Whisper of the Heart - Mania.com

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  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 111
  • 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 Chris Beveridge     March 02, 2006
Release Date: March 07, 2006

Whisper of the Heart
© Buena Vista Home Entertainment

What They Say
During summer vacation, a schoolgirl named Shizuku, who longs to discover her true talents, observes an ordinary-looking cat riding by himself on the train. Intrigued, she decides to follow him. This chance encounter leads her to the mysterious Seiji, a boy who is determined to follow his dreams, and the Baron, a magical cat figurine who helps her listen to the whispers in her heart. Soon, Shizuku's exciting adventures carry her far beyond the boundaries of her imagination.

The Review!
A story of finding inspiration and trying to follow through to the best of ones abilities, Whisper of the Heart is a tender yet whimsical film that tugs just right at the heart strings.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this movie in its English language adaptation. The film has 5.1 mixes for both languages which have some great moments of directionality to them for both dialogue and action effects but a large portion of the movie is based around dialogue and inner monologues so it's not the most diverse piece there is. The mix is solid when it comes into play however and it accents the story just right. We had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback of either language track.

Originally released in 1995, the transfer for this film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer for this film and the end result is simply gorgeous with one of the best looking animated presentations I've seen. Between the fluid and beautiful animation, detailed backgrounds and color choices, the materials here simply look stunning at times and are essentially flawless. In watching the film there's essentially nothing that I could really find fault with in how Disney did the presentation here. I'm tempted to say it looks even better than my memory of the Japanese release from four years ago as the authoring tools continue to mature and encoders get better.

Disney goes to the well to bring back another piece of original Japanese artwork with the full version of the theatrical poster from the film which looks far better than the Japanese release since we get it in full here. The image of the two leads together casually along with that wonderful cat lounging about is just right. The tone of the film is very much set by this relaxed look at sunset of the leads smiling at each other. The layout and design of it has always appealed and the colors and details are just spot on here. The back cover has what feels like a standard theme used for Ghibli releases with a good summary of the premise and listing of the discs features alongside a single large image from the show, this time using one from the book sequence with Shizuku and the Baron that's wonderful. The insert has the cover art from the front on one side while the reverse side has the standard chapter listings and artwork of the Baron.

The menu layout for the film is straightforward with a static image of Shizuku in the center with a fairly bland surrounding background while the navigation strip is along the bottom. It's a fairly clean and simple menu but not one that excites much. Navigation is quick and easy with fast load times (and the pre-loaded trailers are all very easily skippable) and the disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

The extras are fairly standard for what we've been getting from Disney in that there's a very enjoyable "Behind the Microphone" featurette that talks with the voice actors about their roles and thoughts on seeing Ghibli material often for the first time. There's also a section for trailers and TV spots on the main disc while the second disc is the storyboards version of the film.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The story to Whisper of the Heart is one that in the end is very simple, and many people will find to be very predictable, probably even from just the first couple of minutes. While I agree that this is true, it also makes it a film that's going to be new to the younger generation of viewers, those who haven't seen this kind of story told many times before. For them, this may well be their first real magical journey into a story about first loves and challenging yourself to achieve something for that first love.

The story focuses on a few junior high school students, with Shizuku being the lead character. She's a strong willed girl and one with a thirst to do things, as evidenced early on as we see her reading something like twenty books prior to returning to school from break. Her father works in the library while her mother is doing the apparently rare thing of going back to get her masters degree in college. Their house is filled from top to bottom with books, and she shares her room with her older sister.

What Shizuku is looking for in her life is the beginning of a story. While she does do things with her friends, such as helping to translate a song which becomes the foundation of the movie, and coming up with a parody of it as well, she seems to be a bit more solitary than the others. She is somewhat outgoing though, as she does go along in singing Country Road with her friend Harada. A lot of the time spent with her school friends revolves around who looks who and the way some people just can't see how much someone may like them.

What starts the adventure Shizuku is looking for is when a cat gets on board the train with some purpose, and she follows it off at the same stop, leading her eventually to a small shop within a house where expensive looking trinkets are sold. It's here that we meet the Baron, a somewhat melancholic cat statue that becomes the focus of fascination for Shizuku. This ties in with her search for the person whose reading the same books as her, something that becomes a strong urge within her. These two things bring her to what may be her first love, but as with many relationships, there's something that may keep them apart.

One of the more amusing aspects of this movie, especially for first time viewers, is the use of the Country Roads song. My wife, having grown up in the area where it's something that's almost second nature to know the lyrics for the whole thing, was surprised to hear it here, and to hear it in Japanese of course. Their amusing Tokyo version, "Concrete Roads" is hilarious though. The original music for the movie is very good though and adds a great subtle feel to things.

The English language production of the show is very similar to most of the other ones that Disney has done in that it feels very high quality and one that did a very good job of keeping to the original script and really only straying in a very minor way when dealing with the songs simply because of the differences in how language works. I was extremely happy that they didn't have to replace the "Country Roads" song for it since that was always a fear and the English version of "Concrete Roads" keeps much of the original feel to it while adapting for the English language itself. The actors in for this dub are the kind that show my age as they're pretty much unknowns for me but I'm guessing that they're fairly active on the Disney circuit of TV shows and other areas. They all do good jobs and Brittany Snow carries the lead quite well. What made me the happiest though is that Cary Elwes was able to come back and put in for the Baron once more, giving it some great continuity with The Cat Returns.

In Summary:
Whisper of the Heart seems to warm my own heart every time I see it and this time was no exception. Each new viewing brings something new to it and this one had me with both daughters, now much older than the first viewing back in 2002, sitting with me and still being just as enraptured by it as before but now able to actually understand the dialogue. The film has a wonderful charm about it with how Shizuku goes through trying to deal with feeling like she can't live up to the life that Seiji will lead. This is a wonderful cast of characters with quite a lot of personality that live in a town where there's literally magic around each corner and new discoveries to be found. This is a film that will always have special meaning to me and each new viewing only makes it all the more enjoyable.

Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,English Captions,Behind the Microphone,Trailers and TV Spots,Original Storyboards

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI set to 480p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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