I'm sorry to say, but there gets to a point where the works of one's favorite artist -- whether it be a director, musician, visual artist or what have you -- not only no longer appeals to an individual, but they might actually come to hate it. For me, this happens a lot with directors. I used to be quite a big fan of Tarantino, for instance, but I've seen so many of his movies and gotten to used to his traits as a director that I can't stand to watch any of his films, no matter how critically acclaimed they might be.
Which why when I was trying to watch the top 50 animation movies on imdb, I came to Whisper of the Heart very, very begrudgingly. To date, I have seen 8 Miyazaki-directed films, not including this one (which was only adapted for the screen by Miyazaki) and Grave of the Fireflies. It's safe to say that I'm a fan, and I think he does good work. But, since this is, like, the 10th of these types of movies I've seen, I was really, really not looking forward to it, and spent the better half of the first part of the movie making fun it. I mean, look at that poster. "Oh, this is where the cat leads her to a fucking magic world." "Oh, I bet this guy's a wizard." This makes me pretty sad that I had this reaction, but maybe it's normal after seeing so many of these movies.
Regardless, I ended up walking away from this movie thinking that it might be either the best or second-best Miyazaki film. (The contender being Mononoke.) The poster (and the entire oeuvre of the director) would lead one to believe that this story is about a plucky young girl getting whisked away to a magical land, saving a broken home and finding love along the way. About none of that is true. It stands out from other Miyazaki's films and because of that, reminded me why I started loving this director's work in the first place.
The beauty in this story and movie is in its simplicity. The image you're seeing in the poster actually only takes place once as part of the protagonist's efforts to write a first novel. The story itself is about a middle-school-aged girl learning about what she wants her goals to be, applying herself to something, and learning how to act in a relationship.
Despite the plot revolving around a teenage girl, I thought a lot of the subject matter is applicable to adults. The romantic subplot is about being your best for, and being inspired by, one's partner. These two characters actually have what I thought was a mature relationship, where they strive to help each other out and encourage one another's goals.
Moreover, the novel subplot is just as important as the romantic one, where the protagonists has to learn to balance school, family, and her hobby/dream. She feels that she's not good enough to be a novelist, and the movie being what it is lets the audience know that this is true, but is dedicated to keep trying. This is not necessarily a childish message.
So, bottom line, despite (because of?) going into this movie expecting to utterly hate it, and despite (because of?) its simple nature, I really loved this movie.
1) Well made? - I guess, but the art and story were so simple that it would be hard to screw up.
2) Contributed? - I actually felt like this contributed to the romance genre more than to the animation genre. I like this couple more than...100% of the couples in rom-coms.
3) Good time? - The movie feels like it's runtime, but every aspect of it is crucial to the overall plot. I loved watching it despite going in expecting to hate it.
4) Watch again? - It wouldn't hurt, but it is a touch long, and I already got the point.
5) Worth it? - Absolutely. Like I said, my favorite or second favorite.
6) Who should watch this? - I hope people who like romance movies might enjoy this, and I hope that people who like animation might like this, but who knows? I know that it's not a fast-paced, fantastical type of story so people expecting that will be sorely disappointed.