With the booming success of The Boy and the Heron still sitting in the public eye, Studio Ghibli’s name only continues to grow. People are revisiting old favorites such as Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away to reminisce about the fantastical worlds that Ghibli writers never fail to create. Hayao Miyazaki and his fellow Ghibli directors are known for taking an idea that most people could never even imagine and bringing it to life on the big screen. Fictional creatures like No Face, Totoro, and Calcifer, although not traditional animal or alien characters, are known globally for their fun designs and personal charm. If there’s one thing Studio Ghibli is known for, it’s their ability to create amazing fantasy worlds. So why is it that my favorite Studio Ghibli film takes place in our own mundane world?
Whisper of the Heart is a 1995 Studio Ghibli Film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, who was set to be Hayao Miyazaki’s successor before he unfortunately passed away. The story takes place in modern day Tokyo, following a young book obsessed girl named Shizuku as she navigates her final year of middle school and finds herself growing close to a passionate violinist in her year named Seiji. After Seiji and Shizuku perform the most adorable duet of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Shizuku finds herself envying Seiji for having such a deep passion for violins. When he leaves to Italy to train as a violin maker, she challenges herself to find her own passion, and the way she decides to do that is writing an entire novel in just three months.
That challenge made me laugh. If that isn’t the most teenage mindset I’ve heard of, then I don’t know what is. As silly as it seems to write a book in three months, though, Shizuku’s journey actually serves as a beautiful way for her to discover how much she loves writing. In the end, Shizuku does end up completing her book. For three months, she does nothing but write, even if that means neglecting her school work and personal care. When she presents her novel to Seiji’s grandfather, who she promised could be the first reader, she refuses to stand in the room while he reads it, a sentiment I’m all too familiar with.
I know that heart pounding anxiety of presenting something you worked so hard on and put so much of yourself into to someone who you respect. It feels like if they don’t like it, then you might just lose all hope of ever being someone capable of creating something meaningful.
Luckily, Seiji’s grandfather is caring and respectful of Shizuku’s hard work. He recognizes the time, effort, and creativity she put into her novel while also showing her that she has room for growth. He reminds her that people don’t become successful overnight. It takes hard work and resilience to create something whole. This note soothes Shizuku’s anxiety all at once, and she bursts out into tears, not because she is upset that he didn’t absolutely love it, but because she’s relieved that he didn’t hate it.
Shizuku ends up going home to her parents and declaring that she is going to pursue writing as her future career. When Seiji returns from Italy, she thanks him for helping her discover her passion, and they share a cute confession scene with each other to end the movie.
Whisper of the Heart is the most relatable film I’ve ever watched. It’s touching, warmhearted, and so much more. There’s a scene where after doing nothing but writing furiously for days on end, Shizuku crawls onto the floor and curls up into a ball, not crying, but feeling the weight of the world on her shoulders. If that isn’t the realest thing I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is.
Especially as you get older, the question, “Am I doing enough?” looms over everyone. Shizuku worries that she is not passionate enough, not talented enough, not doing enough to keep up with Seiji, the boy she has a crush on. In terms of the world as a whole, it seems like a miniscule problem, but to a middle school girl dealing with her first ever crush, it’s the issue that consumes her life.
Being an artist can be a challenge. On one hand, having so much passion and love for something, is one of the greatest gifts. But on the other hand, the struggle of knowing that you will always be behind someone else or always chasing a perfection you will never reach is a daunting fear.
For Shizuku, her ability to write an entire novel in three months and her anxiety over how her writing will be perceived demonstrates how passionate she is about writing. It was the first time in her life she had ever committed herself to something so wholly, and in the end, she realized that she wanted to commit herself to writing for the rest of her life.
Whisper of the Heart teaches viewers that being an artist isn’t about getting everything right as fast as you can. It’s about finding a steady, healthy rhythm, and creating something you love. It may not be perfect, but that’s what makes it so beautiful. Being an artist means that you always have room to grow because there is no such thing as a perfect artist. To be an artist is to be imperfect, and to be imperfect is to be passionate about growing.
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