Here’s a movie that is very special to me.
#22: “Whisper of the Heart”
The opening shots of this movie still move me to this day. They are of a town outside of Tokyo, Japan; animated and vivid. “Country Roads” plays in the background, in English. This film is animated and Japanese. So, you guessed it, it’s anime. This begins the list of Studio Ghibli films that make my Top 30. There are few movies that I see and to which I have such a positive and uplifiting reaction. “Whisper of the Heart” tells the story of a middle-school Japanese girl who is living out the life that any other Japanese girl would have. The obvious question is why would you tell it, then? Well, it gets much better. From the first scene, we find out that the girl, Shizuku, might have a love interest, named Seiji Amasawa.
Then on, the movie develops these two characters enormously. It’s not until way later in the movie that Shizuku gets the idea to do something similar to her friend Seiji. We don’t even find out who Seiji is until halfway through the movie, although Shizuku basically guesses for us. Seiji is good at one skill. Shizuku wants to accomplish great things with her talents within. So she comes up with an idea for a story, and the movie proceeds from there. Again, this is more toward the last act of the movie, but plenty of plot and character development lead to that moment.
Obviously, the title character Shizuku changes much over the course of the movie to the end. I love how real the movie depicts her actions. Like all Stuido Ghiblie movies, Whisper of the Heart has a great sense of attention to detail. The animators thought of many things to include to make one feel like they were present with the characters. One scene I love in particular is when Shizuku attempts to turn off a light near her bed without getting up from laying on her bed. She simply uses her hand to try to feel where the switch is and try to reach it. Of course, she can’t locate/reach it, and with mild frustration, rises just to turn the light off. Isn’t that life works in those cases? We try to rush things so much that we wouldn’t even get out of our positions to change things. Just small details, but it really helps.
The pacing is also very good. The movie is about 1 hour and 50 minutes long, which is a good length. The movie ends somewhat abruptly, but apparently this wasn’t weird to a Japanese audience. While I won’t spoil it, basically the last line is spoken and then the movie cuts right to the end music and credits. I even showed it to a friend, and he asked, “That’s it?” not in a bad way, but like my first time watching it, I guess I was expecting it to last a little longer. Then again, had it gone on after the last line, it would have been filler anyway, so it makes more sense to end it on that note.
This movie is over 12 years old, but the animation still presents itself vibrantly on the screen. No matter what strides animation is making, even in anime, this is the kind of movie that proves that even slightly outdated animation compared to today’s outings still upholds the wonderful story of this middle-school girl in Japan. It may be geared toward kids (it’s rated G over here), I don’t think it lies or exaggerates anything about life. It doesn’t have to present content that other movies might throw in to get a higher rating. This is a very special movie, and I don’t often come across movies that are this moving, except maybe for movies higher on this list. Recommended to all who wish to be uplifted by this story, and changed by the story within Shizuku.