Whisper of the Heart Blu-ray Review: Clever Whisper Or Heart Related Pun

Blu-ray Releassed on 9th January 2012

Based on the manga of the same name, Whisper of the Heart is the 1995 Studio Ghibli coming-of-age film film that is now available on Blu-ray but despite its charm and beauty, the hardcore Ghibli crowd may find themselves dissatisfied with this one.

Shizuku Tsukishima (Brittany Snow), a middle-school girl whose nose is always in a book, embarks on her first adolescent relationship with the antagonistic yet sensitive Seiji. The two inspire each other to follow their dreams but Shizuku struggles to cope when Seiji’s passion for making violins leads him to move away to Italy. Fighting with her family over her future, Shizuku is sure that if she can write a whole book by the time Seiji returns, she’ll prove to them that she has what it takes to follow her heart.

The animation is, of course, beautiful with the clean lines and realistic motion we’ve come to love from Ghibli films, but there seems to be a missing element. With other movies from the Studio’s collection, the magic is laid on thick and the fantastic characters and landscapes are plentiful, but here there are only a handful of scenes like that and, disappointingly, they all take place inside Shizuku’s imagination. The limited fantasy scenes are enjoyable and were popular enough to inspire a spin-off film, The Cat Returns, and if the short sequences featured in Whisper are anything to go by, I’d recommend looking it up.

Many reviews have written of the film’s feminine appeal as a negative, complaining that boys won’t relate to the female perspective. Ridiculous as that might sound considering how many Ghibli films feature girls as lead characters, the thing boys might not relate to is the sentimentality of the adolescent drama that surrounds Shizuku. Crushes and gossip are inherently girly and the preconception that boys won’t ‘get it’ is understandable. And although the film is never especially flowery or romantic, the scene of Shizuku and Seiji standing on a balcony at sunset discussing inspiration is eye-roll inducing, to say the least.

The special features on the Blu-ray include a ‘Behind-the-mic’ look at the English language recording sessions with interviews from the American cast: Brittany Snow, Ashley Tisdale, Jean Smart and Cary Elwes. There’s also some concept art, storyboard comparisons and a collection of trailers for other Ghibli films, both classic and recent. It’s a pretty good package for a collector but the casual Ghibli fan will be able to skip the Blu-ray and not miss much.

Whisper of the Heart is charming in its own way but struggles to match the imagination of My Neighbour Totoro or the epic scale of Princess Mononoke. It’s a sweet, low-key affair but is hardly essential viewing.

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