9.11.2013

Whisper of the Heart


FIRST TIME ON DVD OH WOW.
"Suki na hito ga dekimashita."

Hello all, welcome to Thursday's edition of THE TAGLINE!!! (look how excited I am!) Today as promised, I will be talking about an animated movie that is in content the exact opposite of Tuesday's Perfect Blue, a movie about fantasy, madness, and violence. Today I will be talking about Studio Ghibli's Whisper of the Heart (originally Mimi wo Sumaseba in Japanese) a movie that is also about finding oneself, but with markedly less nude corpses and blood in low-rise apartments. Whisper of the Heart is, I think I've mentioned in previous posts (maybe when I reviewed Arrietty?) my favorite Studio Ghibli movie, which may make me some kind of iconoclast because it was not directed by Hayao Miyazaki (though he did write the screenplay). Instead, Whisper of the Heart was directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, an animator at Studio Ghibli who at the time was expected to eventually succeed Miyazaki and Takahata as Ghibli's pre-eminent animator. This was not meant to be however, as Kondo died of an Aortic dissection (or possibly an aneurysm) as a result of overwork (this is cited perhaps as one of the reasons why Miyazaki began to work at a more relaxed pace afterwards). Kondo was only 47, and Whisper of the Heart would unfortunately be the only movie he directed before his death. Given how good Whisper of the Heart was, I can say honestly the world was robbed of a great animator much too soon (the same could be said of Satoshi Kon, and I AM saying it now, gosh I didn't mean to review two animated movies by directors who died young. Sorry guys). Anyway, that's enough of the macabre, let's instead focus on Kondo's charming movie, which I absolutely loved.




I play music with old strangers ALL THE TIME.
Whisper of the Heart is about a girl named Shizuku, who spends a LOT of time checking out and reading library books. She also enjoys writing, and that will end up being really important to the story. One day Shizuku notices that the same boy, Seiji Amasawa, has been checking out all the books she's been reading right before her, and she wonders about who this boy might be. She then meets a boy who annoys her a lot, and I don't think I really need to tell you that obviously this is the guy who has been checking out the books. One day Shizuku follows a cat riding a train to an antique shop, and befriends the owner, a man name Shiro Nishi. He turns out to be the grandfather of Seiji, and the two eventually become friends. Shizuku finds out that Seiji is going to apprentice in Cremona, Italy for two months, to pursue his desire to make violins. While he is gone, Shizuku decides that she will also give something her all, and so to test herself she decides to write a novel in the time he is away. She devotes all her time to this pursuit, losing sleep and letting her grades slip as she works (I forgot to mention both Shizuku and Seiji are just finishing middle school). Shizuku's story involves The Baron, a character based on a dapper cat statue in a suit and hat that Shiro Nishi owns (The Baron would later go on to be a major character in the pseudo-sequel The Cat Returns, a movie that was also great and that I will likely talk about at a later date). Shizuku does manage to finish her novel in time, and decides that rather than not go to school to pursue writing, she will go to school to learn MORE about being a writer. I won't give away the whole ending, but your heart will be warmed. A lot. Or you are a monster, those are the only two possible options.

This happens to me all the time. So awkward.
This doesn't sound like the most innovative plot ever I suppose, but there is something ineffably uplifting about the whole movie. Somehow the visuals, the plot, and the music of the film all combine to capture an amazing, almost intangible feeling and idea, a feeling of freedom and like all things are possible. In other words basically the opposite of how life usually makes me feel. The plot follows a sort of leisurely pace as Shizuku chances upon discoveries and explores the world, and then goes on to create her own fictional world inspired by that experience. Here we see two young people who are striving towards their dreams as hard as they can, while also forming a unique and serious bond with each other. It is in many ways a simple story, but its sweet in an unassuming way, and charming without seeming like it's going out of its way to be charming (which is really sort of grating once you realize that's what's going on).


Shit son you be all dapper wit' dat hat!
Like all Studio Ghibli films, Whisper of the Heart is gorgeous looking, and the airy feel of the story matches the lush visuals perfectly, and as I mentioned before the score also makes a fine accompaniment. This movie overall is a great pick-me up when you're feeling bummed out, and I never really get tired of watching it. Generally it seems like audiences agreed with me, when it was released in Japan in 1995 it was the highest grossing movie domestically in Japan, raking in over 1.8 billion yen in the box office. As mentioned the movie spawned a sort-of sequel with The Baron in it, and that inspired a spin-off manga (which is funny because the manga spin-off for The Cat Returns was made by Aoi Hiiragi, herself the author of the manga which Whisper of the Heart was adapted from. Clearly neither party could let it go). If you are at all interested in animated films, I strongly recommend you make time for this one.


That's about it for today! As an aside to everyone, tonight (that's Thursday the 12th) various theaters world-wide will be re-airing the live Starship Troopers Rifftrax, so if you didn't make it out the first time I strongly suggest you try to this time!
If you watch this and feel nothing you probably CANT feel.

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