Whisper of the Heart (synopsis)
Warning! - This is a story synopsis of Whisper of the Heart and contains plot elements that may spoil first-time viewers.
On a hot August night, fourteen-year-old Shizuku Tsukishima arrives home from the store with a carton of milk. Putting it in the refrigerator, she pours a glass of barley tea for herself and her parents. While he waits for his printing to complete, Shizuku's father remarks that the library he works at is switching from the old cards to barcodes. Shizuku remarks that she likes the card system better.
In her room, Shizuku looks through the cards on all her books, and notices that they have all been checked out before her by a Seiji Amasawa.
The next morning, Shizuku rushes to get ready for her meeting with her friend Yuko Harada. Once she arrives at school, she asks one of her teachers, Kousaka, to open the library for her so she can check out another book. Suzuku has set a personal goal to read twenty books over the summer, and she has finished the ones she has checked out. She finds the book she is looking for, and hands it to Kousaka-sensei, who remarks it has never been checked out. Shizuku notices that the book was donated by the Amasawa family. She asks Kousaka-sensei if she knows who this Amasawa person is, but Kousaka-sensei replies that it was before her time, and that Shizuku should ask one of the older teachers about it. Yuko arrives at the library, and chastises Shizuku for making her wait out in the sun, aggravating her freckles.
On a bench outside, Shizuku hands Yuko the latest draft of her attempt to set Japanese lyrics to the song "Country Road". Yuko likes it, but Shizuku thinks it is too conventional. She then shows Yuko a second version, titled "Concrete Road", which talks about how her hometown is a concrete road.
Afterwards, Yuko confides to Shizuku that she received a love letter from someone, but that she has feelings for a different person. Before she can say who it is, a fellow classmate, Sugimura, appears and asks Shizuku to toss his bag over the fence for him.
As they walk along the road, Shizuku correctly surmises that Sugimura is the object of Yuko's attentions, but that she is needs to think about the love letter she received as well. Shizuku suddenly realizes that she has left the book she checked out back on the bench and rushes back to retrieve it.
When she gets there, she sees a boy her age reading it. "Is this your book?" he says, and Suzuku nods. "There you go...Tsukishima Shizuku." When she asks how he knew her name, he replies that it was on the card. He also thinks she should give up on "Concrete Road", upsetting Shizuku, who mutters "jerk" under her breath all the way home.
Later that night, Shizuku's older sister Shiho comes home, and admonishes Shizuku for leaving the apartment in such a mess when their parents are out. Between the two of them, they straighten things up and prepare dinner.
The following morning, Shiho gets Shizuku out of bed so she can clean their room. She tasks Shizuku to take lunch to their father at the library. When Shizuku balks, Shiho remarks that she will take it, and Shizuku can stay home and do all the other chores. Shizuku grabs the bag and bolts for the door.
Aboard the train, a cat comes through just before the door closes. It settles down on the seat next to her and proceeds to sleep. As the train pulls into Suginomiya Station, the cat looks out, sees that it is his destination, and disembarks the train. Shizuku starts to follow him. She follows him until he stops at a large store at the end of the street. She looks inside, and is greeted by the shop owner, who invites her to look around. Her eyes first settle on a statue of a cat in Morning Coat, whom the shop owner introduces as the Baron Humbert Von Jikkingen. Shizuku next sees a large grandfather clock. The shop owner explains that it came from a castle and he has been working on restoring it to working order. He pulls out an ornate winding key and starts the mechanism. He opens the lower door and a number of mechanical dwarves working in a mine are revealed. The storeowner sets the hands to twelve o'clock and the sheep at the top moves off, to be replaced by a beautiful princess. Down below, the King of the Dwarves rises up to look longingly at the princess. Shizuku asks if they are in love and the shop owner replies that they are, but only when the clock strikes twelve does the princess return to her human form, so the King appears at that time. He believes that the artisan who built the clock had an unfulfilled love, which is why he built the clock the way he did. Shizuku notices the clock is fast and that she is late getting lunch to her father. Thanking the shop owner, she heads for the library.
As she climbs the library steps, she is stopped by someone calling her name. She turns, to see the boy she met on the bench on a bike with the cat she had followed to the store perched on the back. The boy holds up her father's lunch, informing her that she had left it behind in the store. As he departs, he starts mis-singing a stanza from "Concrete Road", again earning himself Shizuku's ire.
In the library, Shizuku gives her lunch to her father and then starts to choose some more books to read. She looks through the checkout cards, and sees that Seiji Amasawa has also read all these books, as well. She wonders what he is like, and has a sudden vision of the boy on the bike. "No! Not someone like you!" she exclaims, startling all the other patrons. As she walks home, storm clouds gather on the horizon.
The storm is still dumping rain on the city come the morning. Shizuku meets up with Yuko, and the two walk to school, both complaining about the battery of high school entrance examinations they have to endure this week. Shizuku asks if Yuko has replied to the love letter she received, and she replies that she has not, nor has she heard anything more from him. She therefore is going to turn him down. Sugimura appears and exhorts them to hurry, lest they all be late to class.
After the examination, Yuko asks Shizuku to accompany her to Kousaka-sensei's office. Shizuku agrees, and asks if they can stop by the staff room on the way. Sugimura comes up and tells Shizuku that he guessed right and aced the test, having taken a look during the break. Shizuku remarks that Yuko is also an excellent guesser, and that perhaps he should study with her next time.
On the stairs outside, Yuko admonishes Shizuku not to try and force her and Sugimura together - especially since she is not a good guesser.
In the staff room, Shizuku asks the older teachers if any of them remember the Amasawa who donated the book. One recalls that he attended many years ago and was selected Chairman of the PTA. With a little more asking, she finds his name was Doctor Kouichi Amasawa. She also learns that Dr. Amasawa's youngest son is in the same grade as Shizuku. Startled, she rushes outside, almost bumping into the "jerk".
The girls are all having lunch together in Kousaka-sensei's office and are chiding Shizuku over the possibility she finally has met her "Prince of Books" - the boy she seems to share the same literary interests in. When pressed, Shizuku will not reveal his name, only commenting that she wondered what kind of boy he was. They ask Yuko, but she is unable to remember his name. Shizuku deflects the topic of the conversation by presenting her draft of "Country Road" to the group, and they give it a test singing.
After class, Shizuku is happy to see that the skies have cleared and the sun is out. Yuko asks Shizuku to come with her to the Chorus Club to work on the lyric translation, but Shizuku replies that she has to go to the library. Sugimura appears, and asks Yuko is she has a minute...
Meanwhile, Shizuku has gone back to the store she visited the other day, only to find it closed. She sees a sign on the side, presenting the shop as Atelier Chikyuuya - The Studio Earth Shop and Shirou Nishi as the proprietor. She turns around and goes home.
At home, Shiho yells for Shizuku, informing her that she has a phone call from Yuko. She meets her outside and Yuko tells her that a friend of Sugimura was the boy who wrote her the love letter and that he asked Sugimura to get an answer from her. Next is a flashback of Yuko exclaiming how Sugimura could say such a thing, with Sugimura looking confused over the situation.
Shizuku remarks that Sugimura may be thick, but that he also does not know how Yuko feels about him. Yuko says she will apologize to him for her words, but that she is too distressed to go to school tomorrow, even though it means missing an exam.
In school the next day, Shizuku looks over during the test at Sugimura and silently calls him a moron. Sugimura silently replies, "What did I do?"
Outside, Sugimura catches up with Shizuku and asks her about Harada. They go to a shrine, and Sugimura wonders what he said to Yuko about his friend upset her so much. Shizuku replies it is not the words he said, but that he was the one saying them to her, and if he understood what that meant. Sugimura angrily says he does not, and Shizuku replies that Yuko is in love with him. Sugimura is shocked, and mutters about what a fix he is now in, since he loves Shizuku! Shizuku is even more shocked than Sugimura now, and tells him not to joke. Sugimura asks her if she had a boyfriend and she replies that she does not, but that she and him have always been just friends.
At home later that night, Shizuku comments to herself that she is the one who is dense.
The next time Shizuku goes to Chikyuuya, she sees that it is still closed. She sees the cat from the train sitting on the porch, so she takes a seat next to him. Soon, the "jerk" arrives and comments he is surprised that Moon let her pet him. When Shizuku asks if Moon is the name of the cat, the "jerk" replies that is the name he has given him, but that he seems to be some type of "community cat" going from house to house as the mood suits him, and that he has a number of names. Shizuku realizes that this is why Moon commutes by train - to visit his other "homes". She then explains to the boy that she followed Moon from the train station and that is how she found this shop. She then asks if his grandfather is well, as the store has been closed the past two times she has come to visit. The boy replies that his grandfather keeps odd hours, so the store does not follow any set schedule. Shizuku is glad, and notices that the Baron is missing from the table. The boy replies it is safe and invites her in to see it.
They walk down the stairs to the back entrance, and Shizuku is amazed to see that the shop sits on the edge of a precipice, and that the entire city vista is spread out below her. The boys asks if she is an acrophobic, and she replies that she likes high places and that from here, it looks like she is floating in the sky.
Inside the shop, Shizuku notices that the grandfather clock from before is gone. The boy replies that they finished the repair the day she saw it, and just returned it to the owner. He adds that it took three years to fix. He sits Shizuku down at the table and places the statue of the Baron before her, telling her to look into its eyes as the light changes. When the effect is revealed, he explains it is called an "Engel's Zimmer", or "Angel's Room", and is caused when the craftsman accidentally introduces a flaw into the fabric when applying it. He adds that the Baron will not disappear, as his grandfather treasures it too much to ever sell it. He invites her to stay and look around while he goes downstairs.
Once through exploring, she goes down the steps and finds herself in the workshop. She sees the boy working at a table with violin parts laid out around it and asks if he is building a violin. She asks to see, and he does a quick test-assembly for her. She is surprised at his skill to make a violin by hand, but he replies the shape has been set for over three centuries - it is the skill of the craftsman that determines the sound quality. Shizuku points to the line of completed violins hanging from an overhead rack and asks if he has made all of them. He replies that there is a violin-making class held in the workshop, and these belong to the students. She asks him to show her his and he pulls it out of a case. She asks him to play, but he will only do so if she sings. After tuning up, he starts in with the melody to "Country Road" and Shizuku starts to sing the new Japanese lyrics she has written. About midway through, Nishi-san and two other gentlemen come down, grab some instruments, and start playing accompaniment.
When they are finished, Shizuku formally introduces herself to them and thanks them for just now. Nishi-san replies that he was looking forward to meeting her again, so he was happy to oblige. One of Nishi's two friends remarks that she was here when the clock was finished, and the other comments how lucky Seiji is to have a cute friend. Shizuku turns to the boy and asks him if his name is Seiji Amasawa. He replies in the affirmative, and asks did he not say his name? She replies he certainly did not and that the family name on the front of the store is Nishi. Seiji replies that is his grandfather's family name, and his is Amasawa. Shizuku is distressed to finally meet her "Prince of Books".
Walking home together, Shizuku remarks she had a lot of fun that evening. Seiji notes his grandfather and friends would like to have her visit again. Shizuku wishes she could have just listened to them play. She tells Seiji that his performance was quite good and asks if he plans to pursue it. He replies that he feels there are many who can play as well as he, and what he really wants is to become a master violin craftsman. There is a school in Cremona, Italy, that he wants to attend once junior high is done. Shizuku is surprised he would not go to high school, and Seiji remarks his family is against his going to Italy. Only his grandfather supports the idea, so he is not sure if he will go. He wants to see if he has the talent, so he is fighting his parents to let him go.
As they split up to head to their respective homes, Seiji tells Shizuku that she can write good songs. Not only "Country Road", but also the "Concrete Road" one, as well. Shizuku laughingly points out that he told her the other day to give that one up, but thanks him for today.
At home, Shizuku asks Shiho when she decided what she wanted to do with her life. Shiho replies that is why she is going to college, to find that out.
The next morning, Shizuku is running in the rain, late for school. Sugimura meets her and exhorts her to run faster, but she tells him to run on ahead. When she gets to class, she is relieved to see that the first hour is unsupervised self-study, so there are no teachers to catch her tardiness. Yuko remarks that Shizuku was seen with walking with Seiji last night and that it has been going around that the two of them look like a couple. Sugimura comes up to Yuko and apologizes to her regarding the matter with his friend, and Yuko also apologizes for her actions towards him.
Once class is dismissed, Seiji appears at the doorway and asks to see Shizuku. The class immediately erupts into chants of "Boyfriend! Boyfriend!" Shizuku is upset at them, but Seiji takes her upstairs to the roof where he excitedly tells her that his parents have allowed him to go to Italy to study as an apprentice for two months at studio that a friend of his grandfather's introduced him to. This way, the master can see if Seiji has the talent to be a violinmaker and Seiji can see if he has the self-confidence to see him through. If it does not work out, then he comes home and goes to high school. Shizuku asks when he leaves, and Seiji replies as soon as his passport and visas are secured, and that his father and he are talking with the school about it later that day.
As Shizuku and Seiji talk, the rest of the class creeps up the stairway to the door to listen to them. However, the crush from below gets too much and the door crashes open and they all spill out onto the roof, earning them the Ire of Tsukishima.
After dinner, Shizuku goes over to Yuko's house. In Yuko's room, Shizuku says that if Seiji is accepted to the school, he will be living in Italy until his early-twenties. For her part, Yuko feels that Shizuku should be encouraging him, but Shizuku says she cannot encourage someone who has been striving more than her for so long. Yuko asks Shizuku if she has not decided on what she wants to do with her life, does it also mean she cannot fall in love? She tells Shizuku that she has real talent, and that the chorus club really likes her "Country Road" translation.
Shizuku mentions that Seiji told her he was going to Italy to make sure he has talent. And if that is the case, so shall she. She decides then and there that she is going to write a story and she thanks Yuko and heads for home. As she walks home, she sees Moon walking from a house. A little girl calls after him, referring to him as "Muta".
At home, Shizuku takes out a piece of paper and starts to write her story, titled "If You Listen Closely" (Note: Though the "official" English title for this film is "Whisper of the Heart", the actual translation of "Mimi wo Sumaseba" is "If You Listen Closely").
The next day at Chikyuuya, Shizuku asks Nishi-san if she can make the Baron the hero of her story. Nishi-san agrees, provided he is the first one to read it. Shizuku is unsure, since she does not know how good it will be. Nishi-san informs her that such is the case that all craftsmen have to face and that it is never perfect the first time. He goes and returns with a stone that he places in her hand, telling her to look into the crack and hold it up to the light. Shizuku comments how pretty it is and Nishi-san tells her that it is called beryl and that inside is an emerald. Nishi-san comments that she and Seiji are both like the beryl stone, and they need to find the gems inside of themselves.
As she walks down the steps, she starts to think of a story searching for a vein of Lapis Lazuli. She takes a leap off of the steps...
In "otherspace", the Baron introduces himself to Shizuku as her companion on their journey to find the vein of Lapis Lazuli. He adds that on the day of the new moon, space is warped and far things appear large, while near things appear small. They jump into the air, catching an updraft. The Baron notes that they must hurry, for the planetoids have gathered.
Back in "realspace", Shizuku is doing research in the library on various minerals when she comes across a reproduction of a woodblock of a man crafting a violin in prison. Seiji appears and he informs her that he leaves tomorrow. She says that she will be waiting for him when she comes back.
In "otherspace", the Baron relates his tale to Shizuku. He and his fiancè Louise were born in a town where magic flowed in the veins of the craftsmen who linked together their studios. Louise and he were created by a poor apprentice doll maker, whose gift to them was a feeling of love for humanity. However, an evil cat on a mechanical beetle stole Louise away.
Shizuku's concentration on the story is starting to affect both her schoolwork and home life. She is staying up till early morning each night writing, marking off the days until Seiji returns and her story is complete. As her grades start to slip, she and Shiho get into a fight over Shizuku's future. Their father and mother sit Shizuku down and ask her what she is doing. Shizuku replies that she has to finish her project in the next three weeks, and her parents decide to indulge her.
That night, Shiho tells Shizuku that she will be moving out soon, and that Shizuku needs to shape up to help their mother as she finishes her Masters thesis since Shiho will not be home anymore.
Shizuku dreams of walking along a path of gemstones in a dark woods while the voice of the Baron urges her to hurry and choose the genuine stone. Shizuku makes her selection, and is repulsed at finding a dead chick in her hands.
At Chikyuuya, Nishi-san dreams of his Louise, only to be awakened by the arrival of Shizuku, who delivers the completed manuscript of "If You Listen Closely". She asks him to read it immediately, so he closes the shop and settles down by the fire, while Shizuku goes down to the workshop. She sees Seiji's work desk empty, and goes outside to watch the sun set over the city.
Hours later, Nishi-san appears on the porch and tells her it was very good. Shizuku calls him a liar, and starts to point out the flaws she feels the book has. He replies that it is indeed rough and unfinished, like a freshly quarried stone. But he tells her that he can see the gem inside, and as she works to polish the story, the gem will come to the surface. Shizuku admits that she knows that just writing is no good and that she has to study more, but that she felt that Seiji was always going on ahead of her, that she would finish the story no matter what.
Nishi-san notes that Shizuku obviously likes Seiji and takes her inside and prepares a dinner of ramen for them. After dinner, Nishi relates to Shizuku the story of how he acquired the statue of the Baron. He had found the doll in a local café when he was studying abroad in Germany, and offered to buy it from the proprietor. However, the proprietor replied that the doll was part of a set, and the noblewoman doll was out for repairs and he could not separate the two lovers.
Shizuku remarks that it is just like her story, and Nishi-san agrees with the similarities. He continues, saying a woman who was with him offered a proposal. Nishi-san could take the Baron doll with him back to Japan, and the woman would claim the noblewoman statue when it was repaired and then they could reunite both the dolls and each other. The proprietor agreed and Nishi-san left Germany with the Baron. However, World War II started shortly thereafter and he was unable to return to Germany until the war's end. When he did, he could not find the woman. He hands over the beryl stone to Shizuku, and tells her to do a solid job of finishing the writing of her own story.
Shizuku returns home and promises her mother that she will return to studying and improving her grades to get into a good high school.
The following morning before dawn, Shizuku is awakened and looks out her window to see Seiji on his bike. Seiji says he missed Shizuku so much that he flew home a day early to be with her. He tells her that Cremona was much different than he expected, but that he has made the decision to pursue his dream of making violins. Seiji tells her to get on and they ride up to the top of the hill. Below them, the city is blanketed in mist as the horizon starts to lighten, and Shizuku remarks it looks just like the ocean.
The sun appears from behind the clouds, and bathes the city and the two in light. Seiji apologies for concentrating on his own wishes so much that he did not encourage Shizuku. Shizuku replies that she was glad he did, since it pushed her to try her best and she learned a little more about herself. She tells him she going to study more and go to high school.
Seiji shyly asks that, when he returns from Italy as a violinmaker, would Shizuku consent to marry him. Shizuku says that she hoped things would turn out that way, and that she will marry him when he returns.
As the end credits finish, we see Sugimura and Yuko walk by hand in hand...