back with my third film in a series I’m calling “12 Days of Ghibli”, and Whisper of the Heart. Following the story of Shizuku Tsukishima, a middle school student of a Tokyo suburb, as she finds out where the magic in her life has gone. A bookworm in the most literal sense of the word, Shizuku can usually be found either in school, at the library, or at home reading a book, but lately, she’s found the magic in her fiction has left, replaced with the stark reality that the real world doesn’t always just work out like it does in her books. Until one day she stumbles upon an odd coincidence, someone by the name “Seiji Amasawa” has checked out and read all of the same books as she had. That was but the beginning of her story, as her life begins to change and she discovers more about herself than she ever knew existed.
While this isn’t as much of a plot-driven film as Spirited Away or Kiki’s Delivery Service, the closest generalization I can make is that it’s a “slice of life’ movie, though the story sequences as she’s writing her novel might defeat that notion. The story has a very relaxed pace and gives the viewer time to dwell on the feelings expressed through Shizuku. Feelings like doubt, frustration, excitement, anxiety, all the emotions typical of someone on the verge of discovering themselves.
The development of the story is when Seiji leaves Tokyo for a two-month apprenticeship in Italy, where he’ll prove to his parents his commitment to learning how to better his craft of creating violins. Meanwhile, Shizuku is left behind, worried that she has no future, unable to figure out what she’ll do with her life. Thanks to her friend, she decides to try her hand at writing, because, as old man Nishi told her, like Seiji, they’re both gems in the rough, potential value, but with time, and patience, they expect something great to come forth, possibly even something more valuable than they knew was there. Shizuku pushes herself to write her own fictional tale before Seiji returns home, to show that’s she working toward something herself. She commits herself so fully to this, that even her parents become worried as her grades start to slip, but she assures them that’s working toward something very important to her, and they trust her to do her best.
Shizuru’s growth comes to a head as she crafts a fantastic tale centered around the Baron, a cat-man figurine in Nishi’s shop. Even though Shizuru feels so much was wrong with it, and that many parts weren’t done correctly, Nishi assures her, she’s just a gem in the rough, just like Seiji. Then she commits to continue school, and to work to become a great writer, just like she thinks Seiji will become a great violin craftsman. The story wraps up with Seiji’s return, as she proposes to marry Shizuru one day, leaving me with the cliche, but true, feeling that this is truly just the beginning.
Not as geared toward children as some of Ghibli’s other movies, this has a more adolescent-targeted audience, especially as far as the net of love interests go. The animation has the familiar Ghibli-style that I like so much, and the unique song tracks make Whisper of the Heart stand out from other films of its genre. Recommended to slice of life advocates, and anyone who sympathizes with not knowing what you want to do in life.
Until next time,