Who would have thought that the song Take Me Home, Country Roads by the legendary country singer John Denver will be monumental in this Studio Ghibli classic? The only difference is that this is the Japanese Version.
Whisper of the Heart is not something that you would initially speak about when you hear the words Studio Ghibli. For me, this film is the most underrated of all and surprisingly it is a very good one as well. It is one of those that has aged very well along with other Ghibli greats.
The film starts with a 14-year-old high school girl named Shizuku Tsukishima who lives on the outskirts of Tokyo with her parents and older sister. She loves reading books and one time she notices that someone checking out the book she reads by a person named Seiji. At school, she reveals to her friend a song named "Concrete Roads" which was a parody she had written out of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" for their graduation. Before they left the school she notices that she left the notebook where the song was written and was surprised when a boy was reading it. This made her irritable because the boy teased her with the title of the song. The next day while going to the library to deliver her father's lunch, she encounters a fat cat commuting on the train nicely. She decided to follow it and the cat lead her to an antique shop. In the shop, there is a yellow cat figure that the owner calls The Baron. The next day she returns to the antique shop and then again met the boy who happened to be Seiji. He is learning to make violins to pursue his dream to become a master craftsman. Together they performed the song "Take Me Home, Country Roads". A few days after, Seiji reveals to Shizuku that he will go to Italy to study with a master violin maker for two months. Inspired by his actions, she also pursue her dream to be a great writer. She promised that when he gets home, the story will be finished. She titled her work, "Whisper of the Heart" wherein she is the protagonist, the Baron is the leading man, and the cat from the train is the antagonist. She pushes herself to the limit and sometimes she gets too tired to interact or do other things because of the pressure she put on herself. When it was finished the antique shop owner read the story and told her that she is a talented writer. This made her tear up because her stress had paid off. She then learns the real story of The Baron from the owner and its significance to his life. The movie ends, with Seiji arriving and taking Shizuku to his secret place where they both watch the sunrise and confesses his love to her.
This film is absolutely beautiful. I seriously love this film despite having like a teenage flick movie vibe. From start to finish it just was executed brilliantly. The pacing, the way the story was told, and the conflict were all great.
Even though I find the story very simple to me sometimes we need those kinds of things. Make a story too complicated and it will be difficult to understand. Especially if you just had a bad day then this film can lighten up the mood. A very simple yet very lovely story.
The characters Seiji and Shizuku have very good chemistry together. Not because they sang Take Me Home, Country Roads but because they both have dreams that they want to pursue. To me that is wonderful. The supporting characters like Shizuku's friend, her family, the antique shop owner, and even small things like the cat were all integral in the storyline. I just love it when all the characters have an important role to play in the story.
I also like the touch that they put in John Denver's song. I don't know the actual correlation between the film and the song itself but the tempo and melody seemed to jive with the story. In the movie, the Japanese version was sung by none other than the voice actress of Shizuku herself, Yoko Honna. I am glad they didn't put a different singing voice for her.
Fun fact the setting of this film is Tama city, Tokyo in the place where Shizuku goes up and down the stairs, there are paper fortunes in the shrine where that scene took place. Kinda nice that this had a cultural impact on those that have watched the film.
There was also a bit of difference in the English dub compared to the Japanese Dub during the ending sequence. In the English dub, Seiji said he will finish high school before returning to Italy to study how to be a craftsman. Meanwhile, in the Japanese dub, he mentioned he will return to Italy after junior high school graduation. A little bit of difference but nothing impactful to the whole plot.
The Cat Returns (2002) acts as a spin-off movie of this one. I will discuss that when we hit that film.
Whisper of the Heart is one of those Studio Ghibli classics that would really blow you away. It may not be someone's favorite but it definitely earned respect among others. It may have a teenage flick kind of vibe but it still has a story that was executed to utmost perfection.
I definitely love this film regardless. A pretty easy-to-understand, simple yet astounding movie with epic visuals, nice music, and a captivating storyline that would make tickles your imagination and maybe inspire you to pursue your dreams
A pretty solid 4.5 out of 5.