Whisper of the Heart is a touching Ghibli slice-of-life story, about a young girl named Shizuku. While riding the train, she notices a fat cat riding alongside her. Following the cat, she finds a shop where she is told an enchanting story of a gold statue named "The Baron". WotH follows Shizuku in her struggles to grow, and her budding love with the shopkeeper's son.
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.
I feel like I have to like this since it's Ghibli, and I do, but that's about it - I like it, not love it. Now, don't bash me right away. I think it was a cute story about personal growth and following your dreams/heart. I just don't think it was anything else than that. The love story could have been fleshed out more (felt very, very rushed) and I felt like the side characters were pushed too far into the background. Their own personal stories were just... forgotten. There were so many story elements that could have been built upon, and I'm gonna put a spoiler warning for the following paragraph explaining what those elements are. So if you don't want any spoilers, skip this next paragraph. First and foremost - Yuko and Sugimura. Their arc goes on for 10 minutes and is then completely left in the background after Sugimura confesses to Shizuku. You don't get to see whether Yuki finally battles up the courage to tell him how she feels, or whether he and Shizuku can stay friends afterwards. How does Yuki feel about him liking her friend instead of her? I don't get why it was even included in the movie if it was only going to be important for the first 10 mins of the film. And what about Shizuku's song lyrics? Did she ever find someone to sing her songs? Did she sing them herself? What happened? Shizuku's sister could also have been expanded upon. I would have liked to see how Shizuku dealt with having to live in her own room without her sister. If she liked it, or if she missed the company of someone else. The story of the Baron, and Shiro's story and backstory could also have been fleshed out more. I didn't need a full conclusion, but something would be nice. And finally, the love between Shizuku and Seiji is rushed. They have known each other for... what? A few days? Then he goes away for 2 months and the day he comes back he tells her he loves her and wants to marry her? I get that he has admired her from afar, but it's still a bit too early, don't you think? What I'm trying to say is that it feels like they had too many ideas for this movie, and only ended up truly fleshing out one of them. It's a shame, because it had a lot of potential. It just needed a little polish - which is ironic considering polishing something until it shows it's true beauty is a main part of the movie's story. This movie works great as a story about a girl who's trying to improve and do what she loves to do, but that's about it. There were some really nice moments, like when Shizuku, Seiji, Shiro and Shiro's friends create music together, and there were some really stunning shots as well. I also liked the small details they put into the animation, like when Shizuki couldn't reach her night light right away and had to get out of bed to turn it off, or when she knocked over the umbrellas in the hall without bothering to pick them up. Small things like this made it feel more life-like and real. There were no real reason why her night light had to be out of her reach, because she just went up, turned it off and went to bed as usual, but it still made it feel more realistic. Overall, I recommend this movie. It's not what I expected, and it had it's flaws, but it's still a cute and nice story to follow. I will probably not watch it again, but I don't think I'll forget it soon either.
-Story- While I feel that the story was not as good as some other Studio Ghilbi films, it was still a decent plot and an interesting story. It was a story that was based more on real life than most Studio Ghilbi films, but it was excecuted well. Its basically a story about growing up as we follow the Junior High student Shizuku as she deals with issues of love and finding out more about herself. This is also one of the few Studio Ghilbi films that has romance as a critical part of the story, and for the most part it was excecuted well, except the romance got complicated with all of the crushes the side characters had with eachother. My biggest complaint about the plot was that it seemed to lack focus in the early parts of the film. -Animation- Its your good old Studio Ghilbi animation, its great. -Characters- The characters were pretty interesting to watch and they were all very unique. Shizuku makes for a good main character to explore the themes of the plot in depth, and her friend Seiji is also going through a lot of the same things that Shizuku goes through. This film really sets up the characters well, anb makes us attached to them. -Overall- Another good Studio Ghilbi film. Not my favorite, but good.
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