Studio Ghibli films really do a great job with expressing emotion and the trials and tribulations that young people go through. Whisper of the Heart is no different.
A chance encounter with a mysterious cat sends Shizuku, a quiet schoolgirl, on a quest for her true talent. Challenged by Seiji, a boy determined to follow his dreams, and enchanted by The Baron, a magical cat figurine who helps her listen to the whispers of her heart, Shizuku embarks on curious adventures beyond the boundaries of her imagination.
While I know people consider this film one of Miyazaki's best stories, it does fade a bit in the middle. Building up Shizuku's character to the point where she's fragile and pretty much on the edge of her life, takes some time. You don't truly get the beef of this film until about the hour and a half mark. Of course, you can look at it two ways. It might have been on purpose or the story really was a bit lost somewhere. For me, I feel like the trip with Shizuku is a worthwhile one and on purpose. Miyazaki, much like the Baron's statue, has carefully crafted Shizuku's character into a girl that is trying to truly figure out what she wants to do with her life. Anyone who has turned 13 before (hopefully everyone reading this) knows what it feels like when your body is changing and you're starting that confusing journey of where you want to end up after school; or even if you want to go to school. Chemicals are changing, life is getting hectic and it's tough. Miyazaki does a great job crafting this emotional package with his main character.
Having said that, the film really isn't as 'magical' as say a Kiki's Delivery Service or Spirited Away. This story is certainly more grounded despite the appearance of the Baron towards the end of the film. That might be the reason why this probably didn't speak to me as well as the other films. First, I'm not a girl. Second, it's been a long time since I've been a teenager, so relating to the main character is difficult. I can see how this would work for a young lady, who is in the same exact spot as Shizuku. I have three daughters and the oldest is starting to go through the exact same emotional changes as Miyazaki's main character. She's filtering through what she wants to focus on in life and it's important for her, if not vital. She loved this film.
Anyway, the film, while it does drag in the middle, is pretty darn good. If you like Miyazaki movies then you should check it out. It's definitely worth a go.
On the Blu-ray side of this release, Disney and Ghibli did a fantastic job with cleaning this film up and transferring it to HD. There are occasions where the film gets a little grainy, but for the most part the transfer was very solid. Ponyo is still the yardstick for HD movies from Miyazaki, and Whisper of the Heart came close. The colors in the animation were quite vivid, with solid focuses on heavy reds and yellows. Again, this is a very solid HD transfer of the film and one of the better animated transfers I've seen that doesn't have 'Platinum Edition' attached to it.
As for the audio, you get both the English and Japanese audio coming in at 5.1 DTS-HD. So, for all you subtitle loving folks, you get the same quality from both languages. The aspect ratio of the film comes in at 1.85:10.
Finally, the features are okay, and enough for this release. Here's what you should expect:
- Four Masterpieces of Naohisa Inoue
- Original Japanese Storyboards
- Behind the Microphone
- Trailers and TV spots
While I've never been a huge fan of storyboards, the featurette o Naohisa Inoue is amazing. The Behind the Microphone is pretty good too, as you see some of the voice talent behind the American release. Not a bad set of features for Whisper of the Heart's HD debut.