movie. The infusion of American slang is reasonably effective, the voiceover acting even more so (with a few exceptions), and the surround-sound audio mix more elaborate than in the Japanese version. In some scenes, the dubbed version actually has more dialog than the original, as characters keep talking when their faces are turned away from us. The moralizing is perhaps more explicit than in the original--the message that students need to study hard, just as artists need to labor at their craft--yet it is inspirationally presented. Though many visible details reflect Japanese culture, young viewers could easily forget that they were watching a foreign picture.

There is one distasteful moment in English where Shizuku calls the cat a rather vulgar name that has no equivalent in the Japanese script (most parents will not object to the word, but it would not pass muster in my classroom). Even more cringeworthy is the line where Cary Elwes--who is supposed to play a supernaturally wise, urbane, gentlemanly character--unintelligently mispronounces "lapis lazuli." The gaffe is all the more obvious since at the end of the previous scene, a few seconds earlier, Harold Gould pronounced the term correctly. Speaking of gaffes: David Gallagher mispronounces his own character's name; at best, he Americanizes "Seiji Amasawa" in a way that no other cast member does.

Early in the film, a significant plot point involves Shizuku writing new lyrics to the John Denver song "Country Roads." Watching in English, we can't help wondering why the student is rewriting the song for her middle school graduation (but months ahead of time). Her version--to the extent that we can make out the words--has nothing to do with graduation, nor does it sound like remotely capable writing. In the original film, it makes sense that Shizuku is adapting the American song into Japanese and, in the process, making a poetic statement about life as a lonely and uncertain road.

What no one seems to have noticed is that the Japanese and American editions have startlingly different plot resolutions. By modifying and adding just a couple lines of dialog, the Disney team have given us a satisfyingly predictable Hollywood happy ending (details under "Spoiler Alert" below). The Japanese ending is more bittersweet and potentially more haunting. Which one best fits the story becomes practically a litmus test of viewer preference and personality.

And just when I would like to say "Skip the Disney dub and watch the film with subtitles," it turns out that the DVD spoils the Japanese version (and not the dubbed one) by cropping off the top of the image during the entire epilogue, which is wordlessly played out during the closing credits. The viewer is simply unable to see the final interaction between the young heroine's friends Yuko and Sugimura.

A sufficiently dedicated viewer might watch the film in Japanese and then watch the closing credits of the dubbed version. Unfortunately, finding the credits requires using both a chapter stop and a fast-forward button. The film is indeed a heartwarming and visually impressive masterpiece, but unless the recent Blu-Ray release has corrected the problem with the Japanese credits, an ideal DVD edition has yet to appear.

SPOILER ALERT: In the Disney adaptation, handsome young Seiji ultimately returns from Cremona, Italy, eager to explain that his mentor has pronounced him a potentially gifted violinmaker who will still need years of practice. Being sensible as well as sentimental, Seiji has realized that he really wants to attend high school at home in Japan with Shizuku. After finishing high school, he will be able to pursue his dreams in Cremona; once he is a famous violinmaker and Shizuku is a professional author, they can get married. Shizuku teases him for sounding a little corny, but as the sun rises, they have their whole lives optimistically planned out.

In the original script, however, the Japanese dialogue makes clear that Seiji has returned to Tokyo a day ahead of schedule to attend his junior high school (middle school) graduation ceremony. Within a few days, he will be leaving for Cremona to resume his long-term apprenticeship. As they cling to each other under a single jacket, he and Shizuku both cling to the touchingly juvenile hope that someday, in the far-off future, they will marry each other. Of course, the implication may be that just as Seiji's grandfather lost touch with the young woman he loved as a student in Germany, Seiji's youthful crush will not withstand the test of time and distance. This reflection gains significance as he shouts the final line of dialogue--"Shizuku, I love you!" Perhaps the reaction we see momentarily on Shizuku's face goes beyond startled or astonished embarrassment. Is she not concerned, alarmed, even pained at the same time?
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Whisper of the Heart (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Whisper of the Heart (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) by Yoshifumi Kondo (Blu-ray - 2012)
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