For a good while now, in every review, I have always tried to explain exactly why I liked or disliked an anime. As time has shown, this is one of the more maddening principles that I have taken up. Occassionally, a case comes up in which I am at a complete loss to understand what factors influenced my opinion.
Whisper of the Heart is such an anime. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind about whether this movie is good. On the contrary, I am absolutely certain that WotH is a classic, and needs to be seen by everyone. What does perplex me, however, is exactly what makes this anime so incredibly satisfying. There are no especially memorable plot points. The characters, while definitely likeable, are very typical of what we would expect from a Ghibli film - amiable, uncomplicated, and generic. Of course, the animation is outstanding in traditional Ghibli fashion, but this alone shouldn't be enough to save the film. I admit I enjoyed the soundtrack immensely, but why? The main theme, "Country Road," is a song that I have previously heard and disliked. The anime is remarkably slow moving, and by all logic should be a dull, mind-numbing experience similar to Niea Under 7.
Fortunately for us, WotH does not conform to "logic." Throughout the movie, Ghibli neatly avoids all perceivable pitfalls that tend to afflict this kind of down-to-earth, everyday sort of anime. I was never bored throughout the entirety of the show, and was immensely satisfied by the relatively undramatic, no frills plot.
Perhaps WotH's main strength is its sheer idealism. Other people have mentioned that the anime is "realistic," and I heavily disagree with them. WotH does in no way mimic what I would define as "real life." Rather, it provides something much, much better: a purposefully imperfect reflection of what real life SHOULD be. Consider, for instance, a scene where the main character's parents discover that her grades are rapidly falling. A rather predictable scene follows shortly after, a "talk" in which the parents confront the child and demand a reason for the severe drop in class rank. However, the result is as unpredictable as it is heartwarming. In its earnest simplicity, the scene does far more than a "realistic" one ever could.
This theory does a lot to explain why the soundtrack is so incredibly good. Both the instrumental tracks and the aforementioned theme song, "Country Road," would be incredibly corny for just about any other anime. However, for this one, the songs work. Like the anime, they reflect a completely untainted world outlook. Though in weaker films the soundtrack would most likely drown in the viewer's cynicism, in WotH the OST blooms into something unexpectedly beautiful.
In the end, it doesn't really matter what makes WotH so great; the end result is far too satisfying. By the end of the show, you really feel like you know the characters through and through. I'd say it is impossible not to love them. Likewise, the coming-of-age storyline, while slow, somehow manages to seep into every fiber of your being and in the end provides a truly satisfying experience. As mentioned before, the OST is absolutely brilliant and is pretty much the perfect pick for a film such as this. Add in the oustanding animation, filled with loving detail and impressive fluidity, and you've got yourself a truly excellent movie. I don't think I've gotten so much pure, unadulterated joy from a film in a long, long time.