Whisper of the Heart, written by Miyazaki and directed by Kondo Yoshifumi, was released on July 15th, 1995. it was the first Ghibli film not to be directed by either Takahata or Miyazaki, and was the directorial debut of Kondo. The film was the highest grossing on the Japanese market in 1995, and received extremely positive reviews, but it would be Kondo's last major contribution, his last work being as an animation director and character designer on Princess Mononoke. Kondo would die in January of 1998 from an Aortic Aneurysm, something that inspired Miyazaki's first retirement and more relaxed working pace from then on out.
|Do yourself a favour and don't overdo it.|
Whisper of the Heart was based off the manga Mimi o Sumaseba (If You Listen Closely) by Hiiragi Aoi (and is also titled the same in Japanese). it follows a girl named Tsukishima Shizuku as she struggles to find some purpose in life. during this time, she writes some lyrics to the tune of the song "Country Roads" to be sung at her graduation, and tracks down a mysterious rival named Amasawa Seiji. the film is very cozy, having a sleepy sort of feel throughout the whole thing caused by the coming-of-age themes. the movie is cute and light, punctuated by rock hard determination and drive.
|Never forget the potential you have inside.|
I was rather excited to see Whisper of the Heart, given that I heard it was a successor of sorts to The Cat Returns, which I had seen years before. while this wasn't entirely true, it DID have some recurring characters and a slightly similar theme. even without the two being sequels, Whisper of the Heart was a joy to watch on its own. the idea of finding oneself is one explored on occasion in anime, but to have such a focused energy devoted to perusing creative fields is really heartwarming to me. you don't see many anime about a high schooler devoting herself to being a writer!
|As easy as it is to just eat junk food when you're busy, it's important to eat well, lest you hinder your progress with your poor diet.|
The visuals were excellent as usual, beautiful and cute throughout the film. it shows its age, but that gives it even more charm, as a cozy sort of nostalgia can sweep over you if you let it. adding another layer of depth, the movie switches between styles during certain scenes, at times coming alive with rich detail, complex lighting and vibrant colour. it gives a sharp and distinctive contrast to the other scenes (such as the difference between Shizuku's normal life and her dream sequences). it's interesting to take note of, since given its age all of this was hand-drawn (and, if you pay attention, you can sometimes tell the characters from the background as if you can see the cel in front of you). adding to the quirks, I spotted many titles and subtle nods to other Ghibli films. it became something of a game for me to try to spot the next one.
|Showing age isn't a bad thing. It can sometimes be compared to patina on an item, in that it adds something to it.|
Even more important than the visuals is the sound in this movie. The dub's voice acting is simple and patient, going well with the characters and their personalities. the music kicks off with a chorus singing "Country Roads" as we are introduced to the setting, and the first third is eaten up mostly by Shizuku writing new lyrics to the tune of the song. the ending is a Japanese rendition, with the lyrics being written by Miyazaki himself. why they chose "Country Roads" as the movie's theme will forever haunt me. the rest of the soundtrack has a sort of quiet, "end-of-the-day" feel to it that's very relaxing and homey. there is an element of whimsy to some of the tracks, with almost flowery melodies at times, tunes that feel as though they could carry you upward like a down feather on a breeze. it suits the film well, since while it is flighty during the dream sequences, it can also be well-grounded during some of the rougher spots.
|Don't be surprised to hear sing-alongs.|
Whisper of the Heart was sweet and cozy, so it'd be easy to show to any age group. it might be hard to understand at points for young viewers (anything under 10 or so), but is by no means explicit so there's nothing to fear here. it is currently distributed by Disney in North America and Madman Entertainment in Australia (not that it's hard to find on the net, though).
|Always believe in yourself, even if it's just one of your ideas believing in you.|