Review: Whispers of the Heart [1995]

Japanese Title: Mimi o Sumaseba
Directed by: Yoshifumi Kondo
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki (screenplay)
Mangaka: Aoi Hiiragi (comic)
Music by: Yûji Nomi
Release date: 15 July 1995 (Japan)
Running time: 111 minutes

Summary: (from wikipedia)
The main character of Whisper of the Heart is a girl named Shizuku Tsukishima who is in junior high school in a town near Tama, Tokyo. She loves reading and writing in her spare time, but her parents wish she would pay more attention to her schoolwork and her upcoming high-school entrance exams.

One day Shizuku sees a cat riding on the train with her. She follows the cat off the train and ends up at an unusual little curiosity shop. She meets the shop’s owner, a kindly old man.

Later, she finds out that Sugimura, who her best friend Yuko has a crush on, likes her. However, she says that they have to stay only friends.

Afterwards, outside the shop, Shizuku finds Seiji Amasawa, a boy from her school whose name she had first noticed on the cards of her library books: he had checked out all of the same books before she did. The shopkeeper is Seiji’s grandfather. Seiji and Shizuku’s first encounters are brief and uncomfortable, but eventually they grow close to one another. Shizuku learns that Seiji is working to become a violin-maker. Ashamed that she has no similar aspirations, Shizuku dedicates herself to writing, but abandons her studies and falls further behind at school.

When Seiji leaves for Italy to begin a trial apprenticeship with an instrument-maker, Seiji’s grandfather helps encourage Shizuku to complete her ambitious writing project. The movie’s resolution comes as Shizuku finishes her story and decides to resume her schoolwork; Seiji later returns from his first stay in Italy after two months where he then proposes to Shizuku, who accepts joyfully.

I Say…
It’s a story of growing up and deciding what you want to be… we go through this stage and make it, but even grown ups have to find themselves too along the way. It’s quite a simple story, I thought it’s going to bore me out but it didn’t. The ending wasn’t bad either and I think I’m getting used to watching Studio Ghibli creations. The main character, Shizuku is quite mature for her age, I think, since she was already into the right path from the beginning. Her liking for books made me think she’d somehow think of being a writer as well. And the boy Seiji, who was formerly unnamed turned out to be the one Shizuku had imagined all along, even though she doesn’t want to admit it.

It’s really funny, the way they met and the way they became friendly, it’s as if the forces of nature acted to put them together. The cat, the shop, Seiji’s grandfather and even The Baron all served their purpose well. Shizuku’s family was an accessory though, in my opinion… they weren’t really influential. Just for imposition of family values and stuff like that. But for me they weren’t really part of the positive circle in Shizuku’s life.

It’s a typical high school story in Japan, again,in my opinion, but I like it and I don’t mind if I have seen similar stories before. When Seiji said his dream to Shizuku I was hoping they’d still end up together in the end. Of course nobody knows what really happened to them after but the end might as well give you a hint that it was a happy one.

It was the movie that gave way for the existence of another Studio Ghibli hit, The Cat Returns, starring The Baron. Some other notable Studio Ghibli piece that appeared was the engraved “Porco Rosso” on Seiji’s grandfather’s clock. And the town where Shizuku lives used to be the home of the Tanuki of the other movie released a year earlier with the title Pom Poko.

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