I’ve been a big fan of the Studio Ghibli films for quite some time. The movie that I fist saw that connected me with their movies was ‘Spirited Away’, which I saw back when I was in middle school. I instantly fell in love with the story and the characters, and decided to pursue more of the movies, only to find out Disney had a whole back catalog of this wonderful films. But one I had never managed to see, until now, was ‘Whispers of the Heart’, and quite frankly, I’m sad that it took me this long to see it. Not only has this become one of my favorite Studio Ghibli productions, but also one of my favorite animated movies period. It’s a sweet coming of age story that is easily relatable for those who watch. Featuring a voice cast that includes David Gallagher, Brittany Snow, Ashley Tisdale, Harold Gould, and Cary Elwes, ‘Whisper of the Heart’ is a just a sweet, funny, and moving look at life in our adolescent years, when we are still trying to figure out who we are and who we’re going to be.
Shizuku Tsukishima (Brittany) is a very bright, but quiet, middle school girl who really isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life yet. She thinks she needs to have it all planned out and known, and can’t help but think about the future. She spends all her time outside of school reading, letting herself get whisked in the stories of true love and adventure. But an encounter with a cat named Moon leads Shizuku to meet a young man named Seiji (Gallagher), who opens her eyes to a whole new world, with the help of a cat statue known as The Baron. Together, the pair embark on adventure of self discovery, love, and fun that will change them forever.
The one thing I’ve always loved about the Studio Ghibli films, besides the beautiful animation, is the heart in the stories. So many people like to believe that animation is an art form for young children, but apparently no one ever told those at Studio Ghibli that. The movies they make aren’t aimed at any one age group in particular, but at all of them. The stories they tell are ones that we can all relate to and get swept away in, and ‘Whisper of the Heart’ is no exception. Growing up isn’t easy for all of us, and the early teenager years are usually the hardest for many of us. So I instantly knew and understood the feeling that Shizuku was feeling in the film. So many times we’re told that we need to know what we want to do, and we lose track of what it means to be kids, and I think that in a way, that is what Shizuku has to learn. She’s so focused on her future, she doesn’t know what to do, but she feels the need to grow up so quickly, which makes her life that much harder. The other thing I love is that the movie teaches us to follow our dreams, and look inside yourself, do what is best for you and do it. Follow the whispers of your heart, if you will. I think that is a theme that we can all universally relate to, and it is something that both Shizuku and Seiji must learn to do, while learning to be there for each other. Learning to over come the differences they have, so they can always be there when the other needs them most. We all remember our first loves, and this movie plays on that. It’s so very sweet, and innocent, and it made me remember the simpler times in life that I long for some days. I just felt the movie had such a great emotional heft, it really clicked with me, and I would say that it will click with many others as well, because these are things we all went through, and I’m glad to see that once again Studio Ghibli has made a movie I just fully connect with.
But there isn’t just the heart, but there is humor as well that really elevates the movie. The interactions between Shizuku and Seiji, as well as with her family are just so natural and offer quite a few funny moments throughout the film. Be it when Shizuku learns the identity of the mysterious person who had been at the library reading all the books she had read, or from her first run ints with Seiji, they just lighten the mood and really make you smile. I couldn’t help but smile while I watched. I’m also a big fan of the music throughout the movie. I felt that it really worked incredibly well in the movie, really making scenes pop and soar. It really elevated the movie for me, and this is score I’d really like to find so I can listen to again and again, because it’s just so beautiful and sweeping.
The one thing I always love about Disney’s blu-rays is that they are never disappointing when it comes to the picture and sound. This movie looks absolutely marvelous, thanks to a new high definition transfer. This is the first time the movie has been given the high def treatment, and it turned out marvelous. It’s very impressive, especially considering the movie is almost twenty years old. The animation is just so clean and crisp, and colors just pop. I can’t help but just love the anime style with these movies. They’re just so beautiful to look at, and it really sets these movies aside from other animated films. And the blu-ray just makes it even better, it looks absolutely wonderful. It’s also been delivered with a great 5.1 DTS-HD surround sound audio mix, and it’s incredible. It really makes the music and sound flow. I keep finding myself more and more impressed with the audio mixes in movies, especially ones like this, with incredible scores, because it really brings them to life like never before. Fans of the original Japanese language track will also be happy to note that it is included here as well, which is great. Disney just doesn’t disappoint on the technical fronts, and I’m glad that hasn’t changed here.
The movie also comes with a few special features, including a look at some of the original Japanese storyboards, which was the highlight for me. It also has ‘Behind the Microphone’, which is a really nice look of behind the scenes of the movie with the voice cast from the film. There is ‘4 Masterpieces of Naohisa Inoue’, which fans are absolutely going to love as they get to watch as he works and evolves four pieces of art. It runs about half an hour, and is just great fun to watch. And last but not least, there are the original Japanese TV spots and trailers for the film, which fans of the film will enjoy taking a look at.
Even though I’m late to the game discovering ‘Whisper of the Heart’, I’m glad I’ve been given the chance to discover it at all. It’s a sweet, fun, and heart filled story that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. I was so impressed with it. The story, the characters, the music, just everything about the movie is incredible. Top that with an incredible new high definition transfer and HD audio mix from Disney, it elevates the movie to even bigger heights. This is now one of my favorite studio Ghibli films, and I’m so glad I’ve finally discovered it. Now I think I’ll have to go and find ‘The Cat Returns’, because I can’t help but love the character of the Baron, and I really want to see him on screen on again. This is a movie that everyone can relate to and enjoy together, and I hope that others love the film, and it’s new blu-ray release, as much as I did. It’ll be a fine addition to any blu-ray collection. Highly recommended.
- ‘Castle in the Sky’ Blu-ray Review (chipandco.com)
- ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’ Blu-ray Review (chipandco.com)
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