A 1995 Studio Ghibli film, originally titled Mimi o Sumaseba (耳をすませば — "If You Listen Closely").
Book-loving junior high school student Shizuku Tsukishima notices someone named Seiji Amasawa has previously checked out all of her library books. While she's intrigued by the notion of a boy who shares her tastes in literature she's got to get cracking if she wants to achieve her goal of reading 30 books over summer vacation. So she sets out for school to meet a friend and chivy a teacher into letting her borrow yet another book from the library. Still, Shizuku can't help wondering just who Seiji Amasawa might be. Hopefully he isn't anything like that annoying boy who poked fun at her song lyrics.
The next day Shizuku spots a cat riding the train. Intrigued, she follows it to an antique shop owned by a kindly old man named Nishi where she finds a striking cat figurine dressed in formal wear that Mr. Nishi calls the Baron. When Shizuku returns to the shop hoping to see the Baron again she learns that the annoying boy is not only Nishi-san's grandson, he's also Seiji Amasawa! Seiji may not be anything like she imagined but he's very passionate about making violins and Shizuku is soon smitten by his enthusiasm. And when he tells her that he'd been deliberately checking out books hoping to make her notice him...
Subplots include the trials of junior high romance for Shizuku's friends and Shizuku's efforts to translate John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" into a Japanese version for her school's chorus club. The movie is bookended by Olivia Newton-John's 1973 cover version (which was a big hit in Japan) and the film's Japanese version, sung by Yoko Honna.
Based on a manga by Aoi Hiiragi, serialized in Ribon Original magazine. Whisper of the Heart was the masterwork of Yoshifumi Kondo, who was widely expected to become the first of a new generation of Studio Ghibli directors before his premature death from a brain aneurysm in 1998. It is also the first Japanese film to be released in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound.
Whisper of the Heart provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: The original manga had both Tsukishima sisters in romantic relationships with two Amasawa brothers.
- Aesop: Following your dream is more important than following convention (Seiji) but sometimes the best way to follow your dream is by following convention. (Shizuku)
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Shizuku and Seiji, with Shizuku being the Type B Tsundere (dere dere) and Seiji being the Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Harada and Sugimura can be seen walking together over the credits.
- Cool Big Sis: Averted; Shizuku's college-aged sister Shiho obviously cares about her little sister, but she's very, very bossy.
- Covers Always Lie: In the same vein of Never Trust a Trailer, the back of the Disney DVD box heavily implies that this is another Ghibli fantasy film. There's a picture from her fantasy writing, along with the description of Seiji being "mysterious" and the Baron being "a magical cat figurine who helps [Shizuku] listen to the whispers in her heart. Soon, Shizuku's exciting adventures carry her far beyond the boundaries of her imagination." Metaphorically speaking, yes, you could say that. But literally is what the box is trying to sell.
- Cute Bookworm: Why, the main couple.
- Dogged Nice Guy: You find out in the latter half of the film that Seiji had always admired Shizuku from afar and had borrowed all of the fantasy books in the library in an attempt to make her notice him.
- Follow the White Rabbit: Shizuku follows the cat across town.
- "Friends" Rent Control: A rare aversion, the apartment Shizuku lives in is cramped and cluttered with Shizuku sharing bunk beds with her twenty-something sister for most of the movie
- Ghibli Hills: Aversion - the story is deliberately linked to Tokyo: in fact, it's set in the very same Tama New Town development the forest creatures tried to halt in Pom Poko. Shizuku even acknowledges this by writing a parody of Country Roads called "Concrete Roads".
- He Is Not My Boyfriend: Shizuku on the subject of Seiji.
- Heroic BSoD: Shizuku goes through a major one when she realizes that Sugimura has a crush on her.
- In Defence Of Story Telling: Shizuku's decision to pursue her writing at the expense of her grades. Deconstructed, since Shizuku's family all warn her that she's slowly but surely wrecking her future (in the meantime, she's also poisoning her relationships as she isolates herself and gets into arguments with her family).
- Living in a Furniture Store: A rare animated aversion, the Tsukishimas' apartment is extremely cluttered.
- Love Dodecahedron: Harada likes Sugimura, who likes Shizuku, who eventually falls in love with Seiji and vice versa, and some unnamed boy on the baseball team likes Harada. It's resolved in the end with the Official Couple being (obviously) Shizuku and Seiji, and it's implied in the credits that Sugimura eventually reciprocates Harada's feelings. (In the meantime, Shizuku's big sis is sending love letters to an unknown recipient).
- Love Informant: Harada uses Shizuku to confess her love to Sugimura. Unfortunately, Sugimura likes Shizuku, who is starting to like Seiji.
- Love Letter Lunacy: Played for tears in an important subplot.
- Missing Mom: A very mild case; Shizuku's mother is present, just distracted.
- Mood Dissonance: Several emotional scenes are strung together, including the old man dreaming fondly of the lost love from his youth. This moment is rudely interrupted by a smoldering log splitting in his fireplace, causing him to wake up.
- Never Trust a Trailer: Much of the trailers and cover Art are taken from a short fantasy sequence illustrating Shizuku's story. Possibly an attempt to make this movie seem like the other fantasy films from Ghibli.
- Oblivious to Love: Shizuku had no idea Sugimura had a crush on her and is devastated when he reveals it.
- Open-Minded Parent: Shizuku's parents accept her penchant for writing very easily. Shiho is the one who's more dismayed, actually.
- Plucky Girl: Shizuku, of course.
- Product Placement: In the background, as Shizuku was aboard in the train, the Panasonic sign goes by.
- And another one is a Coke can on the ground, which had the privilege to be closed up, along with Shizuku's footsteps.
- Scenery Porn: Up to Eleven, even as the girls lament the loss of Ghibli Hills.
- Shout-Out: Jiji and Totoro can both be seen, on the shelves in the fantasy dollmaker's shop, and Shizuku has a witch ornament hanging from her bookshelf (though it doesn't look like Kiki). The grandfather clock in Mr. Nishi's shop, has Porco Rosso emblazoned on the dial.
- Not to mention the blimp in the panorama of Tokyo with the word "Ghibli" emblazoned on it.
- Show Within a Show: A major subplot is Shizuku trying to write a fantasy novel, and the scenes she works on are shown on screen, just as she imagines them.
- Slice of Life
- Spin-Off: The fantasy novel Shizuku writes would eventually serve as the inspiration for The Cat Returns, which features both the Baron and a large cat named Muta (who is chased through the streets by a Japanese schoolgirl).
- Write What You Know: In-Universe: Shizuku struggles with her translation of "Country Roads" — she is a city girl, after all — and her first attempt, comes out as a storm of clichés. Her "Concrete Roads" parody, on the other hand — "Western Tokyo, Mount Tama..." is spot on, and very funny. Her final version ditches the whole going back to the country motif, and is instead about choosing one's road in life.