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Toonboy's Review of Whisper of the Heart

rated it: posted: Sep 02, 2009
Reviews: 319 | KF Animation Editor
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Whisper of the Heart is an oddity even among Miyazaki films. It is hands down one of his most down to earth movies he's ever made and unfolds in such a way that is strange when compared with Miyazaki's penchant for movies with spirits, wizards, big-headed elderly women, and cautionary allegories. Miyazaki movies tend to possess two types of magic. I've just recently dubbed them big magic and little magic.

Most of his movies have unequal mixtures of both, but his big magic movies tend to have a grandness about them, with deftly woven complexities and a clear over-reaching style of plotting. Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are fine examples of this. His little magic films tend to itemize and celebrate the tiny details of life that make us laugh, cry, or suffer in aggravation. These films tend to have an even keel about them and might frustrate fans of Miyazaki's grander side. Kiki's Delivery Service and the recent Ponyo are great examples of this. Despite my stating that Ponyo is about finding tiny nuggets of happiness here and there, the careful level of realism in Whisper of the Heart makes Ponyo seem like an extraordinary flight of fancy.

Whisper of the Heart does contain the Baron character, who appears in The Cat Returns, but his appearance is limited only to fantasy sequences when Shizuku is telling her story. Barring that, Whisper of the Heart is sheer slice of life stuff, and the characters showing you their life events is pure magic on its own. Sure, My Neighbor Totoro did this as well, but it still resorted to the fantastical. Whisper of the Heart shows us one of the most strikingly beautiful and realistic interpretations of budding teen romance I've ever seen in an animated movie. The way teen friends taunt and tease each other playfully. The way kids worry about their future and what kinds of grades they'll get. The little annoying habits of the main character. The way she cries when she's upset. Everything in real life is reflected in this movie. It's as clear a reflection as one can get in an animated movie.

As I watched Whisper of the Heart, I got the strange sensation of somehow knowing the characters, like they were old friends I was getting reacquainted with. You know the movie did a wonderful job when a character says one thing, but you know he or she means another. Or when a character remains silent but you know exactly what's on his or her mind. One of the most fantastic examples of this is the slowly evolving realization of a love triangle. When Shizuku chastises Sugimura, it springs on you with such cleverness and tenacity that, even when you're feeling Sugimura's embarrassment, you can't help but smile and say "Whoa. I didn't see that coming."

Whisper of the Heart had such a hold on me that I wanted to see more and more of these characters. It got to the point that I felt the ending came rather suddenly and made the movie feel truncated, despite its length. Naturally, I was suitably upset but still came away feeling like a warm summer day and that something truly brilliant passed before my eyes.

animated movie Whisper of the Heart © Studio Ghibli / Nippon Television Network
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Whisper of the Heart
3.93 stars / 7 ratings
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