Famed Japanese animation greats, Studio Ghibli are releasing their 1995 effort Whispers of the Heart on Blu-Ray.
Animations from the famous studio are generally worth a look, and Whispers of the Heart is no exception.
A sweet tale grounded in reality, a young girl named Shizuku finds that every book she checks out from the library has already been read by the same boy. She later meets an extremely infuriating young man named Seiji who may or may not be her library friend, and whose grandfather owns a violin shop. She soon discovers he wants to be a violin maker too and their budding relationship is put on hold when he is allowed to go to Italy to learn the craft. Inspired by his drive to succeed, she tries her hand at writing stories, one in particular about a feline figurine in his grandfathers shop; the Barron whose magical tale sets her creativity flowing.
The film’s simple plot is executed with so much care, that you can’t help but smile at the adolescent charm. That is Studio Ghibli’s greatest asset: their storytelling. Everything happens for a reason, every scene has a little magic of its own, built to tease and enchant you. Shizuku is an extremely engaging character with more personality than anticipated, and while I would normally recommend these films be watched in the native language, the English speaking cast, that includes a very early effort from Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical), did a fantastic job of bringing the story to life.
If I was to be honest, Whispers of the Heart isn’t my favourite. The plot is slow moving in places, and takes a while to progress. I think this may have something to do with the amount of time dedicated to grounding the tale in realism. The frequent idle chatter between family members pulls the plot to a halt at times.
The first time the film had my attention fully was about ten minutes in. Shizuku follows a strange cat off a train and gets led to Seiji’s grandfather, where the magical spirituality audiences have come to expect from Japanese tales begins.
If you are looking for an action-packed adventure, then I would look at alternative releases such as Spirited Away or, a personal favourite, Princess Mononoke. This film is at heart a boy-meets-girl for a young audience, and will attract more girls than boys. As an avid fan of Japanese animation though, the film was always going to be of interest for me, and while it took time to see where it was going, I was charmed by the end.
Whisper of the Heart may also be of interest to you if you are curious about the only directorial effort of Ghibli talent Yoshifumi Kondo. The studio’s co-founder, Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) who has also directed the vast majority of the studio’s most famous releases, originally intended for Kondo to be his successor. Whispers of the Heart proved he was well up to the challenge. However, his untimely death in 1998 prevented a sophomore release and the film is now a bitter-sweet glimpse at the greatness that could have been.
Overall it is a good effort. The disk has some interesting Special Features about the process of making the film if you are curious. All I would say is, as a Blu-Ray release, the animation doesn’t seem in any way enhanced, so perhaps the regular DVD would suffice.
Buy Whisper Of The Heart Blu-Ray on Amazon from the 9th January 2012.