Whisper of the Heart – The Dreary versus Fantasy (Worlds).

The kids, and the cat.

So I’ve watched Whisper of the Heart in a Hayao Miyazaki focused film festival of sorts last Friday (along with Porco Rosso, I’ve watched all the other films they had there previously), and I was bothered by something  in Whisper of the Heart, well, a couple of things.

There will be a certain amount of spoilers, be advised.

The first is that it had a “point”, a moral, a lesson it had tried to pass, when I think it’d have worked better as a “Slice of Life” story that just showcases something. Porco Rosso on the other hand was cute, but it was rambling and a bit directionless.

Whisper of the Heart follows Shizuku Tsukihima, a girl who loves reading books, at her senior year of junior high school. In a way, she lives in the world of imagination, reading books voraciously, and fantasizing about the boy whose name appears before hers in many of the books she loves.

By the by, she is a junior high school student, and while some aspects of her and her classmates seem a bit off in age, as in, some fit high schoolers better, and some actually fit elementary schoolers (and even 4th-5th graders at that), on the whole, it seemed fitting, the behaviour, which meant quite a bit. I hate it when films totally butcher how younger people behave for the sake of cliches.

Anyway, Tsukihima lives in the world of fantasies and would-bes, day-dreaming her way through life. As such, when she has some run-ins with the dreary life of preparing for the high school entry exams, before her confrontation with her parents, I thought the point of all the times she was asked for chores and she failed to meet them was not in order to have a build-up to a confrontation (that fizzled out, as a confrontation), but to showcase the lively world of imagination versus the dreary everyday life.

The Girl and the Baron, from the inner story.

Anyway, there was something that really annoyed me at one of the moments of the film, and which was originally the title of this post, the “It only happens in stories!” fallacy. Not that some things don’t happen just in stories (because they do), and not discounting the fact many of us export to the real life what we learn from films. No, my point is different, and I’d use a short story to help get it across.

I sometimes dream that I am flying, and all that I need in order to fly is just “to let go”, of gravity’s hold on me, of my fear of flying, and up I go. A couple of months ago I had a dream, and I said to myself “You can only do it in dreams, but this is not a dream, so let’s see if it works,” and then it worked, and I was flying, and I was congratulating myself on how I was flying outside the dream, when before it only happened in dreams.

Likewise, Tsukihima tells herself, or someone tells her, that a certain something she wishes for, or that she desires, only happens in stories. And then it obviously happens to her, which is a problem, because this is a story, she is in a story, one that we experience. I find this a bit problematic, not just because it’s simplistic and, well, an ironic lie, of sorts.
I also find it problematic because the target audience for this film, and who often hear this from dramas and other stories (“It only happens in films”), where the actors are flesh and blood, are younger kids, or people who may be caught off-guard and who will then tell themselves this is a “truth-telling film” for knowing and saying some things only happen in films, and then it proceeds to give them a message, something that only happens in films, and then they’ll take it, or are more likely to.

The moral of the story? Work hard for what you believe in, you might not get it, but you need to find out by putting in effort if that’s what you really want (Seiji, the boy she likes), and whether you actually have a talent for it (Tsukihima herself). Of course, you might get a negative result on either, but neither of our protagonists do, at least at this time. Not to mention they’re getting engaged, or promise themselves to one another before they’re out of junior high. How romantic, how sappy, how…. storylike.

If we put aside the silly moral, and my slight beef with the above, it’s a good and enjoyable movie. Miyazaki was more in charge of the in-story sequences, and there are sequences, both in the story Tsukihima pens, and her own discovery of the rare goods shop that quite resemble Alice in Wonderland. The in-story is a bit silly, a bit empty, and not fully fleshed out, but then again, we don’t get much of it. Of course, it’s easier to come up with a dream-scape of sorts when you only need to come up with 2-3 minutes’ worth.

Score: 7.2 Kids in love, who love reading books. An enjoyable film.

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10 comments on “Whisper of the Heart – The Dreary versus Fantasy (Worlds).

  1. mefloraine says:

    I dislike it when junior high or even middle school students get engaged in fiction. I realize that the audience is requird to have a willing suspension of disbelief, but that can, in my opinion, only go so far.

    • Guy says:

      Hm, it took me a while you understand what you meant, and that it wasn’t “Engaged with the fiction” but “Engaged to be married, in fiction”.

      Yeah. Well, he is going to Italy, and they said, “Let’s decide to get married, no matter how long till it happens!”
      But yes, it made me snort a bit. Ok, I snorted a lot. I think it did less as break suspension of disbelief and more painted them as a couple of buffoons who only live in books and have no idea what the real world is, and since they read so many books, while words are important to them, they use and pass so many that they have no meaning to them…

      No, it annoyed me. At least it more or less ended the film, so it’s not like it snapped us out of the film in its midst.

  2. Canne says:

    Maybe because I also literally dream through my life just like Shizuku does that I love this anime so much. To me, this anime is more fantasy than drama/romance and watching it is like having a good dream.
    Yeah, I was taken aback by the sudden marriage agreement, too.
    Interesting and insightful review, btw :)

    • Guy says:

      You literally dream through your life? :D I have to get an explanation of what you mean by that.
      I also spend some time every so often day-dreaming of sorts, walking back and forth in the living room and building structures in my mind.

      Hm, you mean it’s fantasy in the way that it’s obvious it will not come to pass? Sort of, because it’s a movie, but the sentence, “It only happens in stories” is exactly the kind of sentence that tries to make us think in a different manner of a story, as if it weren’t “just fantasy”.

      And thanks :)

  3. Reltair says:

    The film was okay. It felt a bit slow paced at times and the romance aspect could have been better.

    • Guy says:

      How would the romance part had been better? Do keep in mind the age of the protagonists.

      Slow-paced was alright for me, I guess, since I thought of it as “Slice of life” on one hand, and because of the slowly unveiling progression. I did dislike where it went in some parts, such as the ditching school and house-work, but them’s the breaks, and yes, if it went faster, I wouldn’t have had thoughts on where it’d go; I actually thought it’d be just a motif, and wasn’t going anywhere, because if it were going somewhere, it’d already have gotten there, so I guess I agree there.

  4. lovelyduckie says:

    I haven’t seen many Miyazaki movies, I’ve been meaning to watch all the rest (thsi one included) at some point.

    • Guy says:

      His movies that I hadn’t watched (disregarding series): From the films, posted on Wikipedia, under the top header, watched them all.
      Going down some, Puss ‘n Boots, Flying Phantom Ship, and Animal Treasure Island.

      Which ones did you watch, and what did you think of them in general?

  5. Yi says:

    This is one of the few Miyazaki movies I have not watched, which is a shame. I should really get to watching this soon.

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