Whisper of the Heart (G)
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This came out in 1995, in Japan. It was released on video in the U.S. in 2006, but I didn't see it until 2017. And there was a sort-of-prequel spin-off movie released in 2002 called "The Cat Returns," which I look forward to seeing. But, you know, it's kind of weird that that came out here in 2003, a few years before this movie came out here. So I guess it's a good thing I'm always so late in seeing things that I got to see this first. Anyway... it's based on a manga that I haven't read.
So, there's a junior high school student named Shizuku Tsukishima, who likes to read a lot. One day she notices via the check-out card that a lot of the books she's checked out of the school library had previously been checked out by someone named Seiji Amasawa, and she begins to wonder what kind of person he is. Meanwhile, she's supposed to be studying for her high school entrance exams, but spends too much time reading. She's also been writing lyrics for a song to sing at junior high graduation with her best friend, Yuko. And she meets a boy who she thinks is a jerk, though I can't imagine anyone watching this wouldn't immediately guess that he'll eventually turn out to be Seiji. And one day she sees a cat on a subway train, and decides to follow it. It leads her to an antique shop, where she meets an old man named Shiro Nishi, who immediately befriends her. And she becomes interested in a figurine of a cat that Nishi has in his shop, which he calls the Baron. Meanwhile, Yuko has a crush on a friend of Shizuku's named Sugimura, which is problematic for reasons I don't want to spoil. Also, Shizuku's older sister, Shiho, is a college student who comes home to stay with her and their parents, and... meh, I don't really feel like saying anything about their home life.
Anyway, there's a lot of stuff going on. And eventually, Shizuku becomes friends with the "jerk," who does indeed to turn out to be Seiji (the grandson of Shiro Nishi). And he's determined to become a violin maker, a dream that requires him to go to Italy to study with a master (for a trial period of two months). And Shizuku is inspired to become worthy of him, by following her own dream of writing. (It's kind of weird that at first she didn't even know she had a dream, or what she wanted to do with her life. But still, once she realized that, it helped me identify with her even more than I had before. And it made me want to work harder to follow my own dream of writing, though we'll see. Movies inspire me all the time to write more diligently, and then I backslide.) Anyway, while Seiji is away, Shizuku starts writing a fantasy story about the Baron, and we see a very little bit of that in her imagination. It actually kind of surprised me that the statuette didn't just come to life and take her on a real adventure, which might have been more fun in some ways... but on the other hand, it might have undercut the realism of the movie. And I think the realism is what I love most about it. And... I don't know what else to tell you, except that this is one of those movies that just kind of makes you see the magic that exists in real life, even if it's not quite as fantastic as, you know, fantasy....