Whisper of the Heart (Japanese:, Hepburn: Mimi o Sumaseba, literally "If You Listen Closely") is a 1995 Japanese animated musical coming-of-age romantic drama film directed by Yoshifumi Kondō and written by Hayao Miyazaki based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Aoi Hiiragi. It was animated by Studio Ghibli for Tokuma Shoten, Nippon Television Network and Hakuhodo. The film stars Yoko Honna, Issei Takahashi, Takashi Tachibana, Shigeru Muroi, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi and Keiju Kobayashi. Whisper of the Heart was Kondō's only film as director before his death in 1998. Studio Ghibli had hoped that Kond would become the successor to Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. A spinoff film, The Cat Returns, was released in 2002, which focused on a minor character of the film, the Baron. Shizuku Tsukishima is a 14-year-old girl who attends Mukaihara Junior High School, where she is best friends with Yūko Harada. She lives in a Tokyo suburb with her parents Asako, Seiya and older sister Shiho, and is keen on reading books, particularly fairy tales. One summer evening, she looks through the checkout cards in her library books and discovers they were all checked out previously by someone named Seiji Amasawa.
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Shizuku meets Yūko at the school and reveals "Concrete Roads," her "Take Me Home, Country Roads" parody written for the school graduation and criticizing the deforestation of Tama New Town. Yūko reveals that she has a crush on a boy named Sugimura, who happens to be Shizuku's friend. Yūko and Shizuku walk home when she realizes she left her book at the school. She runs back to discover a boy reading her book which he returns, but not without teasing her and slighting her lyrics, which leaves her feeling irritable for the rest of the evening. On the next day, while on her way to the library to deliver her father's lunch to him, Shizuku encounters a peculiar cat commuting on the train, and follows it to discover an antique shop run by Shirō Nishi. In the shop there is a cat statuette nicknamed The Baron as well as a centuries old antique clock. Realizing she's late for the library, Shizuku runs out feeling ecstatic about finding "a place where stories begin", only to run into the boy she had met the previous day, who returns the lunchbox she left behind.
Days after, Seiji leaves for Cremona, Italy for a two-month study with a master violin-maker.
He comments on how much food is in the box and rides away, singing her song, leaving Shizuku in another foul mood. When school restarts, Yūko is devastated when Sugimura asks her to reply to a love letter his teammate sent. Shizuku confronts Sugimura and scolds him for his actions, only for him to reveal he had a crush on her. However, she rejects him in order to not hurt Yūko. Shizuku leaves feeling leveled. Feeling disconsolate, Shizuku decides to head to the antique shop, meeting the boy once more. He shows her the workshop, where she discovers that he is learning to make violins to pursue his dream of becoming a master luthier. She begs him to play the violin for her, but he agrees on the condition that she sings along. The pair perform "Take Me Home, Country Roads" as it was adapted by Shizuku for her graduation. The boy is revealed to be Seiji, Nishi's grandson, and Shizuku and Seiji finally befriend each other. Seiji admits that he admires Shizuku's talents, and reveals his dream to become a luthier, as well as his efforts of checking out a large number of books in the hopes that she would eventually notice him. Days after, Seiji leaves for Cremona, Italy for a two-month study with a master violin-maker. Inspired by Seiji, Shizuku decides to pursue her skill for writing seriously in the same two months.
As she continues to push herself and Shiho tells her that she is moving out, her anxiety mounts.
She asks Nishi if she can write a story featuring the Baron, to which Nishi grants his consent in exchange for being the first to read her story. Shizuku concocts a fantasy story called "Whisper of the Heart", featuring herself as the protagonist, the Baron as the male hero looking for his lost love, Louise, and the cat from the train (a neighborhood stray who is, among other names, known as "Moon" and "Muta") as the antagonist. Devoting her time to her writing, Shizuku stays up until early in the morning, and her school grades drop. She argues with Shiho over her grades and future, but their parents tell Shizuku to continue her dream but that the path will be difficult. As she continues to push herself and Shiho tells her that she is moving out, her anxiety mounts. When her story is complete, Nishi reads it and gives his honest assessment, which is that Shizuku is talented, but requires refinement through practice. Shizuku bursts into tears as the stress of the last two months turns into relief. Nishi consoles her and tells her the real-life story of the Baron. When he studied in Germany in his youth, he found his first love, a woman named Louise. Nishi discovered the twin statuettes of the Baron and his female companion in a cafe, but as the female one was away for repairs, the shopkeeper would only allow Nishi to buy the Baron if Louise agreed to hold onto its companion so they could be reunited.
However, the two lovers and their cat statues were separated during World War II, and could not find each other after the war ended. Nishi then thanks Shizuku for bringing life to what used to be just a memory for him. In the original Japanese script, Shizuku never knew of the truth of the Baron's origin or of Louise, and Seiji earlier tells her that his grandfather refuses to speak of it. This makes Shizuku's inclusion of Louise in the story a tremendous coincidence, or something else. In the English dub, Seiji's dialogue is changed and he briefly tells her about Louise. Deciding she needs to learn more about writing, and that she wants to attend high school, Shizuku announces to her mother that she will resume studying for her high school entrance exams. Shizuku wakes up early in the morning and sees Seiji outside on his bicycle, having returned a day earlier.
In the English dub, Seiji tells Shizuku he decided to finish high school before returning to Cremona to become a luthier, differing from the Japanese dialogue, in which he says he will return to Cremona after middle school graduation as planned. Seiji takes Shizuku on his bike to his hidden lookout, where they watch the sunrise. Seiji professes his love for Shizuku and proposes that they marry in the future; she happily accepts. Shizuku's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" plays over the ending credits while daily life in her hometown is observed, including Yūko and Sugimura meeting up on the way home from school. For the English dub, Cary Elwes reprized his role as the Baron from The Cat Returns: while The Cat Returns is a spin-off of Whisper of the Heart, its English dub was produced before the latter film saw an American release. Whisper of the Heart was based on the manga Mimi o Sumaseba which was originally created by Aoi Hiiragi. A second manga by the same author titled Mimi o Sumaseba: Shiawase na Jikan was serialized in Shueisha's Ribon Original in August 1995 and released in a single volume on February 20, 1996. A spiritual sequel to this film adaptation, The Cat Returns, was turned back into a manga by Aoi Hiiragi, under the name Baron: Neko no Danshaku. During production, the backgrounds in the fantasy sequences of the film were drawn by Naohisa Inoue and the woodcut of the imprisoned violin-maker was created by Miyazaki's son Keisuke Miyazaki, a professional engraver. The film score of Whisper of the Heart was composed by Yuji Nomi.
At times during the film, Shizuku translates John Denver's song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" to Japanese for her school's chorus club. She writes her own humorous Japanese version of the song, called "Concrete Road," about her hometown in western Tokyo. The songs were actually translated by producer Toshio Suzuki's daughter Mamiko with Hayao Miyazaki writing supplemental lyrics. These songs play a role at points in the story. A recording of "Take Me Home, Country Roads," performed by Olivia Newton-John, plays during the film's opening sequence. The song was also performed by Shizuku's voice actress Yoko Honna. The movie is set around Seiseki-Sakuragaoka station in Tama city, Tokyo, where Shizuku goes up and down stairs and where she and Seiji declare their love on top of the hill near the station. There are paper fortunes at the shrine where this scene takes place. There are three shops where fans of the movie go to meet. Whisper of the Heart was released in Japan on July 15, 1995, as the first film in the country to use the Dolby Digital sound format. It was shown alongside the music video On Your Mark for the song by Chage and Aska. The film was released on VHS and Laserdisc by Tokuma Shoten in January 1996, and the VHS was later reissued by Buena Vista Home Entertainment Japan on July 25, 1997 as part of the "Ghibli ga Ippai" series.
On July 20, 2011, Walt Disney Studios Japan released the movie on Blu-Ray. An English dub of this film was produced by Walt Disney Pictures in 2003, but it wouldn't be released until March 7, 2006, when it came out on DVD. The reason for the long delay was due to rights issues surrounding "Take Me Home, Country Roads", as it's a major plot point in the movie. The English title, Whisper of the Heart, was created by Studio Ghibli and used on several officially licensed "character goods" released around the same time as the film was released in theaters in Japan. The North American Blu-ray was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on May 22, 2012, alongside Castle in the Sky and The Secret World of Arrietty. GKIDS & Shouts! Factory re-issued the film on Blu-ray and DVD on January 16, 2018 under a new deal with Studio Ghibli. 3.15 billion in total box office revenue. It grossed $34.9 million worldwide. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 75 out of 100 based on 4 critic reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Time Out London included Whisper of the Heart in their Top 50 Animated Film list. It was also included in Film4's Top 25 Animated Film list. General producer and screenwriter Hayao Miyazaki defended the film's ending, saying that it was his idea. Over the course of the film, Shizuku is working on a fantasy novel that revolves around a cat figurine, named The Baron, which she discovers in Mr.
Nishi's antique store. In 2002, Studio Ghibli produced a spin-off film The Cat Returns, directed by Hiroyuki Morita and again featuring The Baron, and the stray cat, Muta, in the film. Later on, Muta and the crow (Toto, who is friends with him and the Baron) seem to appear in The Secret World of Arrietty as two skirmishing animals. In January 2020, Sony Pictures Entertainment announced that there will be a live-action sequel. The film will star Nana Seino as Shizuku and Tori Matsuzaka as Seiji. Yūichir Hirakawa will direct. It is scheduled to be released on October 14, 2022, after being postponed from its original release date of September 2020 due to the pandemic.! .PLUS (Cinemas PLUS) (in Japanese). Lund, Evie (November 18, 2014). "Ghibli background artist Naohisa Inoue's painting technique is out of this world". Take Me Home, Country Roads" (Kyarypamyupamyu)". Carolyn Giardina (July 17, 2017). "Gkids, Studio Ghibli Ink Home Entertainment Deal". Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Klady, Leonard (February 19, 1996). "BO with a vengeance: $9.1 billion worldwide". Cavallaro, Dani (2006). The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki. McFarland & Co. p. Pineda, Rafael Antonio (January 13, 2020). "Whisper of the Heart Manga Gets Live-Action Film Sequel After Inspiring Ghibli Anime". Baseel, Casey (January 17, 2020). "Ghibli anime 'Whisper of the Heart' is getting a live-action sequel film".