Whisper of the Heart - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B-
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Optimum Asia
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 106
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Whisper of the Heart

Whisper of the Heart

By Dani Moure     April 17, 2006
Release Date: April 10, 2006


Whisper of the Heart
© Optimum Asia


What They Say
Shizuku is spending her last summer vacation in junior high school, reading and translating lyrics of popular foreign music into Japanese, daydreaming of becoming a writer. Lately she finds that all the books she chooses in the library have been previously checked out by the same boy, Seiji Amasawa - Shizuku wonders what kind of guy he is... Could it be that the obnoxious boy she stumbles into could be the guy who's been reading all those books?

A touching love story with wonderful characters and beautiful artwork, Whisper Of The Heart was the first and only film directed by the late, Yoshifumi Kondo; the Studio Ghibli director seen as the natural successor to Hayao Miyazaki (who penned the script).

The Review!
It may be a bit of a departure from the usual Studio Ghibli film, but Whisper of the Heart is no less magical.

Audio:
I watched Whisper in English, just like I do on my first watch of all the Ghibli movies, and was not disappointed. The 5.1 mix isn't the most amazing because there's not much action to take advantage of it, but the music does come across very well. Dialogue is crisp and clear and I didn't notice any dropouts or distortions while listening.

The Disney dub is absolutely superb, and probably vies for the best of the bunch of all the Ghibli movies I've seen, and that is a very high standard indeed. The voices of the youngsters were all perfect, Brittany Snow's Shizuku has just the right amount of wonder and childishness, growing as the film goes on and the character matures. David Gallagher is excellent as Seiji as well, capturing his moments in fine form. Courtney Thorne-Smith (Shiho), Ashley Tisdale (Yuko), Harold Gould (Seiji's Grandfather), Jean Smart (Shizuku's mother) and almost everyone else deserves mention as well. The only voice I didn't really warm to was James B Sikking, playing Shizuku's father. He just sounded a bit too soft and his voice was a little annoying, but that is just splitting hairs in what is otherwise a superb dub.

Video:
Well, colour me quite surprised but the video on this disc is in general excellent (and for those keeping track, with no ghosting and the shorter runtime than the NTSC release, this is unexpectedly a proper PAL film transfer). The colour palette is more subdued than other Ghibli films, but is represented very well here, and the print is in pristine condition. I barely noticed any compression artefacts this time around either, probably helped by the relative lack of high motion, busy scenes. There were a couple of moments of aliasing, but in general this really is a great transfer, and I wish all the older Ghibli films had received similar treatment.

The subtitles on this disc are in a clear, yellow font and we get both hard of hearing subtitles and a literal translation to accompany the Japanese track.

Packaging:
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

Menu:
The menu system is still pretty bland, and continues to be the most disappointing aspect of these new Ghibli releases, though Whisper isn't as bad as some of the others in that regard. The main menu opens with a brief animation, before going to a still image from the final scene that has the logo at the top with the selections running across the centre, with the Japanese version of "Country Roads" playing. All the sub-menus are static images with no music playing. Access times are naturally quite fast, but it just doesn't feel like Madman put a great deal of effort into the menus, which may not be a deal breaker but it'd be nice to have something more imaginative for such high profile films.

Extras:
The extras selection is, as usual, decent but not great. As is standard on the Optimum/Madman Ghibli releases, we get an alternate angle for the whole film featuring the storyboards, which is an extra I do appreciate. In addition to this we get the Japanese trailers for Whisper and the regular Studio Ghibli trailer reel. Also for this particular movie, we get a series of still images of the backgrounds to the parts of the Baron's story set to some music.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I didn't know a great deal about Whisper of the Heart before watching it, other than it features the song "Country Roads" (more on that later), but as I did I fell in love with a heart-warming tale of young love and the challenges it brings with it. It's a bit of a departure from the usual Studio Ghibli film, and indeed is the first (and only) feature they've produced to be directed by Yoshifumi Kondo before he sadly passed away in 1998. Whisper of the Heart doesn't feature any great action sequences, nor an epic plot. Instead it's a simple tale that plays out slowly as the characters blossom as they find their way in life.

The story centres around an ordinary young girl called Shizuku, who's in her last year at junior high school. She loves to read and can always be found checking out books at the library, and she even likes to write a bit as well. She doesn't put quite as much effort into her schoolwork, but she's doing OK. As she's going to check out her latest book, she suddenly starts to notice that all the books she's recently been getting from the library were all checked out by the same person just before her, someone called Seiji Amasawa. On the way home one day a fat cat sits next to her on the train and catches her eye. She follows it and ends up at a little shop that sells odds and ends, and meets the owner as well as his grandson.

Shizuku also finds out that that the boy who her best friend Yuko has a crush on actually likes her instead, but she has no interest in boys at the time. She continues wanting to find Seiji and wonders if he could actually be the shop owner's grandson, and sure enough it turns out he is. While they have a little bit of a spat at first, she soon comes to like him as much as he seems to like her. He wants to become a violin maker and in a beautiful little scene he plays as she sings the song she's been translating, "Take Me Home, Country Roads", which even the grandfather and his friends join in on. It's a wonderful moment for the two, but Shizuku soon starts to doubt herself because while Seiji has all these great aspirations, she has none of the same.

So Shizuku dedicates herself to writing a story she's had in her mind ever since her imagination was captivated by the model of a cat called the Baron that she saw in the grandfather's shop. She begins to fall behind at school, but her parents decide to let her follow her heart as she tries desperately to complete her story before Seiji returns from Italy where he's gone to train to become an expert violin maker.

It might not sound that great from a description, but it's impossible to put into words the wonder and magic that touches you when you watch Whisper of the Heart. The characters are all easy to sympathise with and get behind, and it really is a real joy to just watch them as they go about their lives and try to overcome the troubles that are put in front of them.

Shizuku is a great character, wanting so much from her life but not really sure of what is the right path to take. It's wonderful to see her as she keeps growing in creativity, looking for inspiration from translating the lyrics to writing her own version of the song, and the sense of discovery in her eyes such as when she sees the Baron for the first time. Watching her grow as she interacts with Seiji is great, as initially her being upset at finding out who Seiji is, someone who isn't straight out of a fairytale like she'd hoped, is completely natural but her relationship soon develops into something more like a fairytale, when she starts to grow herself and discover what she really wants out of life.

It's Seiji's determination to want to be the best he can be that is the catalyst for Shizuku writing the book and wanting to be the best she can be, and it's hard not to root for her even as she throws her schoolwork down the drain as she works flat out to write her story. But what just caps it all perfectly is the realisation both Shizuku and Seiji come to after their journeys " they both decide they should finish high school because there's plenty of time for them to pursue their dreams in the future with the right foundations. This is just a great story to show to youngsters because it's really quite inspirational, and shows these two characters really growing up in the decisions they make. Sure, Seiji's final actions are a little sudden (and apparently are different to the original manga the movie was based on), but in the context of the story it felt right and just capped the film off beautifully in my eyes.

Given the lack of any great action sequences you might expect Whisper of the Heart to not look great, but quite the contrary; the animation is great as always from Ghibli, and while the colour palette is a little subdued it really reflects the tone of the movie and suits it perfectly. The character designs are also kept quite simple but again really fit the context of the film.

The music is also quite subdued but very good, and Disney deserve special credit for getting the rights cleared to use "Take Me Home, Country Roads" within the film and especially the dub. There was a question mark over whether this film could see the light of day in the west because of the extensive use of the song, originally performed by Olivia Newton-John, within the movie but thankfully not only is it here in the original language, but Disney have done a great job with it in the superb dub as well, with both the original song and its use and Shizuku's rewritten "Concrete Roads" version. It just fits the film and the characters' exploits so well, it's great to hear it here.

In Summary:
Whisper of the Heart might not have action or an epic story, but it's a beautiful story of young love, going for your dreams and living life to the full. It's filled with all the magic you'd expect from Studio Ghibli, who deliver another wholly fulfilling, excellent film here. It's a departure from their norm but deserves a whole lot of attention, and it's the perfect film to show young children who are struggling with the same choices the characters have to make. Highly recommended.

Features
Japanese Language (5.1),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Alternate Angle Storyboards for the Entire Film,Original Trailers,Background Artwork "The Baron's Story",Studio Ghibli Trailer Reel

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Philips DVP5100 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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