I had an idea for a new series of posts: Movie and book recommendations! It's as straightforward as it sounds. I pick a book or movie that I really like and recommend it to the world (explaining why, of course I recommend it, and giving all the necessary cautions). Anyways, enough of this introductory nonsense - to the post!
Alright, so I think it's official. Whisper of the Heart is my absolute favorite movie ever in the whole entire world. I want everyone to understand that this was not a light decision. I've literally been considering whether or not to declare this movie as my favorite for a long time (it's a big deal ok?). It is one of the best stories I have ever encountered. For those of you not familiar with it, Whisper of the Heart is an anime movie produced by Studio Ghibli (a Japanese film-making company that partners with Disney). It follows a middle school girl named Shizuku as she tries to discover both who she is and what she wants to do with her life. Shizuku lives a simple life, dominated by her love for stories and writing. One day she notices that all the library books she has have been previously checked out by the same person: 'Seiji Amasawa'. Curious as to who he is, Shizuku meets a boy her age whom she finds infuriating, but discovers to her shock that he is her 'Prince of Books'. As she grows closer to him, she realises that he merely read all those books to bring himself closer to her. The boy Seiji aspires to be a violin maker in Italy, and it is his dreams that make Shizuku realise that she has no clear path for her life. Knowing that her strength lies in writing, she tests her talents by writing a story about Baron, a cat statuette belonging to Seiji's grandfather.
The Ghibli movies are starting to gain recognition in America, but they're still not what I would call 'mainstream'. This is a pity because they're collectively some of the best movies I have ever seen. But for me Whisper of the Heart stands out as the best (most people like Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke the best, which is fine, but most people haven't actually seen this one). Now, let me tell you why I love this movie, and why you should watch it.
It’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I love the characters and the way that it looks, but mostly I love what it teaches. It teaches that the people you love should make you want to grow, to be a better person. It teaches that they should not only support you, but you should also support them. It encourages you to explore, to take risks to discover not only who you are but also who you’re capable of becoming. And, most importantly, it shows that it’s not enough just to want something - you have to put in effort to see what you have inside of you, and, once you find what you have, to not expect it to be perfect on the first go. Instead you have to polish and refine it. It’s not just a beautiful love story, it’s a story about hard work and self-discovery, a story encouraging viewers to be as braze as Shizuku and Seji (the boy playing the violin), to improve both for the ones you love and for yourself.
As both a writer and an academic this hit home particularly well. Sure the characters in the story are middle schoolers, but I (and most people I know) share in their doubts and struggles. The whole 'what if I'm not good enough,' 'I don't know what I want to do,' 'if I did know, how do I know if I could do it?' struggles that most people deal with are central to the movie's plot. It answers all those doubts and fears in a very realistic and encouraging way. The whole point is not that you can do whatever you set your mind to, but that how do you know until you try? Sometimes you can't do what you want. Sometimes you're not good enough. Sometimes you have potential, and if you have potential it's important for you to do everything you can to help it grow, to refine potential into skill, to become better. It won't be easy, but the things that are most important never are. I think we need more stories like that.
I recommend this movie for all human beings everywhere. The only slightly objectionable content occurs when Shizuku's older sister is speaking with Shizuku and is about to take a shower. We briefly see her in her bra, but the scene is not meant to be sexual, and it's a very modest bra. Other than that it's 100% safe. Another thing to note, this is a Japanese movie that takes place in Japan. It may be a little hard for Western viewers to understand everything since it takes a lot of cultural things for granted. This movie follows a western plotline pretty well, and the cultural differences shouldn't be too distracting (I say this because people in my own family were initially turned off because it wasn't what they expected). I would, however, suggest watching it in Japanese. There is an English dub, and it's a good dub, the only thing is that this movie takes place in Japan and there are several plot points that make more sense if you watch it in the original language (Shizuku is working on translating the song Country Roads by John Denver from English to Japanese). Also, the English dub slightly changes the end, and I understand why they did it, but I didn't feel like the change was faithful to the themes that the film draws out. If you've never seen a Studio Ghibli film before this is a good place to start, and if you have, it's one of their best ones. So go, take this recommendation and follow it. You're welcome.