Whisper of the Heart

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Whisper of the Heart
A girl in a pink dress accompanied by a cat wearing a suit is flying in the sky above Tokyo. To the girl's right is the film's title, written in red letters, and production credits.
Japanese release poster
Directed by Yoshifumi Kondō
Produced by Toshio Suzuki
Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki
Based on Whisper of the Heart 
by Aoi Hiiragi
Starring Yōko Honna
Issei Takahashi
Takashi Tachibana
Shigeru Muroi
Shigeru Tsuyuguchi
Keiju Kobayashi
Music by Yuji Nomi
Cinematography Atsushi Okui
Editing by Takeshi Seyama
Studio Studio Ghibli
Distributed by Japan:
Toho
Australia:
Madman Entertainment
Release dates
  • July 15, 1995 (1995-07-15)
Running time 111 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば Mimi o Sumaseba?, lit. "If you listen closely") is a 1995 Japanese animated drama film directed by Yoshifumi Kondō and written by Hayao Miyazaki based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Aoi Hiiragi. The film stars Yoko Honna, Issei Takahashi, Takashi Tachibana, Shigeru Muroi, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi and Keiju Kobayashi. It was the first theatrical Studio Ghibli film to be directed by someone other than Miyazaki or Isao Takahata.

Whisper of the Heart was Kondō's only film as director before his death in 1998. Studio Ghibli had hoped that Kondō would become the successor to Miyazaki and Takahata.

A semi-spin-off film entitled The Cat Returns that focused on a minor character of the film, Baron, was released in 2002.

Plot[edit]

Shizuku Tsukishima is a 14-year-old student at Mukaihara Junior High School, where she is best friends with Yuko Harada. Living in Tokyo with her parents Asako and Seiya, as well as her older sister Shiho, Shizuku is a bookworm and is keen on writing. During an ordinary evening, she looks through the checkout cards in her library books. She discovers they have been checked out by Seiji Amasawa. Over the next few days, Shizuku encounters a young man, later revealed to be Seiji, who often annoys her.

Finding a cat riding a train, Shizuku follows it to discover an antique shop run by Shiro Nishi. In the shop is a cat statuette, "The Baron". After Shizuku returns home, she learns from Yuko that Sugimura has inadvertently upset her, as he does not know that Yuko likes him and instead has been having a crush on Shizuku herself. Sugimura's actions cause an argument with Shizuku, who eventually turns him down.

At the antique shop, Shizuku sings "Take Me Home, Country Roads", a song she has been translating for her school graduation, accompanied by Seiji and Nishi. Seiji is revealed to be the grandson of Nishi, and Shizuku and Seiji befriend each other. However, Seiji is learning to make violins to follow his dream as a master luthier. Days after the two meet, Seiji leaves for Cremona, Italy, for a two-month study with a master violin-maker. Firming her resolve, Shizuku decides to test her talents as well. Discussing with Yuko, she decides to pursue her writing seriously during the two months. She asks Nishi if she can write about The Baron, to which Nishi grants his consent on the condition that he will be the first to read the finished story.

Shizuku begins to concoct a fantasy story featuring herself as the female protagonist, the Baron as the male hero who is looking for his lost love, Louise, and the cat she followed from the train (who is, among other names, known as "Moon" and "Muta") as the story's villain who took her from him. Devoting her time to her writing, Shizuku eats snack food, stays up until early in the morning, and her school grades drop. Shizuku argues with her family over her grades, and as she continues to push herself into finishing the story before Seiji returns, she begins to lose heart.

When her story is complete, Shizuku delivers the manuscript to Nishi. After Nishi reads Shizuku's writing and gives her his benevolent assessment, she breaks down in tears as the stress of the last two months finally turns into relief. Consoling her with ramen, Nishi reveals to Shizuku that when he studied in Germany in his youth, he found his first love, Louise. They discovered the twin statuettes of the Baron and his female companion in a cafe, but they could only purchase them singly because the female statuette was in repair at that time. Nishi kept the Baron while Louise would hold onto the Baron's companion, and they and the two cat statuettes would reunite at a later time. However, the two lovers and the statues were subsequently separated during World War II and were never reunited.

Deciding she wants to attend high school to learn more about writing, Shizuku is returned home by Nishi and announces to her mother that she will return to her entrance exams full-time. The next morning, she discovers Seiji below on his bicycle. He has returned a day early, and decided to finish high school before returning to Cremona to become a luthier.

The two youngstes ride Seiji's bike to a lookout and watch the sun rise over the city. While they are there, Seiji professes his love for Shizuku and proposes future marriage, and she happily accepts.

Cast[edit]

  • Yōko Honna as Shizuku Tsukishima (月島 雫 Tsukishima Shizuku?), a 14-year-old junior high school student who loves books. In the English version, Shizuku was voiced by Brittany Snow.
  • Issei Takahashi as Seiji Amasawa (天沢 聖司 Amasawa Seiji?), a violin player attending the same school as Shizuku Tsukishima. In the English version, Seiji was voiced by David Gallagher.
  • Shigeru Muroi as Asako Tsukishima (月島 朝子 Tsukishima Asako?), a graduate student and mother of Shizuku and Shiho Tsukishima. In the English version, Asako was voiced by Jean Smart.
  • Takashi Tachibana as Seiya Tsukishima (月島 靖也 Tsukishima Seiya?), a librarian and father of Shizuku Tsukishima. In the English version, Seiya was voiced by James Sikking.
  • Shigeru Tsuyuguchi as Baron Humbert von Gikkingen (フンベルト・フォン・ジッキンゲン男爵 Funberuto Fon Jikkingen Danshaku?), a statue from Germany belonging to Shiro Nishi. In the English version, the Baron was voiced by Cary Elwes.
  • Keiju Kobayashi as Shiro Nishi (西 司朗 Nishi Shirō?), the owner of a local antique shop. In the English version, Nishi was voiced by Harold Gould.
  • Maiko Kayama provides the voice of Yuko Harada (原田 夕子 Harada Yūko?), Shizuku's friend at her school. In the English version, Yuko was voiced by Ashley Tisdale.
  • Minami Takayama voices Kōsaka-sensei (高坂先生?), a nurse at Shizuku's school.
  • Mayumi Iizuka and Mai Chiba portray Kinuyo (絹代?) and Nao (ナオ?), Shizuku's other school friends, who are respectively voiced by Mika Boorem and Abigail Mavity in the English version.
  • Yoshimi Nakajima portrays Sugimura (杉村?), Yuko's crush and Shizuku's friend. In the English version, Sugimura was voiced by Martin Spanjers.
  • Yorie Yamashita as Shiho Tsukishima (月島 汐 Tsukishima Shiho?), Shizuku's older sister and a college student, voiced by Courtney Thorne-Smith in the English version.
  • Producer Toshio Suzuki and artist Naohisa Inoue provide the voices of Nishi's two musician friends.

Background[edit]

Mimi o Sumaseba Manga cover

Whisper of the Heart was based on the manga Mimi o Sumaseba which was originally created by Aoi Hiiragi. The manga was serialized in Shueisha's shōjo manga magazine Ribon between August and November 1989, and a single tankōbon volume was released in February 1990. A second manga by the same author titled Mimi o Sumaseba: Shiawase na Jikan was serialized in Shueisha's Ribon Original in 1995. A spiritual sequel to this film adaption, The Cat Returns, was turned back into a manga by Aoi Hiiragi, under the name Baron: Neko no Danshaku.

Production[edit]

During production, the backgrounds in the fantasy sequences of the film were drawn by Naohisa Inoue and the woodcut of the imprisoned violin-maker was created by Miyazaki's son Keisuke Miyazaki, a professional engraver. Japanese musical duo Chage and Aska's short music video, titled "On Your Mark", by Studio Ghibli was released along with Whisper of the Heart.

Music[edit]

Take Me Home, Country Roads (Japanese)
A musical clip with the film's Shizuku singing the song together with Seiji.
Composer: Yuji Nomi
Author: Hayao Miyazaki
Singer: Yōko Honna

The film score of Whisper of the Heart was composed by Yuji Nomi. Various times during the film, Shizuku translates John Denver's song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" to Japanese for her school's chorus club. She also writes her own humorous Japanese version of the song, called "Concrete Road," about her hometown in western Tokyo. The songs were actually translated by producer Toshio Suzuki's daughter Mamiko with Hayao Miyazaki writing supplemental lyrics. These songs play a role at various points in the story.[1] A recording of "Take Me Home, Country Roads", performed by Olivia Newton-John, plays during the film's opening sequence. The song was also performed by Shizuku's voice actress Yoko Honna.

Release[edit]

Whisper of the Heart was the first Japanese film to use the Dolby Digital sound format. An English dub of this film was released by Buena Vista Home Entertainment on March 7, 2006. Turner Classic Movies televised both the dubbed and subbed versions on January 18, 2006 as part of their month-long celebration of Miyazaki in honor of his birthday, January 5. The English title, Whisper of the Heart, was created by Studio Ghibli and used on several officially licensed "character goods" released around the same time as the film was released in theaters in Japan. The North American Blu-ray was released on May 22, 2012, alongside Castle in the Sky and The Secret World of Arrietty.[2]

Reception[edit]

Whisper of the Heart was the highest-grossing Japanese film on the domestic market in 1995, earning ¥1.85 billion in distribution income.[3] Whisper of the Heart received very positive reviews from film critics. It has an 90% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 10 reviews.[4] Time Out London included Whisper of the Heart in their Top 50 Animated Film list.[5] It was also included in Film4's Top 25 Animated Film list.[6]

General producer and screenwriter Hayao Miyazaki defended the film's ending, saying that it was his idea. Miyazaki wanted Shizuku and Seiji to "commit to something."[7]

Spin-off[edit]

Over the course of the film, Shizuku is working on a fantasy novel that revolves around a cat figurine, named The Baron, which she discovers in Mr. Nishi's antique store. In 2002, Studio Ghibli produced a spin-off film The Cat Returns, directed by Hiroyuki Morita and again featuring The Baron in the film.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "FAQ // Whisper of the Heart //". Nausicaa.net. Retrieved March 3, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Whisper of the Heart Blu-Ray". Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  3. ^ "Kako haikyū shūnyū jōi sakuhin 1995-nen" (in Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Retrieved February 8, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Whisper of the Heart". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved March 2, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Time Out's 50 Greatest Animated Films – Part 3 with Time Out Film - Time Out London". Timeout.com. Retrieved November 1, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Film4's Top 25 Animated Film list". Retrieved April 8, 2013. 
  7. ^ Cavallaro, Dani (2006). The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki. McFarland & Co. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-7864-2369-9. 

External links[edit]