The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Whisper of the Heart

Title: Whisper of the Heart aka Mimi Wo Sumaseba
Genre: Romance/Drama
Company: Studio Ghibli
Format: Movie, 111 minutes.
Date: 15 Jul 1995

Synopsis: Mimi Wo Sumaseba tells the story of Tsukishima Shizuku, a junior-high school student who is struggling to find herself. The movie depicts her journey and imagination as she makes decisions that will ultimately decide her future.

The Highlights
Slow pacing: Done to perfection.
Ending: Fantastic.
Characters: As likable as can be.
Romance: Heart-warming.
Story: Realism and fantastical elements combined beautifully.

I have never particularly been a fan of Olivia Newton-John; but the moment her cover of “Country Roads” started playing and was accompanied by purple letters spelling out Whisper of the Heart in the center of the screen, something inside me knew I was about to watch a masterpiece.

Whisper of the Heart is a beautiful motion picture which has stunned, and continues to stun me to this day. The story revolves around Tsukishima Shizuku, who like most young adults, is questioning what she really wants in life. She has a dream of becoming a novelist, but doubts herself and her ability. Among the people who shape her journey is Amasawa Seiji, a boy her age who is passionately following his unique dream to become a violin maker. Together they form one of the most memorable romances in anime.

The predominant theme is the question of whether to follow the regular norms of society and conform, or have the bravery and willingness to follow your dreams. At the center of this is Shizuku who has to make the choice. While this may be a common theme, few anime, movies, or even novels I have read, present the idea in such a successful and touching manner. There may be some fantastical elements, but they are combined with a realistic story and a down to earth setting in a way in which the plot does not feel far-fetched. The way Shizuku finds the answer to this overwhelming question through other characters is quite brilliant. The words of advice Seiji’s grandfather give to her, along with his personal life story, make for some of the most powerful sections of the picture.

Some have complained the action progresses much too slowly, but I must insist that the slow pacing is a vital part of the movie. The way Shizuku’s daily life is depicted and builds up to her eventual becoming is what makes this anime a piece of art. It also makes the ending, which is about as close to perfection as can be, that much better. The Japanese title of this picture literally translates to “if you listen closely”, so listen closely. Watch closely as well. It will not seem slow if you do so. It will seem life-like. It will beat as a heart and whisper its message in a way few anime do.

The music is good. Some beautiful piano music accompanies the action throughout the movie and “Country Roads” plays a symbolic role as Shizuku journeys through the roads of life. The artwork is satisfactory with a few moments where it becomes extraordinary; especially Shizuku’s dream sequences of the Baron, and the wood engraving of the imprisoned musician created by Miyazaki Hayao‘s son, Keisuke. It symbolizes the imprisonment of passion and the importance of letting it out of the cage. One should let their soul free to fly and sing as it chooses. The characters are superb and the relationships between them feel so real it is touching.

At one point Seiji’s grandfather tells Shizuku that people aspiring to become or do something can be like diamonds. They may not be perfect in their raw state, but through thorough polishing and hard work can become beautiful. Whisper of the Heart is not a raw diamond; it is a gem among anime.

The Rating: 10

Reviewed by: MK

Top of page