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Whisper of the Heart (Japanese: 耳をすませば Hepburn: Mimi o Sumaseba, lit. "If you listen closely") is a 1995 Japanese animated drama film directed by Yoshifumi Kondō and written by Hayao Miyazaki based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Aoi Hiiragi. The film stars Yoko Honna, Issei Takahashi, Takashi Tachibana, Shigeru Muroi, Shigeru Tsuyuguchi, and Keiju Kobayashi. It was the first theatrical Studio Ghibli film to be directed by someone other than Miyazaki or Isao Takahata.

Whisper of the Heart was Kondō's only film as director before his death in 1998. Studio Ghibli had hoped that Kondō would become the successor to Miyazaki and Takahata.[1]

A semi-spin-off film entitled The Cat Returns that focused on a minor character of the film, Baron, was released in 2002.


Shizuku Tsukishima is a 14-year-old student at Mukaihara Junior High School, where she is best friends with Yuko Harada. Living in Tokyo with her parents Asako and Seiya, and her older sister Shiho, Shizuku is a bookworm and is keen on writing. During an ordinary evening, she looks through the checkout cards in her library books. She discovers they have all been checked out by Seiji Amasawa. She begins to daydream about this mysterious man who shares her taste in books. Being a curious girl, she aims to find out who this man is. Coincidentally, Shizuku soon encounters an annoying young man, later revealed to be Seiji, who often teases her.

Finding a cat riding a train, Shizuku follows it to discover an antique shop run by Shiro Nishi. In the shop is a cat statuette, "The Baron". After Shizuku returns home, she learns from Yuko that Sugimura has inadvertently upset her, as he does not know that Yuko has a crush on him. Sugimura, confused by both Yuko's and Shizuku's anger towards him, confronts Shizuku after school. Shizuku reveals that Yuko is in love with him while Sugimura declares that he has liked Shizuku for a long time. She, however, turns him down.

Shizuku returns to the antique shop and encounters Seiji there. She learns that Seiji is actually very nice and they befriend each other. There, Shizuku sings "Take Me Home, Country Roads", a song she has been translating for her school graduation, accompanied by Seiji and Nishi. Seiji is revealed to be the grandson of Nishi. Seiji shares with her his dream of becoming a master luthier. The two begins to secretly slowly fall in love with each other. Days after the two meet, Seiji leaves for Cremona, Italy, for a two-month study with a master violin-maker. Inspired by Seiji's sense of purpose with his life and feeling like she has to live up to him, Shizuku decides to test her talents as well. Discussing with Yuko, she decides to pursue her writing seriously during the two months. She asks Nishi if she can write about The Baron, to which Nishi grants his consent on the condition that he will be the first to read the finished story.

Shizuku begins to concoct a fantasy story featuring herself as the female protagonist, the Baron as the male hero who is looking for his lost love, Louise, and the cat she followed from the train (who is, among other names, known as "Moon" and "Muta") as the story's villain who took her from him. Devoting her time to her writing, Shizuku eats snack food, stays up until early in the morning, and her school grades drop. Shizuku argues with her family over her grades, and as she continues to push herself into finishing the story before Seiji returns, she begins to lose heart.

When her story is complete, Shizuku delivers the manuscript to Nishi. After Nishi reads Shizuku's writing and gives her his benevolent assessment, she breaks down in tears because she knows that, despite her hard work, her story is not good enough. Consoling her with udon, Nishi reveals to Shizuku that he found his first love, Louise, when he studied in Germany in his youth. They discovered the twin statuettes of the Baron and his female companion in a cafe, but they could only purchase them singly because the female statuette was in repair at that time. Nishi kept the Baron while Louise would hold onto the Baron's companion, and they and the two cat statuettes would reunite later. However, the two lovers and the statues were subsequently separated during World War II and were never reunited.

Deciding she wants to attend high school to learn more about writing, Shizuku is returned home by Nishi and announces to her mother that she will return to her entrance exams full-time. The next morning, she discovers Seiji below on his bicycle. He has returned a day early and decided to finish high school before returning to Cremona to become a luthier.

The two youngsters ride Seiji's bike to a lookout and watch the sunrise over the city. While they are there, Seiji professes his love for Shizuku and proposes future marriage, which she happily accepts.


Character Original cast Disney English dub cast
Shizuku Tsukishima 14-year-old junior high school student who loves books. Yōko Honna Brittany Snow
Seiji Amasawa Violin player attending the same school as Shizuku Tsukishima. Issei Takahashi David Gallagher
Asako Tsukishima Graduate student and mother of Shizuku and Shiho Tsukishima. Shigeru Muroi Jean Smart
Seiya Tsukishima Librarian and father of Shizuku Tsukishima. Takashi Tachibana James Sikking
Baron Humbert von Gikkingen Statue from Germany belonging to Shiro Nishi. Shigeru Tsuyuguchi Cary Elwes
Shiro Nishi Owner of local antique shop. Keiju Kobayashi Harold Gould
Yuko Harada Shizuku's friend at her school. Maiko Kayama Ashley Tisdale
Kōsaka-sensei Nurse at Shizuku's school. Minami Takayama Vicki Davis
Kinuyo and Nao Shizuku's other school friends. Mayumi Iizuka
Mai Chiba
Mika Boorem
Abigail Mavity
Sugimura Yuko's crush and Shizuku's friend. Yoshimi Nakajima Martin Spanjers
Shio Tsukishima Shizuku's older sister and a college student. Yorie Yamashita Courtney Thorne-Smith
Nishi's musician friends Musicians friends of the owner of local antique shop. Toshio Suzuki and Naohisa Inoue (Kita) Walker Edmiston and (Minami) Corey Burton

High School Students

Additional Voices

  • Japanese: Satoru Takahashi, Akiko Sakaguchi, Hiromi Yasuda, Tatsuya Okada, Yoshihiro Imai, Naohisa Inoue, Sugura Egawa, Shiro Kishibe, Mitsuaki Ogawa, Toshio Suzuki
  • English: Jeff Bennett, Doug Burch, Melissa Disney, Judi Durand, Jeff Fischer, Charles Kimbrough, Daamen Krall, Jeremy Maxwell, Paige Pollack, Noreen Reardon, Grace Rolek, Rebecca Wink


Mimi o Sumaseba Manga cover

Whisper of the Heart was based on the manga Mimi o Sumaseba which was originally created by Aoi Hiiragi. The manga was serialized in Shueisha's shōjo manga magazine Ribon between August and November 1989, and a single tankōbon volume was released in February 1990. A second manga by the same author titled Mimi o Sumaseba: Shiawase na Jikan was serialized in Shueisha's Ribon Original in 1995. A spiritual sequel to this film adaption, The Cat Returns, was turned back into a manga by Aoi Hiiragi, under the name Baron: Neko no Danshaku.


During production, the backgrounds in the fantasy sequences of the film were drawn by Naohisa Inoue and the woodcut of the imprisoned violin-maker was created by Miyazaki's son Keisuke Miyazaki, a professional engraver. Japanese musical duo Chage and Aska's short music video, titled "On Your Mark", by Studio Ghibli was released along with Whisper of the Heart.


The film score of Whisper of the Heart was composed by Yuji Nomi. Various times during the film, Shizuku translates John Denver's song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" to Japanese for her school's chorus club.[2] She also writes her own humorous Japanese version of the song, called "Concrete Road," about her hometown in western Tokyo. The songs were actually translated by producer Toshio Suzuki's daughter Mamiko with Hayao Miyazaki writing supplemental lyrics. These songs play a role at various points in the story.[3] A recording of "Take Me Home, Country Roads", performed by Olivia Newton-John, plays during the film's opening sequence. The song was also performed by Shizuku's voice actress Yoko Honna.


Whisper of the Heart was the first Japanese film to use the Dolby Digital sound format.[4] An English dub of this film was released by Walt Disney Home Entertainment on March 7, 2006.[5] Turner Classic Movies televised both the dubbed and subbed versions on January 18, 2006 as part of their month-long celebration of Miyazaki in honor of his birthday, January 5.[6] The English title, Whisper of the Heart, was created by Studio Ghibli and used on several officially licensed "character goods" released around the same time as the film was released in theaters in Japan. The North American Blu-ray was released on May 22, 2012, alongside Castle in the Sky and The Secret World of Arrietty.[7] The Blu-Ray and DVD will be re-issued by GKIDS in 2018.


Whisper of the Heart was the highest-grossing Japanese film on the domestic market in 1995, earning ¥1.85 billion in distribution income.[8] Whisper of the Heart received very positive reviews from film critics. It has an 92% approval rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, based on 12 reviews.[9] Time Out London included Whisper of the Heart in their Top 50 Animated Film list.[10] It was also included in Film4's Top 25 Animated Film list.[11] On Anime News Network, Michael Toole gave it an overall grade of A-, calling it "beautiful and evocative; a fine tale of adolescent yearning and aspiration."[12]

General producer and screenwriter Hayao Miyazaki defended the film's ending, saying that it was his idea. Miyazaki wanted Shizuku and Seiji to "commit to something."[13]


Over the course of the film, Shizuku is working on a fantasy novel that revolves around a cat figurine, named The Baron, which she discovers in Mr. Nishi's antique store. In 2002, Studio Ghibli produced a spin-off film The Cat Returns, directed by Hiroyuki Morita and again featuring The Baron in the film.


  1. "Yoshifumi Kondou Kondou Yoshifumi". Nausicaa.net. Nausicaa. Retrieved on 14 November 2014.
  2. "“Take Me Home, Country Roads” (Kyarypamyupamyu)". traxionary.com. traxionary. Retrieved on 14 November 2014.
  3. "FAQ // Whisper of the Heart //". Nausicaa.net. Retrieved on March 3, 2011.
  4. "Whisper of the Heart (1995)". canadiancinephile. Canadian Cinephile. Retrieved on 14 November 2014.
  5. "Whisper Of The Heart". Disney Movies. Disney. Retrieved on 14 November 2014.
  6. "Whisper of the Heart". tcm. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved on 14 November 2014.
  7. "Whisper of the Heart Blu-Ray". Retrieved on 21 April 2012.
  8. "Kako haikyū shūnyū jōi sakuhin 1995-nen" (Japanese). Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan. Retrieved on February 8, 2011.
  9. "Whisper of the Heart". Flixster. Retrieved on March 2, 2011.
  10. "Time Out's 50 Greatest Animated Films – Part 3 with Time Out Film — Time Out London". Timeout.com. Retrieved on November 1, 2010.
  11. "Film4's Top 25 Animated Film list". Retrieved on April 8, 2013.
  12. Michael Toole (November 19, 2014). "Whisper of the Heart Blu-Ray + DVD". Retrieved on November 20, 2014.
  13. Cavallaro, Dani (2006). The Anime Art of Hayao Miyazaki. McFarland & Co., page 119. 

External links

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Nausicaä of the Valley of the WindCastle in the SkyMy Neighbor TotoroKiki's Delivery ServicePorco RossoPom PokoWhisper of the HeartPrincess MononokeMy Neighbors the YamadasSpirited AwayThe Cat ReturnsHowl's Moving CastleTales from EarthseaPonyoThe Secret World of ArriettyFrom Up On Poppy HillThe Wind RisesThe Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: Nausicaä
Castle in the Sky: SheetaPazuCaptain DolaColonel MuskaDola Gang

My Neighbor Totoro: TotoroMei KusakabeSatsuki KusakabeCatbus
Kiki's Delivery Service: KikiJijiOsonoFukuoUrsulaTombo
Porco Rosso: Porco RossoMadame GinaFio Piccolo
Princess Mononoke: SanYakulAshitakaLady EboshiKiyoJigo
Spirited Away: Chihiro OginoYubabaZenibaHakuLin
The Cat Returns: HaruTotoBaron Humbert von Gikkingen
Howl's Moving Castle: SophieThe Witch of the WasteMadam SulimanPrince JustinMarklHowl
Tales from Earthsea: ArrenTherruGed
Ponyo: PonyoSosukeFujimotoGranmamareLisa
The Secret World of Arrietty: ArriettyShō
The Wind Rises: Jiro HorikoshiNaoko SatomiGiovanni Battista Caproni

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See Also
Ghibli ga Ippai Collection