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Tag Archive: Whisper of the Heart


Review by C.J. Bunce

Hayao Miyazaki’s Whisper of the Heart may be the anime master’s most heart-warming story.  Based on the 1989 manga by artist Aoi Hiiragi, Whisper of the Heart is a 1995 romance and drama about a teenage girl who wants to be a writer, and with the determination and self-discipline necessary, she is successful at completing her first novel.  The story within a story that she writes is about an ornamental cat in a store window that she names The Baron.  In a fun twist, Hiiragi wrote the girl’s story into another manga, titled The Cat’s Repayment, and that story was adapted into Studio Ghibli’s 2002 anime film The Cat Returns.  “The Cat” returned to theaters this week as part of the Fathom Events series and Studio Ghibli Fest 2018, and has its final screening at theaters nationwide Wednesday evening, April 25, 2018, at 7 p.m. local time.  Find theater information and order tickets here.

This month’s release of Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs was inspired by the anime films of Studio Ghibli, and you can see the influences from The Cat Returns in particular.  The Cat Returns is a much lighter film with none of the violence of Isle of Dogs.  It has rightly been referred to as “delightful,” “sweet,” and “cute.”  Its appeal for cat fans is the sincerity and authenticity of director Hiroyuki Morita (Akira, Perfect Blue, My Neighbors the Yamadas), and his use of real cats for some of the cat dialogue.  The story centers on a high school student named Haru.  When Haru rescues a cat in the road from an oncoming truck, the cat stands upright and speaks to thank her, and she soon learns he is a cat prince whose father the Cat King grants her the blessing of total happiness.  She finds she could always hear and communicate with cats, but lost that sense years ago.  Cats from the kingdom pile on the gifts, not realizing people don’t like mice and catnip as much as cats, and when the gifts and rewards get too great and the Cat King goes overboard, she is helped by a well-dressed cat at the Cat Business Office–The Baron.

Haru meets a rather skeptical, rotund, white cat along the way named Muta, who is possibly the finest, most realistic cat ever translated to film.  Soon the Cat King determines Haru should marry his son, and Haru, The Baron, and Muta embark on an escape from the palace through a labyrinthine maze.  Studio Ghibli, with creators Miyazaki and Morita, have visually presented the most believable cats in their numerous productions over the decades.  In The Cat Returns the characters are not so much photo-real as in Miyazaki’s directorial efforts (here he serves as executive producer), yet the charming story is truly everything any cat lover will love.  It is also filled with good humor, an engaging fantasy story, and lots of silliness that both kids and adults will appreciate.

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Only Yesterday

One of our favorite anime films out of Studio Ghibli is the film Whisper of the Heart, a romantic drama written by the great Hayao Miyazaki, based on a 1989 manga.  The 1991 Japanese hit Only Yesterday has been compared to Whisper of the Heart in its theme and more mature target audience.  Only Yesterday is a groundbreaking anime film, a realistic drama for adults, centered around women characters, unique for the time and the medium.   And now after twenty-five years, for the first time American audiences have access to the film with its U.S. release this week on DVD and Blu-ray.

Fans of Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley who can’t wait to see what’s next for the young actress will want to jump on the new release, as Ridley voices the lead role.  Other actors dubbed into the 2016 version include Dev Patel (Chappie, The Last Airbender, The Newsroom) and Ashley Eckstein (Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars Rebels).

Only Yesterday clip

Only Yesterday is surprisingly slow to arrive as an English version particularly since it is a stand-out among Studio Ghibli films.  Only Yesterday was the #1 highest grossing movie in Japan in its first year of release, netting nearly $2 billion.  Miyazaki served as a producer, and the film was directed by the Academy Award-nominated Isao Takahata.  With this week’s release Studio Ghibli completists can add the only remaining film from the studio to make it into their home viewing collections.

Check out this preview of Only Yesterday:

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