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Whisper of The Head

Updated: Apr 10

"Shizuku... I love you!"

One of my favorite movies (of all time) is Studio Ghibli's Whisper of the Heart. Directed by Yoshifumi Kondō and written by Hayao Miyazaki, the movie is based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Aoi Hiiragi. I used to rent this movie from my local library almost every week when I was a pre-teen. The title is pretty obscure in the canon of Ghibli, but I have met a couple of hardcore fans throughout the years. The movie has somewhat of a cult following, and it's obvious that there's an otherworldly quality about the story.

The plot follows this 14-year-old girl, Shizuku Tsukishima, attending middle school in Tokyo during the late 80s/early 90s. She's in love with writing and has a pretty mundane and simple life outside of her imagination. Most of the movie just follows her around, at a convenience store, studying in her bedroom, taking the subway, walking to the library, etc. The big story arc is split between an enemy-to-lovers romance and her creative journey in writing her first novel. Her love interest, Seiji, is especially driven by his quest to carve violins in Italy, which motivates Shizuku to become a better writer. The movie ends on a bit of a cliffhanger with a sweetly written romantic gesture. It's a very refreshing movie to watch compared to everything coming out of Sam Levinson's head these days (is anyone else watching The Idol??)

(Me writing this post at work trying to make a point)

I wholeheartedly believe that every creative person on earth should watch this movie at least once (Blue Period too but I'll get into that another time). This movie deals with themes of failure and motivation, which is something I typically only get to see in sporty movies like Rocky or The Mighty Ducks (LOL). Nobody ever talks about the mental stamina and hardship required to create great creative work. Not only is the process of creation frustrating and confusing, but it's also so isolating in its progression. I haven't met any other artist, writer, or musician that hasn't spent days alone, trying to figure out what to say or paint or play next. This movie really illustrates that feeling so beautifully, with constant homages to a woodblock created by Miyazaki's son, Goro, that anchors the symbolism of the film.

(I called two people to try and find this image)

And in all honestly, up until 5 minutes ago, I thought that this was a print by Rembrandt. It's so obvious it's not now that I look at it, but it really has such an emotional and ancient energy to it. I digress. Historical or not, the scene obviously stuck with me- it had the same dramatic show-stopping effect as the Chagall lookalike in Kiki's Delivery Service. Throughout the movie, we follow the main character's struggles with inspiration, motivation, comparison, insecurity, failure, mental and physical health, defiance, and passion. At one point, Shizuku is failing her classes and sleeping late in response to her intense obsession with completing the project. I remember being 14 and sitting in my room, transfixed by my sketchbook and too busy scanning illustrations online to bother with homework. I physically could NOT focus on anything other than my art. My parents and teachers were constantly setting up interventions for me, but when your heart is set on something at such a young age, it's just impossible to stop the momentum. Do I wish I worked harder in school? Not at all. I would do everything exactly the same way. Actually- I wish I spent even more time creating.

The point I'm trying to make is that this movie made me feel seen as a young artist, and it's just as relevant to me at 26 as it was at 14. There are definitely some goofy moments- there's a flying cat and everyone sings Country Roads a lot- but the overall tone of the movie felt very realistic to me in my experiences with discovering my voice and grappling with perseverance. Whisper of the Heart does a fantastic job of outlining the hardships that come with being the only artist/black sheep in the family. Nothing was worse than trying to explain why I felt the need to hyper-fixate on learning dragon anatomy over studying for the SAT. I do feel more drawn to the 'Artist's Journey' arc of the show rather than the love story. I just feel more connected with matters of the head than the heart.

Visually and sonically Whisper of The Heart is a masterpiece. The green-tinted, sun-bleached overcast of the animation feels distinctly summer-y and nostalgic, like an early 90s CD left in a hot car. The hand-painted settings are such a joy to look at, especially considering my soft spot for anime set in the summer (again, more on that later). I know that this post was a little different from my usual complaining and griping, but if you're reading this, please try to watch Whisper of the Heart on your next too-hot-to-go-outside day. It's available on HBO Max and YouTube. If you watch it, dm me. I'd love to know your thoughts. (Btw- if this Shizuku looks familiar to you, she's the inspiration behind the LoFi Girl on YouTube.)

(The cat is also in the movie and his name is Moon/Muta)

Currently listening to: My summer playlist "definitely not high"

Currently watching: Bad Girls Club: Las Vegas

Currently thinking about: Those little spiky seed pods at the beach


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