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 flies in the sky above Tokyo. To the right is the film's title in red, and the production credits.
Japanese theatrical release poster
HepburnMimi o Sumaseba
Directed byYoshifumi Kondō
Screenplay byHayao Miyazaki
Based onMimi o Sumaseba
by Aoi Hiiragi
Produced byToshio Suzuki
CinematographyAtsushi Okui
Edited byTakeshi Seyama
Music byYuji Nomi
Distributed byToho
Release date
  • July 15, 1995 (1995-07-15)
Running time
111 minutes
Box office¥3.15 billion (Japan)[1]

Whisper of the Heart (Japanese: 耳をすませば, Hepburn: Mimi o Sumaseba, literally "If You Listen Closely") is a 1995 Japanese animated musical coming-of-age romantic drama film directed by Yoshifumi Kondō and written by Hayao Miyazaki based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Aoi Hiiragi. It was animated by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network and Hakuhodo. The film stars Yoko Honna, Issei Takahashi, Takashi Tachibana, Shigeru Muroi, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi and Keiju Kobayashi.

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 Isao Takahata .[2]

A spinoff film, The Cat Returns, was released in 2002, which focused on a minor character of the film, the Baron.


Shizuku Tsukishima is a 14-year-old girl who attends Mukaihara Junior High School, where she is best friends with Yūko Harada. She lives in a Tokyo suburb with her parents Asako, Seiya and older sister Shiho, and is keen on reading books, particularly fairy tales. One summer evening, she looks through the checkout cards in her library books and discovers they were all checked out previously by someone named Seiji Amasawa.

Shizuku meets Yūko at the school and reveals "Concrete Roads," her "Take Me Home, Country Roads" parody written for the school graduation and criticizing the deforestation of Tama New Town. Yūko reveals that she has a crush on a boy named Sugimura, who happens to be Shizuku's friend. Yūko and Shizuku walk home when she realizes she left her book at the school. She runs back to discover a boy reading her book which he returns, but not without teasing her and slighting her lyrics, which leaves her feeling irritable for the rest of the evening. On the next day, while on her way to the library to deliver her father's lunch to him, Shizuku encounters a peculiar cat commuting on the train, and follows it to discover an antique shop run by Shirō Nishi. In the shop there is a cat statuette nicknamed The Baron as well as a centuries old antique clock. Realizing she's late for the library, Shizuku runs out feeling ecstatic about finding "a place where stories begin", only to run into the boy she had met the previous day, who returns the lunchbox she left behind. He comments on how much food is in the box and rides away, singing her song, leaving Shizuku in another foul mood.

When school restarts, Yūko is devastated when Sugimura asks her to reply to a love letter his teammate sent. Shizuku confronts Sugimura and scolds him for his actions, only for him to reveal he had a crush on her. However, she rejects him in order to not hurt Yūko. Shizuku leaves feeling leveled. Feeling disconsolate, Shizuku decides to head to the antique shop, meeting the boy once more. He shows her the workshop, where she discovers that he is learning to make violins to pursue his dream of becoming a master luthier. She begs him to play the violin for her, but he agrees on the condition that she sings along. The pair perform "Take Me Home, Country Roads" as it was adapted by Shizuku for her graduation. The boy is revealed to be Seiji, Nishi's grandson, and Shizuku and Seiji finally befriend each other.

Seiji admits that he admires Shizuku’s talents, and reveals his dream to become a luthier, as well as his efforts of checking out a large number of books in the hopes that she would eventually notice him. Days after, Seiji leaves for Cremona, Italy for a two-month study with a master violin-maker. Inspired by Seiji, Shizuku decides to pursue her skill for writing seriously in the same two months. She asks Nishi if she can write a story featuring the Baron, to which Nishi grants his consent in exchange for being the first to read her story.

Shizuku concocts a fantasy story called "Whisper of the Heart", featuring herself as the protagonist, the Baron as the male hero looking for his lost love, Louise, and the cat from the train (a neighborhood stray who is, among other names, known as "Moon" and "Muta") as the antagonist. Devoting her time to her writing, Shizuku stays up until early in the morning, and her school grades drop. She argues with Shiho over her grades and future, but their parents tell Shizuku to continue her dream but that the path will be difficult. As she continues to push herself and Shiho tells her that she is moving out, her anxiety mounts.

When her story is complete, Nishi reads it and gives his honest assessment, which is that Shizuku is talented, but requires refinement through practice. Shizuku bursts into tears as the stress of the last two months turns into relief. Nishi consoles her and tells her the real-life story of the Baron. When he studied in Germany in his youth, he found his first love, a woman named Louise. Nishi discovered the twin statuettes of the Baron and his female companion in a cafe, but as the female one was away for repairs, the shopkeeper would only allow Nishi to buy the Baron if Louise agreed to hold onto its companion so they could be reunited. However, the two lovers and their cat statues were separated during World War II, and could not find each other after the war ended. Nishi then thanks Shizuku for bringing life to what used to be just a memory for him. In the original Japanese script, Shizuku never knew of the truth of the Baron's origin or of Louise, and Seiji earlier tells her that his grandfather refuses to speak of it. This makes Shizuku's inclusion of Louise in the story a tremendous coincidence, or something else. In the English dub, Seiji's dialogue is changed and he briefly tells her about Louise.

Deciding she needs to learn more about writing, and that she wants to attend high school, Shizuku announces to her mother that she will resume studying for her high school entrance exams. Shizuku wakes up early in the morning and sees Seiji outside on his bicycle, having returned a day earlier. In the English dub, Seiji tells Shizuku he decided to finish high school before returning to Cremona to become a luthier, differing from the Japanese dialogue, in which he says he will return to Cremona after middle school graduation as planned.

Seiji takes Shizuku on his bike to his hidden lookout, where they watch the sunrise. Seiji professes his love for Shizuku and proposes that they marry in the future; she happily accepts.

Shizuku's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" plays over the ending credits while daily life in her hometown is observed, including Yūko and Sugimura meeting up on the way home from school.

Voice cast[edit]

Character Original cast English dub cast
Shizuku Tsukishima (月島 雫, Tsukishima Shizuku) A 14-year-old junior high school student who loves books. Yōko Honna Brittany Snow
Seiji Amasawa (天沢 聖司, Amasawa Seiji) An aspiring violin maker who attends the same school as Shizuku. Issei Takahashi David Gallagher
Asako Tsukishima (月島 朝子, Tsukishima Asako) Graduate student. Shizuku and Shiho's mother and Seiya's wife. Shigeru Muroi Jean Smart
Seiya Tsukishima (月島 靖也, Tsukishima Seiya) Librarian. Shizuku and Shiho's father and Asako's husband. Takashi Tachibana James Sikking
Baron Humbert von Gikkingen (フンベルト・フォン・ジッキンゲン男爵, Funberuto fon Jikkingen danshaku) An anthropomorphic cat statue from Germany belonging to Shirō Nishi. Shigeru Tsuyuguchi Cary Elwes
Shirō Nishi (西 司朗, Nishi Shirō) Owner of a local antique shop. Seiji's grandfather. Keiju Kobayashi Harold Gould
Yūko Harada (原田 夕子, Harada Yūko) Shizuku's friend at her school. Maiko Kayama Ashley Tisdale
Ms. Kōsaka (高坂先生, Kōsaka-sensei) The yōgo (health room teacher) at Shizuku's school whom she and her classmates sometimes hang out with. Minami Takayama Vicki Davis
Kinuyo and Nao (絹代, ナオ) Shizuku's other school friends. Mayumi Iizuka
Mai Chiba
Mika Boorem
Abigail Mavity
Sugimura (杉村) Yūko's crush and Shizuku's friend. Yoshimi Nakajima Martin Spanjers
Shiho Tsukishima (月島 汐, Tsukishima Shiho) Shizuku's older sister and a college student. Yorie Yamashita Courtney Thorne-Smith
Kita and Minami (北, 南) Nishi's musician friends. Toshio Suzuki and Naohisa Inoue (Kita) Walker Edmiston

(Minami) Corey Burton

For the English dub, Cary Elwes reprised his role as the Baron from The Cat Returns: while The Cat Returns is a spin-off of Whisper of the Heart, its English dub was produced before the latter film saw an American release.


Mimi o Sumaseba
Whisper of the Heart (1995 anime film).jpg
Manga cover.
Written byAoi Hiiragi
Published byShueisha
Original runJuly 3, 1989October 3, 1989
Shiawase na Jikan
Written byAoi Hiiragi
Published byShueisha
MagazineRibon Original
PublishedAugust 1995
Sakuragaoka Park (Tama, Tokyo)
Konpira in SakuraOka (Tama, Tokyo)

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 on February 20, 1990. The volume was reprinted on July 15, 2005.[3] A second manga by the same author titled Mimi o Sumaseba: Shiawase na Jikan was serialized in Shueisha's Ribon Original in August 1995 and released in a single volume on February 20, 1996. 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.


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.[4]


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

The film score of Whisper of the Heart was composed by Yuji Nomi. At times during the film, Shizuku translates John Denver's song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" to Japanese for her school's chorus club.[5] She 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 points in the story.[6] 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.


The movie is set around Seiseki-Sakuragaoka station in Tama city, Tokyo, where Shizuku goes up and down stairs and where she and Seiji declare their love on top of the hill near the station. There are paper fortunes at the shrine where this scene takes place. There are three shops where fans of the movie go to meet.


Whisper of the Heart was released in Japan on July 15, 1995, as the first film in the country to use the Dolby Digital sound format.[7] It was shown alongside the music video On Your Mark for the song by Chage and Aska. The film was released on VHS and Laserdisc by Tokuma Shoten in January 1996, and the VHS was later reissued by Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan on July 25, 1997 as part of the "Ghibli ga Ippai" series. The movie later saw a DVD release on May 24, 2002, and unlike other Ghibli movies has not been reissued in Japan.

On July 20, 2011, Walt Disney Studios Japan released the movie on Blu-Ray.

English release[edit]

An English dub of this film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures in 2003, but it wouldn't be released until March 7, 2006, when it came out on DVD.[8] Turner Classic Movies televised both the dubbed and subbed versions on January 19, 2006[9] as part of their month-long celebration of Miyazaki in honor of his birthday, January 5.[10] The reason for the long delay was due to rights issues surrounding "Take Me Home, Country Roads", as it's a major plot point in the movie.

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 by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on May 22, 2012, alongside Castle in the Sky and The Secret World of Arrietty.[11] GKIDS & Universal Pictures Home Entertainment re-issued the film on Blu-ray and DVD on January 16, 2018 under a new deal with Studio Ghibli.[12]


Whisper of the Heart was the highest-grossing Japanese film on the domestic market in 1995, earning ¥1.85 billion in distribution income,[13] and grossing ¥3.15 billion in total box office revenue.[1] It grossed $34.9 million worldwide.[14]

The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 94% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 17 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6/10.[15] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100 based on 4 critic reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[16] Time Out London included Whisper of the Heart in their Top 50 Animated Film list.[17] It was also included in Film4's Top 25 Animated Film list.[18] On Anime News Network, Michael Toole gave it an overall grade of A−, calling it "beautiful and evocative; a fine tale of adolescent yearning and aspiration."[19]

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."[20]


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, and the stray cat, Muta, in the film. Later on, Muta and the crow (Toto, who is friends with him and the Baron) seem to appear in The Secret World of Arrietty as two skirmishing animals.


In January 2020, Sony Pictures Entertainment announced that there will be a live-action sequel. The film will star Nana Seino as Shizuku and Tori Matsuzaka as Seiji. Yūichirō Hirakawa will direct.[21][22] It is scheduled to release of October 14 of 2022, but was scheduled to September of 2020 before ultimately delaying the film due to the pandemic.[23][24]


  1. ^ a b 超意外な結果!?ジブリ映画の興行収入ランキング. シネマズ PLUS (Cinemas PLUS) (in Japanese). June 25, 2016. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  2. ^ "Yoshifumi Kondou Kondou Yoshifumi". Nausicaa.net. Nausicaa. Archived from the original on November 28, 2014. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  3. ^ "耳をすませば". Shueisha. Archived from the original on November 29, 2005. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
  4. ^ Lund, Evie (November 18, 2014). "Ghibli background artist Naohisa Inoue's painting technique is out of this world". RocketNews24. Archived from the original on January 31, 2015. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  5. ^ ""Take Me Home, Country Roads" (Kyarypamyupamyu)". traxionary.com. traxionary. Archived from the original on November 24, 2014. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  6. ^ "FAQ // Whisper of the Heart //". Nausicaa.net. Archived from the original on January 1, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2011.
  7. ^ "Whisper of the Heart (1995)". canadiancinephile. Canadian Cinephile. Archived from the original on April 6, 2012. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  8. ^ "Whisper Of The Heart". Disney Movies. Disney. Archived from the original on November 29, 2014. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  9. ^ "Nausicaa". nausicaa.net. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2015.
  10. ^ "Whisper of the Heart". tcm. Turner Classic Movies. Archived from the original on December 17, 2014. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  11. ^ "Whisper of the Heart Blu-Ray". Archived from the original on April 18, 2012. Retrieved April 21, 2012.
  12. ^ Carolyn Giardina (July 17, 2017). "Gkids, Studio Ghibli Ink Home Entertainment Deal". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  13. ^ "Kako haikyū shūnyū jōi sakuhin 1995-nen" (in Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
  14. ^ Klady, Leonard (February 19, 1996). "B.O. with a vengeance: $9.1 billion worldwide". Variety. p. 1.
  15. ^ "Whisper of the Heart (Mimi wo sumaseba) (If You Listen Closely) (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  16. ^ "Whisper of the Heart Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  17. ^ "Time Out's 50 Greatest Animated Films – Part 3 with Time Out Film — Time Out London". Timeout.com. Archived from the original on October 8, 2009. Retrieved November 1, 2010.
  18. ^ "Film4's Top 25 Animated Film list". Archived from the original on December 29, 2016. Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  19. ^ Michael Toole (November 19, 2014). "Whisper of the Heart Blu-Ray + DVD". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on November 22, 2014. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  20. ^ Cavallaro, Dani (2006). The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki. McFarland & Co. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-7864-2369-9.
  21. ^ Pineda, Rafael Antonio (January 13, 2020). "Whisper of the Heart Manga Gets Live-Action Film Sequel After Inspiring Ghibli Anime". Anime News Network. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  22. ^ Baseel, Casey (January 17, 2020). "Ghibli anime 'Whisper of the Heart' is getting a live-action sequel film". Japan Today. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  23. ^ "Studio Ghibli's Live-Action Whisper of the Heart Sequel Releases Trailer". April 24, 2022.
  24. ^ "Whisper of the Heart Live-Action Sequel Delayed, New Release Date Announced in Teaser Trailer".

External links[edit]