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My litmus test for any animation is, whether or not I forget that the film is actually an animation because I get caught up in the story so much. In this case I forgot within 5 minutes.
Whisper of the Heart is the first and only film directed by Kondo, unfortunately due to a sudden death said to have been caused by excess work.
It's a real tragedy because I felt like the film has a certain purity, Kondo had some proper talent and we'll never get to see anything like it again.
Whisper of the Heart is best described as a "slice of life" film, there's real people with ordinary lives.
The story follows Shizuku, a hardworking teenage girl and bookworm who lives with her parents and shares a bunkbed with her sister at a cramped and cluttered apartment in modern Tokyo, I found that most interesting because it isn't often you see characters in anime living in such poor conditions.
The first chunk of the film is a glimpse of her everyday life in school and home but it really starts going places when she follows a stray cat on a train to discover a beautiful antiques shop.
Shizuku becomes attracted to a boy named Seiji who eventually leaves for Italy to follow his dreams of violin making, Shizuku is then inspired by Seiji to follow her own dreams of writing.
It is just a fantastic and heart-warming masterpiece.
I hope anyone who buys this DVD enjoys it too - it is a great little story
The song featured throughout the movie is Country Roads (Olivia Newton John's version plays during the beginning credits) and one of the most beautiful scnes in the movie is when the young girl performs her own personal version with the lyrics rewritten to suit her own experience, and the young boy who becomes her love interest backing her with his violin playing, and then his family joins in with their own instruments, and it swells into a beautifully performed folk track.
At the start of this movie, Western audiences may be thinking that it will be an American style teen movie with a gradutaion scene at the end - there are references to the kids' graduation throughout the movie - but it does not even reach the end of the school year (sorry to spoil it) it simply takes place over a few weeks in which this young girl explores her talent for writing songs and stories, and finds that her passion can be a burden as well as a gift. She encounters many characters who have a different impact on the way she feels about her talent, and she finds that she must learn her own way and make her own mistakes before she can follow the right path that will determine her future and career. Whisper of the Heart contains many strong themes that can appeal and inspire viewers of all ages, and is a must for any anime enthusiast.
I've loved magic cat helpers since reading Victoria Walker's The Winter of Enchantment as a child. And here I get just such a cat and a Japan I recognize from a stay there in the early 1990's. The interaction of the characters, the importance of music and the imagination, the sense that anything is possible yet without losing touch with reality make this a truly amazing story. However, anyone looking for more of the same with the so-called sequel The Cat Returns may be disappointed. Though fun, it's different. Whisper of the Heart needs no sequel. A quietly powerful film. Magic.
Regarding the blu ray edition of this movie and I can safely say this is the superior format to watch the film on, 100%. Colours are more vibrant and the outlines of everything is clearer. So if you haven't got a blu ray player I advise to just get this 'combo edition' as you get both the DVD and the Blu Ray versions of this film.
The dub of this film is quite adequate, and if you are planning to show this to younger audiences it's alright. For me though, I wish they didn't always go straight to American actors though. But in my opinion, and this goes for almost all anime I've watched so far (exceptions - Spirited Away, Castle in The Sky) - the original Japanese dialogue (with English subtitles) is always best. There are two reasons for this, both apply strongly to this film;
1. It's the original actors voicing the original script. This means all the subtle nuances like expressions, mannerisms etc etc fit and make sense. In this film, the Japanese cast fit and give voices to all the characters perfectly.
2. This might just be me; But when watching any subtitled foreign film I cast myself into the film too. Subtitles can't give an EXACT replication of what has been said/being said 100% of the time (Of course it is very accurate and true to the translation/scene) This is fundamentally down to how languages are just different from one another. This is not a bad thing in my opinion, as I read the text, normally slightly ahead of audio; I think about what's just been said, or is currently occurring and use my imagination slightly, putting my own words/emotions in gear for the scene. A bit like a book.
One negative about the overall package is that the 'Special Features' are a bit lackluster. Mainly because there are no interviews with the director, or anyone who had something to do with making the film. Only a short video with the dub actors giving their opinion on voice acting in general :S The storyboards and extra artwork is nice, but a bit niche.
Anyway, got a bit sidetracked there. Buy this film! I felt I needed to rate this 5/5 so I did this review just to do that. It's very sad the director of this film, Yoshifumi Kondo, passed away a few years after this released. Miyasaki was right to put him in charge of it and to have him lined up in 1st place to take reign of the Studio.
It may be because it has a cute romantic side to it, whatever the reason something about it has made it one that I personally really enjoy and would recommend to others.
The scene where the store owner tells her what he thought of her book is one of my favourite moments in cinema history.
I have come to this genre just recently. I am impatient to see lots more.