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Whisper of the Heart
Reviewer: Rowena Lim Lei 12/31/1999

Shizuku is a bookworm who doesn't really know what she wants in life. That is until she comes to know of a young man named Seiji Amasawa. Somehow, Seiji's name is on every book that Shizuku takes out from the library... something which intrigues her to no end. When Shizuku finally meets Seiji, she's initially put off by his incessant teasing but eventually realizes that he is the one that she has been waiting for all her life. But Seiji dreams of becoming a great violin-maker someday, and he's going off to Italy in order to make that dream come true. Can their newly discovered feelings withstand the test of time and distance?

From Studio Ghibli comes Whisper of the Heart, a love story that is as sweet and pure as it is idealistic. Initially we are introduced to Shizuku Tsukishima, a smart young girl who spends most of her time scouring libraries for books to read. Soon Shizuku starts noticing the same name on all the library cards of the books she borrows... that of Seiji Amasawa. Shizuku can't believe that there is someone who likes reading exactly the same books that she enjoys, and she starts imagining what Seiji Amasawa is like. As fate would have it, Seiji is actually in the same year as Shizuku in school... and as you can already guess, they eventually meet and get acquainted.

There's nothing particularly outstanding about Whisper of the Heart's plot. In fact, it's even a bit too slow in some parts. It's a perfectly wholesome coming-of-age film that is just so typical Studio Ghibli, like "Kiki's Delivery Service". Whisper of the Heart's magic comes from the depth of its characters and its realistic yet idealistic approach to the situation. Shizuku realizes her dream after meeting Seiji. She decides to try and see if she has what it takes to become a writer, and she starts working on a novel entitled "Whisper of the Heart". From then on we are at times transported into the world within Shizuku's story, which further serves to illustrate her journey to self-discovery.

The art and animation are quite impressive. Character designs are very simple, as is usually the case with Studio Ghibli titles. However, a closer look at the seemingly ordinary-looking scenes will reveal great attention to detail as well as exceptional smoothness and fluidity. Surprisingly, the American song "Country Road" plays an important part in this film. Shizuku first unveils her literary talents by coming up with her own version and translation of it in Japanese. The song's lyrics are also overall very fitting for the characters and the story.

Whisper of the Heart is a film that would make you feel warm, fuzzy, and make you reminisce about times gone by. It's a somewhat touching and ideal picture of one's first (and hopefully last) love. Although I found the ending rather improbable, it did make me want to believe in the power of love... as corny and cheesy as it sounds.

Whisper of the Heart can probably be considered as one of Studio Ghibli's lesser known works, especially when compared to the immensely popular "Spirited Away", "Princess Mononoke", and even "My Neighbor Totoro".

Whisper of the Heart
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Review Title:
Whisper of the Heart
Alternative Titles:
If You Listen Carefully
110 Minutes
General Rating:
4 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Older Children
Adventure, Drama, Fantasy,
Romance, Slice of Life
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