It’s been a while since I saw ‘Whisper of the Heart’, a Studio Ghibli film from 1995. So why write about it now? Because I just saw a spin-off film called ‘The Cat Returns’ and it just felt wrong to write about it without having said anything about its predecessor.
Well, it doesn’t matter how long ago I saw the film, because it’s hard to forget how it started – wistfully, with a beautiful rendition of John Denver’s ‘Country Roads’, while the screen showed dazzling city lights and beaming cars zooming through bridges and busy concrete roads. A pretty paradox.
The main protagonist, a teen called Shizuku, lives in a crammed flat with her parents and an elder sister who is in college. The teen is a voracious reader and realizes that all the books she has been borrowing from the library have already been read by the same guy. This makes her curious to find out the other reader’s identity.
Shizuku then meets an enigmatic cat on the metro that leads her to a new street and an odd little antique shop filled with little wonders, including Baron – a suited up cat statue with alluring eyes. The shop is also a key connection to the mystery readers she is chasing after.
‘Whisper of The Heart’ is a classic Studio Ghibli film, which charmingly mixes the mundane with the magical. It has the innocence of a teen romance, the maturity of an adult drama with a dash of the mystical. Some might find the slightly dramatic turn of event towards the final leg of the film a little weird and out of place. But I usually savor the bizarre, and this film has the right kind of eccentricity to it, at least to my liking.
Visually, like most Ghibli films, it gives a you nice slice of the Japanese way of life. The musical scores are uplifting and the over-all tone of the narration is optimistic and uplifting.
The movie might take you back to your first love, that rush of restlessness, the desperation of wanting to have a happy ever after, of wanting to go to any lengths to see if you can make it work. It’s all too adorable. A leisurely paced film that’s perfect for a lazy summer afternoon.