The first Studio Ghibli film not to be directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata, “Whisper of the Heart” is a charming lowkey teenage love story mostly devoid of fantastical elements and just keyed in hard on a teenage girl’s self-growth. The conflict in the film is mostly eternal – even the parent figures are supportive and reasonable.
The film’s odd quirk is how much focus in places on “Country Roads”, featured heavily in the score and explicitly in the text. The way the film laps at the creative process is interesting, but there’s less ambition or creative execution here than in similar lowkey Ghibli films like “Only Yesterday”. The protagonist’s arc and development is nuanced and carried out well, and a neat refutation of the simplicity of a “follow your dreams” message, but there’s ultimately a lot less here than in a lot of other Ghibli films. Three and a half library cards and a violin.