I recently watched the Studio Ghibli film Whisper of the Heart (1995), based on a manga of the same title, and I have never watched something like it. This is because it captures the raw feelings connected to the future and growing up. The movie follows the life of junior high student Shizuku Tsukishima, an avid reader and writer. As an avid reader, she checks out books at the library constantly, and begins to realize that every book she’s checked out has the name Seiji Amasawa on the checkout card. Shizuku soon meets a boy that she later finds out to be Seiji. She perceives him as annoying and condescending at first; however, as she spends more time with him, she realizes that he’s a very genuine person. He even mentions that he checked out as many books as possible just to grab her attention.
Shizuku decides to write a book because of Seiji’s goal to study violin-making in Italy, so he becomes a role model for her. She bases this book on a cat named Baron from the shop of Seiji’s grandfather, Shirō Nishi, and names it “Whisper of the Heart.” I think Shizuku realized she wanted to be a writer specifically because of the joy she felt in the previous scenes from her friends and Seiji's compliments on her songwriting skills and her profound love for reading.
After Seiji leaves for Italy for a trial period to see if he's ready to pursue his passion, Shizuku gets to work. She spends three weeks cooped up in her bedroom, only goes out for school, and barely talks to anyone. Another point to note here is that Shizuku thought she was falling behind and took up writing because Seiji was so confident in what he wanted to pursue in the future. This obsession that she has with completing a flawless book to keep up with other kids her age sends her into a dark space mentally.
The moment in the film when I fully understood the strong emphasis on growing up is when Shizuku breaks down into tears after getting feedback about her book from Shirō. It’s like an enormous weight has been lifted off her shoulders when he tells her that her writing isn't perfect, but still an amazing effort. This makes so much sense because this is her first attempt at such a significant task. No one is expecting her to be perfect right off the bat. However, this is the standard she set for herself while writing the book that made her feel overwhelmed. The concept of feeling like you need to have your entire life figured out while in school and that everything you do needs to be immaculate is a toxic mindset that many people have become accustomed to, including me. Because of the pressure I have built up in hopes of having a successful future, whether that means getting all A’s in school or getting into a good college, I fail to recognize the beautiful process of making mistakes and learning from them.
Shirō helps Shizuku realize the beauty of her abilities by comparing her to a geode with a lapis lazuli (a stone) in the center. She is a person full of potential who just needs to get more experience to shine at her brightest, like the rough rock around the lapis needs to be shaved down for it to be in its most stunning state. This comparison is genius because it represents the burning desire that we have as academically motivated children wanting to accomplish everything without realizing how vital time is for mastering any craft.
A similar situation occurs in Seiji’s journey to becoming a renowned violin craftsman. He was supposed to stay in Italy if he proved to be a prodigy at creating violins; however, that did not happen. This proves to be an important part of the plot because it further supports the message that it is okay to have room for improvement. That’s not to say Seiji isn’t extremely skilled, but there will always be room for improvement. Especially at the age of 14, when you’re still in junior high school.
The creators of the movie also display what a healthy relationship should look like while growing up through Shizuku and Seiji’s interactions. The two protagonists consistently motivate each other to always strive for their best, and it's so wholesome to watch. The respect they have for each other and their talents is a key factor in the growth that they experience throughout the movie. The peak of their relationship is highlighted when Seiji returns to Japan and meets Shizuku. Seiji tells Shizuku that he wants to take her somewhere on his bike. While they are going up a hill, Shizuku realizes that Seiji is struggling to pedal and gets off to push him. He insists that he can make it up the hill with Shizuku on the bike. However, she tells him that she does not want to be a burden to him but instead someone who can help. This one line shows how understanding they are of each other, and it was so moving to see how much Shizuku had matured at this point of the movie.
They soon reach their destination, and it’s a location where you can see the entire town. Seiji brings Shizuku here to finally confess his feelings. He anxiously asks her if she thinks they will be married someday in the future, and she responds by saying yes! It’s an incredibly moving scene because neither of them is forcing the other to have everything figured out at the moment. Asking if they’ll be married in the future and responding with a yes is like their way of saying that they’ll always wait for each other, which makes their future seem even more beautiful than it already is.
I hope this month’s blog about Shizuku and Seiji helps you understand that it is okay to not have your future figured out. However, if you know what you want to do, you don’t have to feel rushed to accomplish your goals either. Taking small steps to reach your destination rather than trying to leap to the finish line makes the journey much more meaningful. Although the uncertainty of the future is constantly evoking fear within us, the fact that we don’t know what every new day is supposed to bring makes life seem more beautiful.