Whisper of the Heart
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From the creators of the Academy Award(R)-winning SPIRITED AWAY (Best Animated Feature Film, 2002) comes a tale based on the screenplay from the legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki. During summer vacation, a schoolgirl named Shizuku, who longs to discover her true talents, observes an ordinary-looking cat riding by himself on the train. Intrigued, she decides to follow him. This chance encounter leads her to the mysterious Seiji, a boy who is determined to follow his dreams, and The Baron, a magical cat figurine who helps her listen to the whispers in her heart. Soon, Shizuku's exciting adventures carry her far beyond the boundaries of her imagination. Featuring extraordinary storytelling, enchanting animation, and an all-star voice cast, this 2-disc set will inspire dreams and warm hearts of all ages. ~~(c) 1995 Aoi Hiiragi/Shueisha Nibariki GNH
Based on a manga by Aoi Hiiragi, the gentle coming-of-age story Whisper of the Heart (1995) was scripted and storyboarded by Hayao Miyazaki, and directed by the late Yoshifumi Kondo. Shizuku Tsukishima is an absent-minded, insecure junior high school student who reads book after book of fairy tales, helps her friends, and does most of her chores, but remains dissatisfied. When she encounters a wonderfully supercilious cat on the train, she follows him and meets Seiji Amasawa, a student in her class who hopes to become a violin maker. Seiji's commitment to his dream helps Shizuku find her voice, literally and figuratively: she realizes she wants to become a writer. A statue of a cat in the antique store of Seiji's kindly grandfather inspires her first story, "Whisper of the Heart."
Shizuku and Seiji exhibit believable strengths and flaws: their warm humanity contrasts markedly with the shabby superficiality of the characters in many American animated films. The lively performances of Brittany Snow and David Gallagher transcend the geographic limits of the story to make Shizuku and Seiji the kids the viewer wishes lived next door. Miyazaki's script suggests that a sense of magic can exist, even in everyday Tokyo. Whisper of the Heart was the only film Yoshifumi Kondo directed before his untimely death at age 47, but its understated charm stands as a monument to his talent. (Rated G, suitable for ages 10 and older: tobacco use) --Charles Solomon
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Top Customer Reviews
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
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.
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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