Whisper of the Heart

Studio Ghibli Collection
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4.7 out of 5 stars Based on 25 Customer Ratings

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"Heart warming"
4 stars"
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Another great story from studio ghibli

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.


Whisper of the Heart (Mimi o Sumaseba) is a 1995 Japanese animated family drama film directed by Yoshifumi Kondō and written by Hayao Miyazaki.

Shizuku Tsukishima is a bit of a book-worm, spending her last summer vacation in junior high school reading and translating popular foreign music into Japanese. With aspirations to one day become a writer, Shizuku can't help but notice that the name Seiji Amasawa appears on every one of the books she borrows from the library.

From the Studio Ghibli Collection

Whisper of the Heart Movie Review
By AnimatedViews.Com

Of the three Studio Ghibli films released {in the US] in March 2006, the lowest profile one was undoubtedly Whisper Of The Heart. While Howl’s Moving Castle was nominated for an Oscar, and My Neighbor Totoro had a previous successful home video release from Fox and is an acknowledged classic family film besides, Whisper is a relative unknown even to the average anime fan. And that is why I chose to review it. I have no doubt that I will love the others when I watch them, but I was most looking forward to what I might discover inside a film which I knew nothing about. Ah, the fun of doing DVD reviews!

Most of the Ghibli films have been directed by the master, Hayao Miyazaki; but for this one he stuck to doing the screenplay and storyboards, as well as his usual producer responsibilities. The director here is Yoshifumi Kondo (except for a fantasy scene with flying, which Miyazaki handled). Kondo had been an associate of Miyazaki for many years, and previously served as animation supervisor on several Ghibli films. It was anticipated that he would be directing more films as Miyazaki planned his retirement, but unfortunately Kondo passed away in 1998 at the age of 47. It truly is a shame, because he handled his one film beautifully. Animation buffs may also wish to note that this was the first Ghibli film to use computer technology, albeit just digital compositing in this case. Everything in the film was animated traditionally, but the flying scene with Baron had its elements combined using a computer.

Whisper Of The Heart, like many anime films, began as a manga; this one’s title actually translates to “If You Listen Closely”. This was a different type of choice for Ghibli to make, as Whisper is much more of a “girls’ drama”, rather than the fantasies or ecological fables that the studio is most known for. Miyazaki was apparently drawn towards its themes of non-conformity and following your dreams, and his work on the screenplay is a revelation for its sensitivity and naturalism. Watching the film, I was struck by just how real the story seemed to feel, as if I was back in junior high myself, and watching my friends go through what teenagers go through.

But in truth, this is a story that takes place in Tokyo, not North America. The main character is Shizuku Tsukishima, a fourteen-year old girl who is struggling just a bit with the expectations of her family and society. She is supposed to be preparing for the exams that will determine her high school placement (and by extension her whole future), but her focus is instead on reading books of fairy tales and the like. Her parents appreciate her free spiritedness, but naturally want her to be prepared for the real world, while her sister is much more blunt in her disapproval of Shizuku’s seemingly irresponsible behavior. It is obvious that Miyazaki the screenwriter himself sides with Shizuku, scolding the rigidity of Japanese society and its insistence on valuing people according to their academic records. Such an outlook, after all, does not foster the arts or self-expression.

That is not to say that this is an overly serious or heavy-handed film, however. The story largely focuses on the relationship that Shizuku develops with a boy from her school, a boy who has apparently taken out the same library books that she has, and whose path she feels she will inevitably cross. Aside from the book connection, she finds a further link with the boy when she visits an antique shop after following an odd cat across town, a cat that takes the train. Through various coincidences and events, she does meet the boy, Seiji Amasawa. At first their relationship seems antagonistic, but when they finally actually have a conversation, they develop an almost immediate and close friendship. They especially find rapport in their common outlooks. Both of them are dreamers, with Seiji planning a career as a violin maker and Shizuku filling her days with reading and writing. As much as Seiji admires Shizuku, it is Shizuku who finds inspiration in the boy, as she becomes determined to write a real story instead of just dabbling in writing silly song lyrics. Just as her attraction to boys is awakened, she realizes that it is time for her to grow up.

The story that Shizuku writes becomes based on the Baron, a cat statue owned by the antique shop owner. This is the same Baron that later appeared in Whisper Of The Heart’s quasi-prequel, The Cat Returns. (Her contemplation of Baron’s story leads to the film’s only fantasy sequences, much different in conception than the “real” story.) The antique shop owner is another important character, who teaches Shizuku how an artist must work hard and have patience to develop his or her craft. The kindness of the old man gives her great comfort, given that (like all teenagers) she is having difficulty believing in herself or even knowing in what direction she wants to take her life…

This is a sweet story that transcends cultural divides. Although the setting is very Japanese, and the cultural influences on the story are central to some of the themes, the truth of a young person’s existence during the transition to adulthood is universal. Aside from the “teenager” angle, there are several other scenes that simply show true-to-life occurrences and are just blissful…This is perhaps Ghibli’s most urban film. The sounds of the city are always noticeable, and the backgrounds are painted almost to be photorealistic at times. Buildings are given a large amount of detail and are even allowed to look dirty or old. Power poles dot the picture, garbage cans are visible, and the city looks very busy. This is the real world, no doubt about it. I also noticed that the color pallet is deeper here than in most Ghibli films, which I often find to look a little washed-out. I found it ironic, then, that they made a choice to go with more vibrant colors for a drama, and more subdued colors for their fantasies— just the opposite of what one might expect. It works wonderfully, though; Shizuku’s world is solid and real, contrasted with the fairy tales she loves to immerse herself in.

There is so much truth in this movie that it is really beautiful at times…It’s a different type of animated film, one that feels more like an “indie” film than a major studio release. As such, it holds a special place in the Ghibli filmography, and is a lasting tribute to its late director.

Release date NZ
December 1st, 2011
Movie Format
  • Blu-ray
Blu-ray Region
  • Region B
  • Standard Edition
Aspect Ratio
  • 1.78 : 1
English, Japanese
Length (Minutes)
Supported Audio
  • Dolby Digital Surround 5.1
Country of Production
  • Japan
  • Animation
Original Release Year
Box Dimensions (mm)
All-time sales rank
Top 5000
Product ID


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