Movie Review: Whisper of the Heart

Warning:  this is my favorite Ghibli movie, and a top favorite in general.

Whisper of the Heart has a few nods to other other Ghibli films.  Hard to catch if you’re not familiar.

Porco Rosso is an earlier Ghibli film, about a Italian WWI pilot cursed to become a pig.  I have not seen it yet, but Rotten Tomatoes has it rated 100% so I doubt it’s anything less than impressive.

It’s a statue of Baron Humbert von Jikkingen, the hero in The Cat ReturnsWhisper of the Heart was made in 1995, while The Cat Returns was made in 2002.  People loved the Baron so much he appeared in his own movie.  Isn’t that neat?

The cat seen here is referred to as Moon or Muta.  If you recall in The Cat Returns, Baron’s second in command was also named Muta.

Whisper of the Heart is based on a Japanese manga series (like the equivalent to our comic books/graphic novels) called Mimi o Sumaseba by Aoi Hiiragi. The main character, Shizuku, is enjoying her summer break before preparing for entrance exams.  In the Japan school system, junior high students have to take exams to get their choice of high schools.  So from the age of typical of last year junior high students, we’ll assume Shizuku is 14-15.  One day, she discovers a cat in the train while bringing lunch to her father, and follows it around town.  She discovers an antique shop that will end up changing her life.

Whisper of the Heart is the only Studio Ghibli film not directed by Isao Takahata or Hayao Miyazaki- it’s directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, who unfortunately died three years after this movie was made.  It’s no different than the style of other Ghibli films, but this holds so dear to my heart because of the story.  There is a main storyline, then several smaller ones, and they all tie together naturally.  Shizuku and her relationship with a classmate, Seiji, is perfect.  I’m not going to spoil it, but let’s say it’s the true embodiment of love- love doesn’t change you, it just makes you a better version of yourself.

There’s another reason why I love this movie so much:

There’s a reason why I linked the Japanese version.  I can NOT stand the dubbed version, which is also done by Walt Disney.  I really hate being a snob about voice acting, and there’s nothing wrong with Brittany Snow (who voices Shizuku) , but something just really bugged me about her voice in this.  I always have to watch it subtitled.  I think it is just me, others probably don’t mind her voice at all.

Probably the top three Studio Ghibli movies that people know are My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Howl’s Moving Castle.  If I had to pick JUST one for people to get into Ghibli, this would be it.  It’s not mystical, enchanting, or magical.  The realism is what makes me think so highly of this, because I can relate to Shizuku so much, as I think any girl reaching a crossroads would.  There’s a nice positive message to this, to follow your heart with your head on your shoulders.


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