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Whisper of the Heart Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
  • Subtitles Color: White
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: G
  • Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
  • Run Time: 119 Mins.
  • Studio: Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney Studios
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 22, 2012
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:5/5]

A charming and endearing film about young romance, coming of age, and personal growth, Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば, Mimi o Sumaseba) was the first and only full-length feature by Hayao Miyazaki’s protégé Yoshifumi Kondo before his sudden death at the young age of 47.

It’s the last summer before high school and the inquisitive young Shizuku has been spending her time cramming for high school entrance exams, translating English songs into Japanese for her friends, and with her nose stuck in as many novels as she can read before school opens again. That’s when she notices something, it’s the name “Seji” listed in all of the library books she checked out. Who could this Seiji be?

As fate would have it, Shizuku follows a strange cat riding the train by itself right into a shop run by an old man. She is drawn to an odd statue of a cat in a top hat with cane that the man says is called “The Baron.” The old man’s grandson just happens to be the very same Seiji whose name appeared on all the same check out cards in her library books. At first, she is put off by his brashness, but soon the two youngsters develop a kinship that will drive them to reach new heights, but in seemingly separate directions.

Seiji, a young violin maker, dreams of moving to Cremona, Italy, to hone his craft and make it his career. His determination drives Shizuku to push herself to try her dream of becoming a writer as she sets out to create a fantasy based on The Baron.

Such an honest and wholesome depiction of young love and self-examination, Whisper of the Heart is aided by a magical musical score and delectable graphics.

The English voice cast features David Gallagher, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Ashley Tisdale, Brittany Snow, and Cary Ewles.

(Editor’s note: The above review on the film was previously published as our Whisper of the Heart [UK Release] Blu-ray Review. All screen captures are from their respective releases.)

Video Quality

[Rating:5/5]

This Disney release of Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart is just as pleasing as the Optimum/StudioCanal release, but, like the Japanese release, which I had the pleasure to watch after the UK version, it seems to have slightly more original grain and less DNR applied. I will say this, if one was not familiar with the Japanese release, the UK release would be completely acceptable and I still stand by my original assessment of it. With that being said, I’ve reevaluated my position somewhat, and I see that this Disney release and the Japanese versions definitely seem more lively and organic, with a little more pop and dimensionality. The AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement here from Disney just sparkles, is vibrant and as close to perfection as one can get, maybe looking only slightly behind the Japanese Blu-ray.

Audio Quality

[Rating:5/5]

Equally as strong are the original Japanese language and English dub soundtracks in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Clean, full, and natural dialogue is bolstered by engulfing foley effects that are perfectly balanced through all the channels. Sounds during rainstorms, the chatter of the classroom, the sounds of the streets all surround you in a pleasing and atmospheric sphere. Even the musical score is pinged through different channels, at times some brass instruments can be heard coming through the surrounds while the more electronic portions of the score bounces back and forth between the left and right channels in a wide stereo pan. Purists will also appreciate the fact that the Japanese language track is accompanied by literal Japanese subtitles, rather than a straight English translation of the English dub, which is rather different.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

There’s nothing new offered here and this release actually shares all of the same supplements as the previous StudioCanal (formerly Optimum Releasing) release of Whisper of the Heart, minus the background artwork from The Baron’s Story featurette.

The supplements:

  • Original Japanese Storyboards (1.85:1; 1080p/24; 01:50:50)
  • Behind the Microphone (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:07:59) – This featurette offers interviews with the English voice cast and behind-the-scenes footage.
  • Background Artwork from “The Baron’s Story” (1.33:1; 00:04:46)
  • 4 Masterpieces of Naohisa Inoue (1.33:1; 1080p/24; 00:34:43) – Watch a progression of Naohisa’s artwork.
  • Trailers & TV Spots (1.33:1; SD; 00:10:45)
  • DVD

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

Whisper of the Heart is an inspiring tale that only serves to reinforce the tragedy of the early passing of its creator Yoshifumi Kondo. This Disney release is right up there with its Japanese counterpart as a reference-quality animated Blu-ray release worthy of bearing the names Disney and Studio Ghibli together on the packaging.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Film
[Rating:5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

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