Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.
I recently re-watched one of my favorite Studio Ghibli movies, Whisper of the Heart, and found the manga it was based off of online, written by Aoi Hiiragi. Below I’ll review both the movie and the manga, in the order I experienced them.
Whisper of the Heart (1995) production by Studio Ghibli, directed by Yoshifumi Kondō.
Rating: 4.5 stars
I’ve described this movie once before on an earlier post about the article/poem Date a Girl Who Reads by Rosemarie Urquico. Here is what I wrote:
…my new favorite movie, Whisper of the Heart, which is a Studio Ghibli animated children’s movie about a fourteen-year-old girl, Shizuku, who loves to read, and discovers that all the books she takes out of the library have already been taken out by the mysterious Seiji Amasawa. She becomes friends with this boy whose dream is to go to Italy to learn how to make violins. Shizuku is jealous that Seiji already knows what he wants from life, and decides that she will test her own talents by writing a novel about the peculiar cat statue she found in Seiji’s grandfather’s antique shop. I felt very connected to this adorable romantic movie about a girl who reads and writes and is conflicted about her future.
This beautifully animated movie is very similar to Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and other favorites directed by Hayao Miyazaki (he did not direct this movie, but it is written by him). The animation is identical, and the plot is just as heart-wrenching and sweet. However, the character’s lines and the unrealistic plot speed does make Whisper of the Heart quite a bit cheesier than Studio Ghibli’s other movies (well, perhaps excluding Kate’s favorite From Up on Poppy Hill).
Whisper of the Heart/If You Listen Closely (Mimi O Sumaseba) by Aoi Hiiragi
Rating: 4 stars
Genres: Manga, Realistic Fiction (with themes of fantasy), Japanese culture
Shizuku Tsukishima loves books. One day, she notices that the name Seiji Amasawa appears on the checkout cards of nearly every book she’s borrowed. Before she realizes it, her heart is pounding for a boy she’s never met…and that’s when a mysterious black cat and Shizuku’s sense of wonder guide her to an unusual shop-and introduce her to someone she’s been curious to meet. Amazing things can happen…when you listen to your heart.
The manga begins nearly the exact same way as the movie, but after that they run in quite different directions. (Minor spoilers, but also warnings – don’t expect the movie!) There is a character the movie leaves out entirely, Kouji Amasawa, brother to Seiji. In addition, the “antiques store” has a name: The Earth Shop, which is first spelled as “pohS htraE,” but never again after that first time. However, the largest change is in the fact that Seiji doesn’t play or make violins, but is a painter instead. Therefore, he doesn’t ever leave for an apprenticeship, but remains the entire time. This makes the plot seem to move much faster, and the romance therefore seem much less realistic (but it’s not as if the romance in the movie is very realistic, either!).
In addition, although I did really enjoy the mange illustrations, especially since it is clear how amazing Studio Ghibli’s talent for re-creation is since they look nearly identical, they seemed much younger and more casual in style. The characters were often drawn in funny ways to show their moods, which might just be the style, but made them seem less serious and therefore harder to take their feelings seriously.
I think Studio Ghibli did a fantastic job of making the book even better, while maintaining the core ideas and settings. I’d recommend watching the movie, and if you love it enough (as I did), give the manga a try! It was nice to be able to re-live the story in a different media, and overall I did enjoy reading the manga version.