Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Whisper of the Heart is a film produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. It is based on a manga by Aoi Hiiragi. The film was released to Japanese theaters on July 15, 1995, and the English dub was released in the United States on March 7, 2006.
The main character is Shizuku Tsukishima, a junior high girl who lives in the Tokyo suburb of Tama New Town. At the beginning of the film, she looks through the checkout cards in the library books she has, and notices the name "Seiji Amasawa" appears on them; she becomes curious as to who this person is.
Shizuku is working on re-writing the song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" for her friend Yuko, so it can be performed at graduation. She shares it with Yuko and stuffs the sheet music into a book she had checked out. She accidentally leaves the book on a bench when she and Yuko leave. However, Shizuku remembers she left it, and runs back to get it.
When she returns to the bench, Shizuku finds a boy sitting there, reading the book she checked out. The boy returns the book to her, and comments that he thought her re-write of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" was corny. This upsets Shizuku.
The next day, while riding on a train to see her father at the library and bring him his lunch, Shizuku sees a large cat traveling by itself. The cat gets off at the same stop as her, and she follows the cat to an antique shop. She sees the statue of a cat in the shop, and the proprietor tells her his name is Baron Humbert von Jikkingen. The proprietor also shares an antique clock he's working on with her.
When she realizes its noontime, Shizuku leaves to go the library, and inadvertently leaves the lunch at the shop. As she reaches the library, the boy from the bench arrives and hands the lunch to her. He makes a remark about the size of the lunch, which upsets Shizuku.
Later in the film, it is revealed that the boy is Seiji Amasawa, the person who has been checking out the books before Shizuku. The film follows the two of them and the friendship they develop.
Whisper of the Heart is a very well-told and well-animated coming of age story. You really feel for the characters, and you can identify with them and the situations they go through if you've been through adolescence yourself. Whisper of the Heart is also a good family viewing experience; there's really nothing in the film that is inappropriate for younger viewers.
When Whisper of the Heart was released on DVD in the United States, it was released as a two-disc set. The first disc contains the film and two special features. For the film, you can select what scenes you want to see. You can also choose between English and Japanese audio, and you can also choose to have English captions for the Hearing Impaired or to have English subtitles, or to not have subtitles at all. The main menu also has a "Sneak Peeks" option, which allows you to choose which of the trailers you want to see that are included at the beginning of the disc.
The first bonus feature on the disc is a roughly eight minute long documentary titled, "Behind the Microphone." During the documentary, you see some of the English voice actors recording the English dialogue for the dub version of the film. There are also interviews with some of the English dub actors and staff (Brittany Snow, Ashley Tisdale, Ned Lott, Rick Dempsey, David Gallagher, Martin Spanjers, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Jean Smart, Harold Gould, and Cary Elwes). It's not a bad documentary for what it is.
The only other special feature on the disc is the Japanese trailers and TV spots for Whisper of the Heart, which runs for about 11 minutes. There are six in all, and they have Japanese audio and English subtitles. The spots are in one continuous piece, and there is no way to select which ones you want to see.
All that is on the second disc of Whisper of the Heart is a storyboard version of the film. This is basically the same as the movie, except it utilizes storyboards and none of the actual animation. I really don't understand the point or appeal of seeing the complete film in storyboard form. This release would have been stronger if it was just one disc instead of two, and only had brief storyboard-to-animation comparisons of some of the scenes on the first disc. I believe that including the second disc is a waste.
If you are a fan of Studio Ghibli’s films, then you should see Whisper of the Heart. Even with the unnecessary second disc, and the few minor complaints about the bonus features on disc one, this is a DVD that should be in the collection of any anime fan.
In order to write this review, I checked out a copy of this DVD through the King County Library System.