The unjustly little-known Whisper of the Heart is one of the most emotionally complex and convincing coming-of-age stories. Based on Aoi Hiiragi’s manga and adapted for the screen by Hayao Miyazaki, the film was at the time the only theatrical Studio Ghibli film not directed by Miyazaki or Takahata, but by Yoshifumi Kondo. Kondo was expected to be their successor, yet due to his untimely death at the age of forty-seven, this film would be his first and last project. The entire movie is presented from the perspective of a twelve-year-old Shizuku with superb emotional accuracy. A bookworm who longs to be a writer when she grows up, Shizuku notices that her library books have previously been taken out by a boy named Seiji. With the help of a mysterious cat, an antiques dealer and The Baron—a statue of a well-dressed cat who comes to life at night—she aims to find Seiji, who could, after all, be her soulmate. Yuji Nomi’s musical score beautifully enhances the fantastic tale, but viewers will be equally entertained by the various renditions of John Denver’s “Take me Home, Country Roads” heard throughout this delightful Valentine.
Age recommendation: 8+