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A Mixture of Mistakes
on 21 May 2011
Firstly, I think I should say that the cover of this DVD edition IS quite misleading as to what the story's actually about. Don't make the mistake of buying this under the false pretense that our herione, Shizuku, will be whisked away on a whirlwind adventure, accompanied by an anthropomorphic cat-doll. This is very much a coming of age tale set in the real world, centred around character developement and containing very little in the way of action or adventure. The scene on the cover only represents a 4 or 5 minute scene entirely in Shizuku's imagination. However, this isn't by any means a bad thing... our heroine does a good job of demonstrating the life of a teen who starts out stressed, questioning her purpose in life and generally struggling to balance her home and school life, before finally learning to appreciate the talents she has and make the most of them.
So why the 3 stars? For a start, as a girl around the same age as Shizuku is supposedly meant to be (which I assume is about 16/17), it surprised me that for a film entirely based around a teenagers experiences, the dialogue can range from being barely believeable to down-right wooden. Some scenes were completely ruined for me, merely because the script was so far from how an adolesant (or even ANYONE) would actually react. I know this seems like a minor flaw, perhaps something that can't be helped, but to me its a shame since I've watched other Ghibli characters (Pazu from Laputa, Haru from The Cat Returns, Chihiro from Spirited Away and more) who I can identify with - whatever age they are - because their reactions are humane and realistic.
Secondly, their are A LOT of scenes which are simply taken up with characters getting from point A to point B. On the one side, I understand that many of these are nessecary in order to set the pace and show that the film is essentially a journey. However, I think that in some places this crossed a line into time wasted, that could have been used to better effect. This is pretty much the main contribution as to why I couldn't see myself watching it over and over as I could with other Ghibli classics like Howl's Moving Castle, the plot is altogether TOO slow-paced to warrant more that a single look.
Third and finally, the clincher: This film gets away with what it does because it's animated. As a big animation fan, I don't say this because I think animated films have less value or can get away with taking liberties on plot or good scripting more than regular films because of what they are. I merely think that animation should ADD that layer of magic to a film rather than be relied upon to sell tickets. Take Ghibli's most successful film, Spirited Away, for example. Although the animation is beautiful and fantastically compliments the story, as an idea alone it can stand on its own merit. I just can't see Whisper of the Heart boasting the same success had it been made in any other fashion.
Done correctly, I don't believe it should have made any difference if the film didn't contain masses of action or never strayed beyond the realms of the real world. However, although there are still some wonderfully warm and emotives scenes to enjoy, overall it was still only average in my mind and just didn't supply me with anything that could make me call his a great film. If you are Ghibli fan, it's worth a look in but to anyone who isn't an anime fan, you may find this a too slow-paced for your liking.
Oh, and from quickly looking at the reation to other negative reviews for this film: Please don't automatically claim this review has been unhelpful merely because it critises a Ghibli film. I've explained why I've given it the rating I have and don't believe this to be an unreasonable conclusion. You may not change my mind, but if you want to debate what I've written, feel free to comment.