Whisper of the Heart follows Shizuku, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood as she learns to realize her talents and follow her dreams. She harbors deep admiration for Seiji, a mysterious young man, who shares a strange kinship with her that soon blossoms into love. From the start, Shizuku isn’t sure who she is. She indulges in songwriting and reading. It’s the latter hobby that first links her to Seiji. She starts to notice his name in the histories for every library book she checks out. It seems he’s always …ne step ahead of her, and this observation soon turns to fascination. Once she meets Seiji, her fascination becomes something more. Through their ensuing relationship, Shizuku takes her interests and turns them into dreams. She learns those that never try are the only true failures, and she decides to become what she loves, rather than one, who takes part in hobbies of no consequence.
While Whisper of the Heart is an animated film, it has a head on its shoulders that far surpasses most mainstream films today. It’s likely the narrative will draw in adults more than the little ones – despite the G rating – but there is still something here for children… just not all children. It’s safe to say kids will have to be more advanced to enjoy and understand the depth and layers of this film. Shorter on fantasy than Spirited Away, Whisper carries with it a lot more intelligence than that earlier feature from the same creators. This film, instead of being strictly for kids, is instead for those on the verge of determining their interests and realizing those attributes and preferences can be cultivated into a way of life. Those are the children this film really speaks to. And if you’re an adult like me – the kind that didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, even as he stood up to accept his college diploma – then Whisper of the Heart will speak to you, too.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic presentation is a colorful transfer as bright and optimistic as the film itself. There isn’t much use for blacks in this particular case, but when they do appear, they run with a depth and competence visible in most of the brighter scenes. Also void of edge enhancement, there isn’t much room for complaints with the spectacular job Disney has done bringing this title to home video.
Available tracks are the Japanese and English 5.1 surrounds, and both of these sound magnificent. The dialogue and bass levels enjoy a high level of volume and stability, and the soundtrack is charming, though lagging in variety. I mean, there are only so many times – and ways – that one can listen to John Denver’s “Country Roads” song – and the Japanese version at the end credits could have really been disposed of with no complaints from this viewer.
The meat and potatoes of this release is the documentary feature Behind the Microphone, which takes viewers inside the film with voice talent and crew. This featurette strips away some of the magic, but it’s still worthwhile, especially for those with an interest in filmmaking. Another nice touch is the original storyboards feature, which plays to the tune of the film’s soundtrack. Also included: the Japanese trailer and TV spots.
Whisper of the Heart is further proof of anime’s usefulness in the field of cinema, as the filmmakers (and this includes animators) have united for a coming-of-age tale sure to find its place in the hearts of more inquisitive, advanced children. Adults will like it, too, and perhaps even learn something along the way. The astounding A/V and the bucket of bonus materials make a purchase well worth while… just make sure your child has the sensibility for this kind of film, or their minds will inevitably wander… and this is one family film that deserves so much better from its audience.
Special Features List
- Behind the Microphone with Voice Talent From the Film, Including Brittany Snow, Courtney Thorne-Smith, David Gallagher and Cary Elwes
- Original Storyboards
- Trailers and TV Spots