Mini-Review: Whisper of the Heart (1995)

Whisper of the Heart [耳をすませば] (1995)

Starring Yōko Honna, Issei Takahashi, Maiko Kayama, Yoshimi Nakajima, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi, Takashi Tachibana, Shigeru Muroi, Keiju Kobayashi, Yorie Yamashita, Minami Takayama, Mayumi Iizuka

Directed by Yoshifumi Kondō

Expectations: High. I love Studio Ghibli and even though this isn’t directed by Miyazaki, I have high hopes.


Shizuku is a young junior high school student, busy reading every fairy tale she can get her hands on. It’s much more fun than studying! She soon notices a certain name that keeps popping up on the library index cards of the books she checks out. Who is this boy who reads all the same books? He must be someone very special! Shizuku quickly develops a crush on him that only mystery could facilitate. Written by Hayao Miyazaki, Whisper of the Heart hits every note perfectly and cleverly. Set in the mid-90s when libraries around the globe were undergoing the shift to computerized record-keeping, Miyazaki and director Yoshifumi Kondō manage to tell an enchanting love story completely based around the slowly dying old ways of the library, in what may be the most heart-warming anti-technology tale of all-time.

Whisper of the Heart isn’t your standard Ghibli fare, instead taking a much more realistic angle than Miyazaki’s films. Every frame of the film is filled with the detailed minutia of everyday life, from the quiet movements of a cat to the way the hanging handholds gently sway with the movement of a train car. It is nothing short of breathtaking. The attention to detail present here is absolutely unparalleled. My Neighbor Totoro features a lot of similar strokes of everyday life, but Whisper of the Heart revels in them, as it does not have a fantasy world to jump into as the story progresses. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are moments when fantasy takes hold, but the fantasy here is told in our real world sense of the term, it exists solely within the daydreams of Shizuku’s mind. These moments punctuate the reality of Shizuku’s situation, while also providing the viewer with some fun sequences. How else were they going to work a trademark Miyazaki flying scene into such a realistic film?

Whisper of the Heart is full of genuine emotion, heart and quality morals for any growing person. It is a touching film that is suitable for all audiences, but never seems like it is specifically targeting children. It’s just one of those films that’s so good, you can’t help but be enamored with it. I had been neglecting this film because it was not directed by Miyazaki (and somehow I thought that would effect its quality), and I was completely wrong to do so. If you’re thinking similarly, do yourself a favor and check this one out. Whisper of the Heart is hands down one of Studio Ghibli’s finest films. It’s an absolute shame that Yoshifumi Kondō would never get a chance at making another film as he died only three years later of an aneurysm. Highly recommended.

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