Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Whisper of the Heart

Whisper of the Heart is not just one of my favorte animated movies (or anime as the Japanese call animated features), it's one of my favorite movies ever. Whisper of the Heart is a Studio Ghibli production, but wasn't directed by the master, Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki did write the screenplay though as well as doing some of the storyboards and serving as the general producer. Whisper of the Heart was the only film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, who was maybe poised to be a protege of Miyazaki, but sadly he died in 1998 of an aneurysm. Whisper of the Heart very much looks and feels like a Miyazaki film, with its strong female lead character and doesn't need any good guys or bad guys to drive the story.

Whisper of the Heart is a coming of age / young love story. Shizuku is the main character of Whisper of the Heart - she loves to read, has a great imagination, but is unsure what lies ahead for her in the future until she meets Seiji, an aspiring violin maker, who inspires her to pursue her writing. I love Whisper of the Heart because it has great likeable characters as with all of Miyazaki's movies, but it also has great quiet scenes in which the landscapes seem to speak. Other then one brief imagined sequence which illustrates Shizuka's writing, Whisper of the Heart is just a great people story and I always highly recommend it to guys and gals of all ages.

The main thing that sold me on Whisper of the Heart was the way it uses music, specifically John Denver's 1970's hit Take Me Home, Country Roads, as a major part of the story. Whisper of the Heart opens with Olivia Newton-John doing a cover of Take Me Home, Country Roads, as the credits are rolling and we are seeing some of the city in which Shizuku lives. Then about halfway into the movie, Shizuku sings Take Me Home, Country Roads in Japanese as Seiji accompanies her on violin. It's one of my favorite scenes of any movie ever. It amazes me that a song like Take Me Home, Country Roads, which is so associated with 1970's USA is used to such beautiful effect in a Japanese movie. I'd recommend first watching Whisper of the Heart with the original Japanese vocal track even though I think that the english dub is strong (and with all of the Miyazaki movies that have come over here, this is the one I was most concerned with - also even surprised that it was released here).

The above photo was taking at Anime Vegas 2007. They had a nice display of most of Studio Ghibli's movie posters. I like the one on the left the best because I think it better captures the spirit of Whisper of the Heart. The Cat Returns is another studio Ghibli feature that is sequel of sorts to Whisper of the Heart, but it has more fantastical elements and can be watched independently.

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