“Almost heaven, West Virginia. Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River. Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze.”
This week, there were a ton of interruptions during my Monday anime viewing. It took me about four hours to get through this 2-hour movie. And then, it was much later than my normal viewing time, and I’ve been non-stop busy ever since. So, I’m just now getting around to updating my blog on this week’s Miyazaki Monday film: Whisper of the Heart. Here goes:
So, I’m from West Virginia. It’s a safe state, a gorgeous state, a quiet and antiquated kind of state, the state where my family lives … but for various reasons, I’ve never had an overabundance of state pride. That is, with the firm exception of every time that John Denver’s “Country Roads” comes on the radio. That song, for whatever reason, just makes me swell with gladness.
So when I first watched Whisper of the Heart and heard Olivia Newton John singing that song over the opening credits, I was all at once filled with the aforementioned gladness, along with the rapturous hilarity of that song’s being essentially the theme song to a thoroughly Japanese animated film. I knew that this film would either be an incredible viewing experience or an utter disaster. And, for me, it did not disappoint — not the first time, nor this time.
Now, it must be stated that Whisper of the Heart is probably not for everyone. Indeed, I don’t actually know how to evaluate it apart from my personal biases, because it is so very reminiscent of my early life and of my naive, self-effacing, cat-loving, creatively-aspiring, shy, awkward, bookish, eight-grade self. (Okay, and yes, a good part of that self still remains, firmly but cozily nestled in the — quite commodious — childlike part of my nature.) Because not only did the song of my state, of my past, and of my reminiscence tie the film closely to my heart from the first moment, but also the story proceeded to introduce:
1) A grumpy, overweight, meandering, adorable cat
2) A fantastical antique shop
3) An intense love for literature (particularly fairy tales)
4) A sheepish, often-suppressed, yet persistent desire to write or create
5) An inspirational cat statue, called the Baron, with a deeply romantic history
6) An understated longing for trees and hills and open spaces
I could go on, but you see, unless you happened to be just like me, as I was in eighth grade, you’d probably get bored with lists of things that only seem significant to me. Similarly, if none of this post whatsoever has made any sense to you (I wouldn’t blame you — it’s all over the place this week!), you might find yourself also disliking Whisper of the Heart. So, I’m going to move on to the hard facts, the relatable parts, and you can decide if it’s worth a viewing.
First off, it’s written by Hayao Miyazaki, so that’s an automatic point in its favor … but, he didn’t direct the film, so it does stray from typical Miyazaki fare somewhat in tone and quality. The music is not Hisaishi, so that’s a strike … but, it is quite delightful nonetheless. In particular, the impromptu folk jam session (picture above) is wonderfully joyous. There aren’t many recognizable big-ticket names on the list of English voice actors, with the exception of the perfectly-cast Cary Elwes as the Baron.
So, Pros: Lovely music, if you’re okay with hearing “Country Roads” about a hundred times … which I am. Decent if not recognizable voice acting. Beautiful Ghibli-quality animation. A fun and adventurous and deeply relatable story, for some. Did I mention the impropmtu folk jam session? Yeah, cause moments like that should happen in real life. Cats. Enough said.
Cons: If you’re not me, you might not like this film. Preeeeeettttty cheesy and over-sentimentalized and juvenile. Eighth-grade love story (Ghilbli has an awkward habit of making films about little kids falling in love). Could be considered slow and shallow by some.
I really don’t know how to rate this one, so …. for normal people, maybe ** to *** … for my taste: **** out of ***** 😀