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on 5 May 2007
Whisper of the heart is one of the most sensitive, heartwarming and beautiful films ever made. Based on a shojo manga by Aoi Hiiragi, Written and produced by Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, whisper of the heart is a tale of self discovery and coming of age of a high school girl Shizuku who is not sure what she wants in life. A series of dramatic events bring her closer to a guy Seiji from her own school. Together they embark on a journey which will help them find their inner potentials, realize their dreams and also love for each other. Also featured in the movie is an old man who runs an antique shop stocked with amazing treasures, including a magnificient porcelain figurine "the baron" (also featured in "The cat returns). Both of these characters play an important role in the film. Though "The cat returns" is kind of follow up to "whisper" yet for some reason it was released on dvd before "whisper".

Rarely is a film as honest and realistic as whisper of the heart and that's what makes it amazingly special, charming and successful. Within its thin plot and realistic settings, whisper has its magic moments which are downright uplifting and strike a chord somewhere deep inside. The film itself is a breath of fresh air.

Whisper of the heart, though slow in pace, draws you in from the very beginning and refuses to let you go. Its a heartwarming tale which makes you feel nostalgic and helps you relive the adolescence. Except for the Shizuku's dreamy fantasy sequence, the film relies heavily on dialogues and simple and real situations. The locales and the backgrounds shown in the film are as beautiful and breathtaking as in any other ghibli film. Open spaces, beautiful countryside, deep blue sky with summer clouds, a bicycle ride atop the hill, there are numerous things and moments in the film that set the mood just right, leaving the viewer spellbound and satisfied. After a while you forget completely that you are watching an animated film. Music plays an important role in the film and is soft and relaxing though we do get lots of those silent moments too for which ghibli films are famous. Also featured in the film is John Denver's song "country roads" which makes the perfect backdrop for the film. Not to mention here, the royalty disputes which arised later, making it difficult for the movie to see an American release.

Be it character development, animation or background art of the film, attention to details is simply stunning.The incredibly detailed backgrounds of the fantasy sequences were done by Naohisa Inoue who was an established artist and a long time Miyazaki fan. Impressed by his fantasy work, Miyazaki himself invited him to work on the film. Whisper of the heart dvd released by Buena Vista in Japan includes a special documentary showcasing the dreamy artwork of the film.

Director Yoshifumi Kondo had worked on many ghibli films such as Kiki's delivery service, Grave of the fireflies and Pom poko etc, as an animator. Hayao Miyazaki, who was looking for new breed of directors for ghibli, recognised Kondo's talent in no time and gave him a chance to direct this movie. Unfortunately, whisper of the heart remains to be the first and the only film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. Just after the release of whisper, Kondo succumbed to cancer. It is evident from whisper of the heart how immensely talented and sensitive director Kondo was.

Films like whisper of the heart are very rare and come once in a lifetime. Watching a film like this is an experience to behold and cherish forever.
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on 14 May 2006
The animated films from Studio Ghibli are easily the finest expressions of that art form around today. "Whisper of the Heart" is a simple, uncomplicated story of a 14 year old schoolgirl as she approaches adulthood. It is set in a contemporary Tokyo which is drawn so clearly it could almost have been photographed.

Shizuku is in her last year at junior high school and loves literature. She is clearly intelligent, but lacks direction and ambition. A chance encounter with a cat on a train leads her to a friendship with Seiji and a re-evaluation of the way her life is developing.

The story is not so much plot driven as character driven. There is no violence or aggression. There is no intergeneration conflict. In the school scenes there is a welcome absence of "competitive jock" and "prom queen" elements which seem to permeate American films.

Although this film is about a teenage girl, it is not a teenage film, but a real family film which can be enjoyed on many levels. Technically, this is "reality animation" which is as good as it gets. It is heartwarming, it has humour, it has insight.

This is a lovely film.
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on 23 July 2006
.. make it this one.

I always find it so difficult to say which of the Ghibli films is my favourite; and each time i discover a new one, it seems to be my new favourite- as i'm sure many people who have commented already can probably empathise with.

However, being the slushy female i am, this is definitely my favourite, closely followed my laputa (as that's got such humour, and still such depth).

Whisper of the Heart is one for a true romantic. However, if you're ever feeling low and needing a pick-me-up; AVOID grave of the fireflies- it's wonderful, but an absolute tearjerker. i cried my eyes out! ha.

All of ghibli films are worth a see, but this is fantastic.

P.S- the characters in the cat returns are similar, but compared to this, that film is tripe.
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on 5 April 2006
Being a Ghibli film alone should be as much of a testimony as any as to the excellence of this film. Nevertheless, i'd like to rave....
Contrary to the usual direction of Ghibli fims, in which troubled souls find themselves flung into the depths of magical mirror universes, 'Whisper of the Heart' unfolds completely in the real world. The difference being that everything magical takes place clearly within the imagination of the main character - a young high school girl, desperately trying to feel unique.

The scenes set in the imagination are animated to feel like augmented images of the real world so that, as a viewer, you find yourself feeling ductile between landscape and mindscape. When the feature finishes you don't feel completely returned.

The film also shows a real attention to the inane details, which in any live action film would just be trivial. But to see these things animated, it really shows the levels of devotion people have given to it. Not only these, but the larger things as well, like the expressions of the characters, or the musical score - they're all an index to its masterfulness.
I'm honestly in love with this film - yes, solid, unconditional love *cough*. It is just wonderful. If you give it the two hours of attention it deserves, enchantment will betide thee.
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on 6 October 2006
Be enchanted by this film. The title of my review is a reference to this, that despite the cover, the cat and the beautiful red dress are only in it for a maximum of 5 minutes. And it dosen't matter, not one tiny bit. Ghibli films are known for their fantastical plots and otherworldly imagery, but this isn't one of them. It tells a simple, basic tale of first love, and I must say that this film is the best example of the cliche I have ever seen.

The detail and thought that went into this film are truly stunning, every movement that the charecters make could be real, and the backgrounds are so well observed and intricate that you may find yourself thinking twice as to whether it's animation or real footage (it isn't, it is just the work off very, very skilled animators.)

When I brought the DVD of this, being captivated by the girl in the red dress and the cat in the top hat, I was disappointed at first to find it began with an average schoolgirl visiting an average cornerstore, but that was for the first minute as after that I began to appreciate what this film really is, I opened my heart to it and cried with sadness for our heroine at her times of despair and whopped with joy at the ending.

My favourite Ghibli film, and I truly beleive that this film should be made compulsary viewing for all.

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on 15 October 2006
Shizuku is a teenager dealing with the usual problems of growing up; high school entrance exams, busy parents, a bossy older sister and of course, relationships. Whilst reading library books over the holidays, she notices the same name in all the books Seiji Amasawa and begins to wonder just what this mystery boy who shares her tastes would be like in real life. At the same time, Shizuku starts running into an annoying young man wherever she goes, this boy couldn't possibly be Seiji could he OooOOoOO?

Whisper of the Heart won't satisfy those looking for a fantasy epic packed with magic and action, but if you're a fan of the quieter slice of life genre, you'll find much to like here. The themes of finding love amidst the complex web of teen relationships and working out future goals may be nothing new, but they will no doubt strike a chord with the majority of viewers.

Central to all this is lead character Shizuku perhaps not as spunky or outgoing as the average Ghibli heroine, she is nonetheless a strong willed character who likes setting herself tricky goals, from reading twenty books over the holidays, to writing Japanese lyrics to `Take Me Home, Country Roads'. Through her attempts to achieve these goals, we see Shizuku grow as a person over the course of the film; not only becoming more aware of herself, but also taking the important step of beginning to empathise with others. Unfortunately, the limited runtime of the film does have a noticeable effect on the story Shizuku's relationship with Seiji in particular feels a little rushed in places, as he goes from peripheral annoyance to an important person in her life.

Given that this is very much Shizuku's story, there isn't much time to spare for the supporting characters although we get interesting glimpses into the lives and personalities of the various cast members, only Shizuku's best friend Harada and Seiji himself receive much in the way of additional development. It is however worth noting that fat cat Muta and cat doll The Baron make brief but important appearances here, both characters went on to feature prominently in The Cat Returns.

Apart from a few dives into Shizuku's imagination, the film remains firmly grounded in more realistic settings, but the visuals are none the less impressive for it. Both interior and exterior locations are animated with the studio's usual attention to detail, bringing to life everything from the streets of Tokyo to the cluttered interior of an antiques shop. Character designs, however, are less impressive given that they stick closely to standard Ghibli lines, there won't be anything here that hasn't been seen in the studio's other works. Background music remains solid throughout, adding an extra layer of depth and emotion to the feature.


A simple tale about the trials and tribulations that inevitably come with growing up, Whisper of the Heart presents an engaging story, but unfortunately lacks the time to explore the characters and setting as fully as they deserve. Nonetheless, as it stands, the film makes for a heart warming tale that will bring a smile to the faces of drama and romance fans & is very enjoyable indeed
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on 16 July 2006
This is one of the most wonderful films ever made, written by Hayao Miyazaki, and directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, this is everything you should expect, and more from a Ghibli film.

The artwork is breathtaking, the music, by Yuji Nomi (The Cat Returns) is better than a lot Joe hisaishi's stuff.

I would anyone who's interested in Ghibli films to watch this because it is just fantastic.
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on 11 March 2007
Whisper of the Heart is about growing up, doing what you feel you must, and falling in love. The story follows Shizuku, a 14-year-old Japanese girl who reads a lot of stories from the library, is about to graduate from junior high and lives a hectic life managing friendships at school and running errands for her family. One day she meets an old artisan living in a quiet, romantic part of her town who it turns out is linked to someone Shizuku has been trying to track down for a while: a mysterious boy called Seiji, whose name Shizuku has noticed on the list of borrowers on each of the library books she has read. The film then follows Shizuku and Seiji's developing relationship and Shizuku's decision to write a fantasy story based on a cat model that the old artisan owns.

The environments are sumptuous (the film proves that Ghibli can do beautiful industrial and architectural, as well as natural settings) and the child's perspective perfectly captures the elements of exploration, wonder and injustice engendered in childhood. What I find so powerful about it is that it takes the fantasy that Ghibli do so well but frames it in a real world setting, describing the process of creating such fantasy via the novel that Shizuku is writing. It really took me back to that realm of fertile imagination as a child.

Whisper of the Heart does feel slightly unsatisfying though, by seeming to run out of steam about two thirds through then ending rather suddenly just as you're interested again and want to know more. However, it's still one of Ghibli's best and especially worth watching in light of the differences with their traditional settings and plots.
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on 14 June 2006
I heard about this film on the extras of The Cat Returns and thought that this was a prerunner, which it is in a way, however it's deffinately not a prequel which is what I was expecting.

Never the less this is a cracking film. Another score for Studio Ghibli.

A word of warning, if you have a huge aversion to the song Country Roads you're probably going to have a hard time with this film as it features strongly, though it is reasonably amusing to hear the characters sing their Concrete Roads version.

The film is really great and centres around young love and relationships (friendship as well as love) and as with all Studio Ghibli films it has a strong moral message, this time of duty and solidarity, love and loyalty.

A Gem of a film and I really enjoyed it
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on 22 June 2007
Perfect like a perfect diamond. Unique, subtle...irreplaceable.

A movie - an artwork - that operates on the subtlest and most delicate levels.

Not really a children's movie -- and indeed more than just a "coming of age" work.

Whipser of the Heart touches immediately the nature of human love and existence ... family love, self love, romantic love: via the most subtle and ... quiet ... happenings.

And the artwork, the backgrounds, are beyond belief....the artists have found something about the gray concrete of west Tokyo that is soul-changingly beautiful; the art is a complete testament to our era.

Every shot - I mean EVERY shot - is an important work of art to be studied like a Caravaggio. Wait till you see the coming rain; the moving train; the changing light; the interiors that are Utterly Real (far more real than in live action filmmaking).

A "really good movie" in the sense that "Pride & Prejudice" is a "really good novel" or Vermeer was "quite good at lighting effects."

The final conviction that: studio Ghibli films are the Shakespearean ouvre of this historical era.

The overall output of Studio Ghibli offers a complete system of thought and humanity that advances consciousness.
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