Matching the likes of Pixar and their depictions of strong role models involved in allegorical adventures, albeit predominantly female ones, Studio Ghibli has become somewhat known for its positivity towards the importance of imagination and childhood memory,which is once again relayed here. Whereas their films are commonly known for innovative narratives and a distinctively zany atmosphere, Whisper of the Heart is a slower, more heartfelt piece that celebrates academia, education and staying true to who you really are, stressing the significance of school and the pursuit of dreams. Something of a precursor to 2002’s The Cat Returns, a prequel that explores the ornamental Baron Humbert von Jikkingen (Cary Elwes) at a more in-depth and extravagant level, the film slowly begins to break away from its calm storyline and delves into the fantasy world of Suzuku’s fictional fairy tale, where the barriers between reality and ingenuity become increasingly blurred before inevitably crashing back to normality.Teasing us with such dexterous backdrops, Kondô and Miyazaki clearly enjoyed straddling the line between actuality and fantasy, but eventually the film settles down and remembers the central romance it delicately began to weave, until suddenly ending on a warm butultimately blunt note. This is but a mere chapter in these character’s lives.
Utilising, for the first time by Ghibli, digital composition technology, which benefits the dreamy sequences of Suzuku flying through her creative dreamscapes,Whisper of the Heart looks wonderful on Blu-ray, emitting a glossy sheen that matches the pristineness of the animation. Suzuku’s hometown is constantly bathed in sunlight, complementing the hilly climate where behind every corner there lays a fascinating new neighbourhood, expressed in a scene where Suzuku follows a mysterious cat through the streets, the same cat who crops up again in The Cat Returns under the name of Muta. Although the extra content on the release is free of explicit behind the scenes material, save for a brief focus on the almost unrecognisable (save for Jean Smart and Harold Gould) English voice cast, there is more of a vested interest in the film’s artwork and visual accomplishment, one of the many highlights of Whisper of the Heart. At one stage Suzuku looks out onto the elevated horizon and excitedly claims that she feels like she is up in the sky, and watching the film on Blu-ray elicits a similar, mesmeric response.