Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば, Mimi o Sumaseba, lit. If you listen closely) is a 1995 Japanese animated romantic drama film directed by Kondou Yoshifumi (近藤 喜文) and written by Miyazaki Hayao (宮﨑 駿) based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Hiiragi Aoi (柊 あおい). It was the first theatrical Studio Ghibli film to be directed by someone other than Miyazaki Hayao or Takahata Isao.
Whisper of the Heart was Kondou’s only film as director before his death in 1998. Studio Ghibli had hoped that Kondou would become the successor to Miyazaki and Takahata.
Tsukishima Shizuku is a 14-year-old student at Mukaihara Junior High School, where she is best friends with Harada Yuko Living in Tokyo with her parents Asako and Seiya, as well as her older sister Shiho, Shizuku is a bookworm and is keen on writing. During an ordinary evening, she looks through the checkout cards in her library books. She discovers they have been checked out by Amasawa Seiji. Over the next few days, Shizuku encounters a young man, later revealed to be Seiji, who often annoys her.
Finding a cat riding a train, Shizuku follows it to discover an antique shop run by Nishi Shiro. In the shop there is a cat statuette, “The Baron“, which is one of the main characters in a related film entitled The Cat Returns (猫の恩返し), which was released in 2002.
The film score of Whisper of the Heart was composed by Nomi Yuji (野見 祐二). At times during the film, Shizuku translates John Denver’s song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to Japanese for her school’s chorus club. She writes her own humorous Japanese version of the song, called “Concrete Road,” about her hometown in western Tokyo. The songs were actually translated by producer Suzuki Toshio (鈴木 敏夫)‘s daughter Mamiko with Miyazaki Hayao writing supplemental lyrics. These songs play a role at points in the story. A recording of “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” performed by Olivia Newton-John, plays during the film’s opening sequence. The song was also performed by Shizuku’s voice actress Honna Youko (本名 陽子).