Whisper of the Heart DVD (Hyb)
renee k. pham - Mar 20 2006 firstname.lastname@example.org
"Whisper of the heart" is a heart warming tale that touches deeply to the heart. screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki.
Jon F. Turner - Apr 26 2006 JTurner82@AOL.com
Absolutely wonderful, "heart"-felt story, brought to life Ghibli-style.
Yoshifumi Kondo's first and only film for Studio Ghibli (he died a few years after it was completed), WHISPER OF THE HEART, is an absolute delight. Gentle but not syrupy, this modern-day story about a girl and boy discovering that they have a lot in common is beautifully animated, compellingly characterized, and full of heart (pun intended).
Based on a graphic-novel by Aoi Hiragi with a script by Hayao Miyazaki, the movie centers on Shizuku Tsukishima, a spacey yet sympathetic young High School student who would rather read books from the library rather than study for her school tests. Shizuku discovers that a certain Seiji Amasawa checks out the same books that she does, as detailed on the library checkout cards. When Shizuku first meets Seiji in person, she thinks he's a "stupid jerk" (he makes a somewhat snide remark about her supposedly "corny" writing abilities), but she soon discovers that he is a strangely gentle fellow who longs to become a violinist yet feels that his playing isn't as good as others say it is. Shizuku can relate to this, given that she doubts her talents as a writer. The story takes a dramatic turn when Shizuku discovers that Seiji will be temporarily leaving for Italy to train as a violinist. This inspires Shizuku to pursue her own talent, and she proceeds to write her first story.
At the surface, this would sound like a rather simple love story, but that's not all WHISPER OF THE HEART has going for it. Miyazaki's screenplay ingeniously allows the viewers to identify with Shizuku as she expresses the following emotions: frustration, disappointment, fear, joy, and vulnerability. This is displayed not only in her growing relationship with Seiji, but with her daily interactions with her friends, family, and her inner thoughts. We even see Shizuku deal with humiliation (and even guilt) when a boy reveals he had a crush on her all along, yet she only considered him a friend. Sometimes certain movies or Anime can delve a little too much on these angst-ridden elements (NEON GENESIS EVANGELION, in particular), but in WHISPER OF THE HEART, this is handled in a way that is not so overbearing (or frustrating even) to the viewer.
The film also works in a subplot involving a captivating antique shop containing all kinds of sparkling treasures, including a charming statuette of a cat known as "Baron". The kindly owner, Mr. Nishi, is warm and supportive of Shizuku, especially when she decides to write her story based on the aforementioned "Baron" statue. He reminded me of Uncle Pom from CASTLE IN THE SKY, a similarly gentle old man who sadly only showed up for one scene; having this kind of character play an even bigger role in WHISPER is a delight.
Speaking of which, the scenes where Shizuku imagines her story are among the movie's most imaginatively animated moments. The film's artwork, typical of Ghibli, is top notch, but this sequence (one of the studio's first experiments with computer animation) is especially stunning. Here we see the Baron come alive and escort a fair young maiden (who strangely resembles Shizuku) across a graceful sky of floating islets. The character of the Baron is quite charismatic and one of the more memorable characters in the film; the only other notable feline we see is a pudgy furball known as Moon (aka Muta), who appears quite grumpy whenever Shizuku tries to talk to him.
Incidentally, both of these felines appeared in another Studio Ghibli production, THE CAT RETURNS, a pleasant but merely forgettable family flick considered by many (myself included) as an inferior spin-off. Not that Hiroyuki Morita's film doesn't have any charm, but WHISPER has something that THE CAT RETURNS didn't have, hence why it holds up better.
Interestingly, John Denver's immortal "Take Me Home, Country Roads" plays a crucial part in the story: the first half of the movie deals with Shizuku trying to translate the song into Japanese. This part of the story obviously gave Disney a lot of problems in terms of translation, hence why it was delayed from its English release for quite some time. Fortunately, their dub handles it in a way that remains true to the original intent, yet at the same time makes it easier for American audiences to connect with. Here Shizuku tries to write her own lyrics for the song, with each attempt improving as she learns to write from the heart. This approach works rather well, as I could sense little, if any, lost in the translation.
As much as I've heard people criticize Disney for the actors they've chosen to voice the characters in their dubs for Ghibli's works, I have practically enjoyed every one of their voice casts--and, in the case of WHISPER OF THE HEART, I think cynics are going to be very hard-pressed to find any real fault with the performers assembled here. As the insecure Shizuku, Brittany Snow speaks in a very expressive, believable way without being saccharine, and has an equally lovely singing voice. David Gallagher--no stranger to voice acting, given his work in KINGDOM HEARTS--provides an excellent contrast to Snow through his understated yet effective turn as Seiji. And, in a nice case of consistency, Cary Elwes reprises his role as the debonair Baron from THE CAT RETURNS. The person that takes the prize for best acting in the dub, though, is Harold Gould, who brings just the right amount of warmth, poignancy, and compassion to the kindly Mr. Nishi. The rest of the cast consists mostly of unknowns (or at least as far as I'm concerned; I haven't watched many of the TV shows that a lot of these performers--Jean Smart, Martin Spanjers, Ashley Tisdale-- are in), all of who do great jobs as well.
I had heard so many wonderful things about WHISPER OF THE HEART, but I never expected to like it as much as I did. And now that it is available as yet another top-notch dub from Disney (although their DVD extras are a little bit sparse here; good thing the movie looks and sounds fantastic though), it pleases me that this film will hopefully discover an even wider audience. All in all, WHISPER OF THE HEART is a real winner as both a Studio Ghibli film and a Disney revamp, and I highly recommend it.