An animated theatrical feature by Studio Ghibli, and one of the few not to be directed by either Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, but rather Yoshifumi Kondo.

It takes place in circa-1995 Tokyo, in the Tama district. This is my favorite Studio Ghibli feature, and considering the that Ghibli is pretty much a masterpiece factory, that's saying a lot. It concerns a junior high student named Shizuko, and her efforts to do something she can be proud of. I don't know what it is about coming-of-age stories that's so beautiful to me, but there you have it. I still cry at the end of "Whispers of the Heart". It's all so lovely. The theme of coming of age fascinates me, and rarely is a coming-of-age tale told as effectively (or affectingly!) as it is in this masterpiece of a film.

Incidentally, the John Denver song "Country Road" figures heavily in Whispers, and although it's an unlikely combination, it works well. Country Road in Japanese, who'd have guessed.

Maybe more than any other Ghibli film, this one has a Sense of Wonder that appeals to to me immensely.

Thanks to sekicho for hooking me up with the oshirase action on the precise city and district where Shizuko grows up.

Completely beautiful film. Miyazaki did the storyboards, production, and wrote the script, which made minor but crucial changes to the manga source story. The manga was by Hiiragi Aoi, and for once I don't think the manga is better. I imagine it's good, or Ghibli wouldn't have picked it up, but divinity is in the details. There are a lot of interesting things going on in Whispers of the Heart, from the fantasy art used in the story sequences, to the additional details to be gleaned from carefully watching the background of the end credits. I really loved this movie; the end made me cry. Other hopeful romantics will, too. It's also a good thing to watch if you're having spells of "what am I doing with my life?!"-angst.

You can read about Whispers of the Heart at but avoid the FAQ section if you don't want spoilers. Be sure to read it afterwards, though! It's a very detailed film and you don't want to miss any of it, even if you must rewatch it a few times. (which I plan to!) It hasn't been released in English yet, although Disney is sitting on the rights.

- Baron
- Moon
Oh, this nodeshell I have to rescue!

This was the 1995 animated movie from Studio Ghibli, directed by Yoshifumi Kondo and produced by Hayao Miyazaki. The official English title is Whisper of the Heart, though the more literal translation If You Listen Closely is also often seen. Like My Neighbor Totoro, it is one of those films that make you cry because they're so beautiful - which is odd because it plays in a modern Japanese city, usually everything but beautiful.

The film revolves around Shizuku Tsukishima, a 14 year old girl who is a veritable bookworm. Through the books, she meets Seiji Amasawa, a boy her age with the ambition to become a violin maker. The admiration Shizuku feels for his dedication to that aim causes her to seriously try and realize her own ambition of becoming a professional writer. With her imagination fuelled by the figurine of a cat she sees in Seiji's Grandfather's antiquities shop, she sharpens her pencil and starts writing...

First and foremost, this is a movie about the familiar theme of growing up (played out very unpretentiously and unspectacular, yet deeply touching), but it's also about the magic of human imagination and its main medium, books. And finally, it shows how life in a modern, ugly city full of narrow streets and cramped apartments (unlike most anime, where everyone seems to be rich enough to afford huge houses, the movie is very realistic in that respect) can still be as full of wonder and beauty as the countryside with its Totoros and Tanuki. Speaking of Tanuki, apparently the opening shot of "Mimi o Sumaseba" is exactly the same as the closing scene of Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pompoko - a rather strange statement about this world of ours.

Anyway, the film is beautiful; go watch it.

Whisper of the Heart is unusual for a Studio Ghibli film in not featuring any magic, or at least nothing supernatural. That said, it is at least as much about magic as many of their films full of witches and spirits and demons. Rather than the usual fantastic adventure stories which are merely facilitated by magic, this is a celebration of story-telling, music, creativity and love - all the sorts of things that make real life magical.

Our heroine is Shizuku, a girl of around fourteen who dreams of being a writer, and like most aspiring writers she reads heavily. Borrowing book after book from the library, she keeps noticing one name re-appearing as a previous borrower in them - a boy at her school, who shows some interest before being unreasonably mean to her, in the way that boys usually are when they're attracted to a girl, at least in Hayao Miyazaki films.

Their paths cross again after she befriends the owner of a wonderful antiques shop, where her imagination is sparked by an old statuette of a cat with glowing eyes. The owner turns out to be the boy's grandfather, part of a welcoming clan, and they bond over music sessions and the telling of stories. The boy dreams of being a master violin maker, his ambition mirroring and inspiring her own.

Whisper is sometimes described as a prequel to the equally lovely The Cat Returns, but this is a very different sort of a film with little in common by way of plot, characters or atmosphere. The Cat Returns might be better described as a sequel to the story Shizuku writes here about 'Baron, the Cat Baron' - perhaps it's an example of her more mature work. In contrast to the later film, a swashbuckling romp mainly set in the magical Cat Kingdom, Whisper is low-key, mundane and understated. I don't mean to make it sound boring - it absolutely isn't - but it lacks the hyperactivity of so many films aimed at kids, though with its simple charm and moral lessons I assume they really are intended to be its main audience.

Miyazaki, who adapted the screenplay from a graphic novel but did not direct this, is not someone who feels the need to steer clear of sentimentality. Some people might find it cloying at one or two points, but I have to say I feared much, much worse from a film with a name like 'Whisper of the Heart' - which is perhaps unfair, since the original title translates as 'if you listen closely', which is much less cheesy. On the whole it manages to be sweet without being sickly, and I love the animation and the quiet way the characters develop. This is a beautiful, thoughtful film.

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