Whisper of the Heart (FAQ)

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Q: Is it based on a manga or a book?

It is based on a one volume manga, "Mimi wo Sumaseba" by Aoi Hiiragi, published by Shuueisha under the "Ribon Mascot Comics" line. ISBN4-08-853515-4. Cover price is 390 yen.

There is also a manga sequel, titled "Shiawase na Jikan (Happy Time)", Ribon Mascot Comics, ISBN4-08- 853841-2, 390 yen. It is about Shizuku and Seiji two years later (since they were in the first year of junior high in the manga, they were in the third year in the sequel).

See the original art in the manga.

Q: Is the manga different from the anime?

There are several differences:

1). Shiho is nice to Shizuku (Mom isn't going to grad school and so she plays the "education mama" role, rather than Shiho. Mom is just a traditional housewife in the manga).

2). Seiji has an older brother, Kouji, who is Shiho's boyfriend.

3). Seiji paints pictures, rather than making violins. There's nothing about not going to high school, or studying overseas. Miyazaki loves artisans, and he wanted to change the story into one where they have to work really hard to realize their dreams, overcoming many obstacles. Through the struggle, "the joy of living" comes out and they grow up.

4). Shizuku doesn't get into trouble at school due to time spent writing stories. The whole entrance exam subplot is missing. Shizuku was in the first year of junior high school, not the third year.

5). Dad and Mom hardly appear.

6). Seiji merely says "I love you" at the end rather than asking Shizuku to marry him.

7). There are two skinny black cats, Luna and Moon, rather than one fat Moon. And they belong to Seiji and Kouji, rather than being strays. It would have looked like another anime (you-know-what) if Luna had stayed in the movie (actually, Miyazaki said that he didn't want to put another black cat in the movie, since there was already Jiji in "Kiki"). Cramming two cats into one, Moon got fat.

8). Seiji's grandfather was in Germany on business rather than as a student, and never met a lady as in the movie. Baron's fiancee wasn't finished yet (rather than being off for repairs), and he expected to pick her up on a subsequent trip (which never happened due to the war).

9). Shizuku lives in a detached house like Yuko's, not a tiny apartment like in the movie.

However, other than these details the movie is pretty faithful to the outline of the manga's story.

Q: Is it a Miyazaki anime?

No. Although Miyazaki certainly put a lot into this film, since he produced it, and wrote the script and storyboards, it was directed by Yoshifumi Kondo. Ghibli has been trying to make anime by directors other than Miyazaki or Takahata, and being a top animator at Ghibli, Kondo was a natural choice.

Q: Where were digital technologies used?

"Mimi" marked the first use by Studio Ghibli of digital composition, meaning that elements of a scene were composed using a computer. In this case, it's the flying scene with Baron within Shizuku's story. The scene contains a lot of elements moving independently, including the small "planets" and Shizuku's characters. Although all these elements were animated by tradition means, they were combined using computer technology. "Mimi" was also virtually the first feature film in Japan which used the Dolby Digital sound system.

Q: Where did the story take place?

The town Shizuku lives in was modeled after Seiseki Sakuragaoka, a hilly town in the Tama Hills, in West Tokyo (Nippon Animation, the studio Miyazaki used to work at, is in Seiseki Sakuragaoka).

The Tama Hills are where the Tanukis lived, and where "Tama New Town" was eventually built in "Pom Poko". If you look at the right-hand corner of the town map of "Mimi", those high-rise apartments behind Shizuku's town are labeled "Tama New Town" (in Japanese). Shizuku's town was basically at the foot of Tama New Town. Furthermore, on the way to Shizuku's school, there are several old farm houses in the map, labeled as "Old village" (written in Japanese). In Pom Poko, we saw several old farm houses. Miyazaki made some of those old houses survive the development.

See Takashi Endo's Web page for photographs of Seiseki Sakuragaoka.

Q: Who did the beautiful background pictures in the fantasy scenes?

The backgrounds, clouds, and flying islands (they are called "laputa") were painted by an artist named INOUE Naohisa. He is a former high school art teacher, who continued painting pictures of "Iblard" on his own. When he had his exhibition, he sent an invitation to Miyazaki, since Inoue was a huge fan of Miyazaki anime. Of course, he didn't expect anything, but Miyazaki showed up, and he bought one painting (which is now on the wall of the cafeteria at Ghibli). The painting is called "Upward Draft", and looks exactly like the fantasy scene in "Mimi" . Then, Miyazaki asked him, "Can you work on our next film?". Inoue also worked in "Mimi" as a voice actor. He did one of Mr. Nishi's friends, who joined the "Country Road" jam session (he's the tall one).

You can buy books and CD-ROMs of Inoue's works directly from his English website.

Q: Were real photographs used in "Mimi"?

No. Although some scenes look incredibly realistic, they were all hand-drawn, not photographs. (see an example)

Q: Are there in-jokes in "Mimi"?

  • When Shizuku goes into the school library to get a book, one book on the shelf is called Totoro.
  • "Porco Rosso" is written on the face of the clock Shizuku saw at the Earth Shop. Some speculate that Porco might have made that clock, since the clock signifies "unfulfilled" love. But it's probably just an in-joke.
  • A witch doll is hung over Shizuku's desk, but she doesn't look like Kiki. Also, Yamato Takkyubin Trucks (with the black cat trademark) appears several times (most notable in the ending credit), but we don't know if this was meant to be a joke, or is just being realistic (a Takkyubin truck is, after all, a fairly common thing to see in Japan).
  • During the second fantasy sequence in the dollmaker's magic workshop a chibi-Totoro, a chu-Totoro and Jiji can be seen on a shelf behind the dollmaker as he works on Baron (for a close-up view click here).

Q: Which books were Shizuku reading?

The book Shizuku borrowed from the school library (donated by the Amasawa family) was titled "Fairy Tale". Maybe Shizuku knew about Dwarves from this book. The other books were all made up, but with somewhat familiar titles. Shizuku seems to like fantasy/adventure stories, such as "The Chronicles of Narnia".

Q: Wasn't Seiji's proposal a bit too sudden?

Many thought so. In the manga, Seiji merely says "I love you", but Miyazaki changed it to "Will you marry me?" Miyazaki defended his position by saying, "I wanted to make a conclusion, a definite sense of ending. Too many young people now are afraid of commitment, and stay on moratorium forever. I wanted these two to just commit to something, not just 'well, we'll see what will happen'."

Q: Who is Kosaka Sensei?

Ms. Kosaka is a Hoken no Sensei (health room teacher). Technically, she is not a doctor, nor a teacher. She takes care of the sick and injured at the school health room. A Hoken no Sensei also often works as a counselor for troubled students. Shizuku seems to have a special relationship with Ms. Kosaka since she and her friends eat lunch in the health room (usually, Japanese students eat their lunch in their class room).

Q: Is Shizuku's story about Baron available in full?

So far, no. There is a book called "Baron no Kureta Monogatari no Monogatari" (The Story of the Story Baron Gave Me), but this is a book about how the fantasy scenes were created, not about the story itself.

Q: There was a couple in the ending title. Was that Yuko and Sugimura?

Yes. Kondo wanted a happy ending for them.

Q: Is there a model for Baron?

Yes. He was modeled after the cat statuette Ms. Hiiragi owns. She fell in love with it the moment she saw it, but she couldn't afford it then. Since she wanted it so badly, she later returned to the shop, only to find that it had already been sold. However, it turned out that it was her boyfriend who bought it (as her birthday present). And he is now her husband.

Q: Who did Shizuku's voice?

Yuko Honna. She was about the same age as Shizuku at that time. She also played Taeko (in 5th grade) in "Only Yesterday". Actually, other voice actors also migrated from "Only Yesterday" to "Mimi". Seiji was played by Kazuo Takahashi, who also played one of the boys in Taeko's childhood scenes. Shiho, Shizuku's older sister, was played by Yorie Yamashita, who also played Taeko's older sister.

Q: Who did Shizuku's father?

Takashi Tachibana. He is a famous journalist, not a voice actor. In the film, Shizuku's Dad researches and writes local history as his true passion. Mr. Tachibana suits this profile very well.

Q. Who sang "Country Road" in the movie?

"Take Me Home, Country Road" at the beginning of the movie was sung by Olivia Newton-John. The versions which Shizuku sang throughout the movie and at the end were sung by Ms. Honna, the voice actress for Shizuku.

Q. Is the song in the soundtrack?

Ms. Honna's version is in the soundtrack, and it is also available as a single (see the CD list for details). However, Ms. Newton-John's version is not in the soundtrack album, since it is owned by a different record company. Her version is available in "Let Me Be There" (US version) from MCA in the US, and "Music Makes My Day" from Pye in the UK.

Q: Who actually translated "Country Road"?

It was translated by Mamiko Suzuki, the daughter of Toshio Suzuki, the producer. Miyazaki tried to translate it himself at first, but it didn't work out so he asked a "real young person". Ms. Suzuki (then 19 years old) translated it, Miyazaki then "polished" it a bit.

Q: Who wrote "Concrete Road"?

Miyazaki did.

Q: Who did the music for "Mimi"?

Yuji Nomi. He used to work for Ryuichi Sakamoto ("Wings of Honneamise", "The Last Emperor").