Another Studio Ghibli movie that’s finally getting a release, Whisper Of The Heart keeps up their usual high standards and should please fans of their output.
The story revolves around young Shizuku Tsukishima, a girl who does well at school and loves her books. In fact, she loves books so much that she often wishes for a story to develop in her life. She wants something a bit more than just the mundane reality around her. When she starts to notice that every book she takes from the library has already been checked out by a lad named Seiji, she decides to look into the situation. Perhaps it will lead to her very own story developing.
While it’s a very light and fanciful piece (as many Studio Ghibli movies are), Whisper Of The Heart is also a surprisingly effective look at the emotions of teenagers. Audiences often easily, and understandably, associate teenagers with rebellious acts and difficult phases but these things stem from turbulent emotions as young adults start to consider their future and figure out just where their heart wants to lead them. Whisper Of The Heart covers this stuff but does it in such a way that it feels fresh and delightful, as opposed to stale and irritating.
The voice cast, the artwork, the little touches throughout, everything is just as you would expect from the studio. What is quite different, however, is the way in which the movie often stays grounded in a reality that you keep expecting it to float away from. There are one or two fanciful moments shown as Shizuku Tsukishima begins to write a story bearing the title of the movie but, for the most part, the movie stays very much within our normal world, albeit one viewed through the young eyes of a dreamy story-lover and one in which the song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” keeps popping up as a recurring musical motif.
Every frame is a beautiful creation, every little moment somehow holds your attention, and this is as unsurprisingly satisfying as it is surprisingly realistic. The problems of teenagers may not seem of any importance to adults who have so much more to deal with but Whisper Of The Heart reminds us that everything is of ultimate importance to the person affected, especially when it comes to choices that MIGHT (just might) affect the rest of their lives.
Whisper Of The Heart is released on shiny disc on Monday 9th January and the disc comes with a few extras that will please fans of the art. There are storyboards available to view throughout and a couple of featurettes looking at the superb work of artist Naohisa Inoue. Sadly, the other stuff available amounts to little more than a selection of trailers and TV spots and a featurette promoting the likes of Brittany Snow and Ashley Tisdale as they provide the voices to the optional English soundtrack (which I didn’t go for, preferring to hear the original performances while reading the subtitles).
DIRECTOR: YOSHIFUMI KONDO
WRITER: HAYAO MIYAZAKI (FROM THE COMIC BY AOI HIIRAGI)
STARS: YOUKO HONNA, KAZUO TAKAHASHI, TAKASHI TACHIBANA, SHIGERU MUROI, SHIGERU TSUYUGUCHI
RUNTIME: 111 MINS APPROX