It is goddamn hot. It hit 103 today and my hometown is enjoying some Southern California fires already. Heat makes me lazy, irritable, and weirdly moody so I like to hole up indoors and re-watch favorite summer classics like Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart (Imdb)(Wiki). One simple reason I like it is because the film starts off on a boiling hot summer day.
The cicadas, the bright white light, cold mugi-cha, and summer dresses!
The story? Book lover Shizuku is intrigued by the name Amasawa Seiji, a boy who seems to check out the same books as she does. The same Amasawa name appears on a stamp for a rare book of fairy tales that she checks out when the film begins.
Shizuku, though, spends her summer vacation relaxing and frittering away her creative energy by making funny pun-filled translations of songs. Her parents are not pushing her to study anyway so she usually wakes up late.
There is an incredibly subtle scene in the first 20 minutes of the film. Shizuku sits down to read her new book. It seems that hours have passed: the sun is low, children walk home outside, and Shizuku’s eyes are filled with tears as she gets deep into the story (all while nibbling on a bag of chips).
Suddenly her older sister comes home for a visit. Despite being tired from her trip, the sister quickly jumps in to take over the household chores (their mother is taking classes). Shizuku is annoyed to be nagged to help out and shuts herself in their shared room after dinner.
- There are high school romances to be parsed and annoying older sisters to deal with. But nothing really happens for the first half hour of the film because, like a true “slice of life” story, nothing really happens in our day to day lives either. Shizuku is lazying the long, hot summer days away with her books, gossip, and translations.
Like Alice encountering the white rabbit, Shizuku finds a strange fat cat on the train. And just like Alice, she chases after him wondering “where do YOU have to be?”
It is important to note the little details here on Shizuku’s cat-chasing adventure. First of all, she skips through various areas that are explicitly “off limits.” The sign on the door might be translated as “keep out.”
Secondly, she runs up and through strange alleyways to find an almost magical “world” at the top of the hill.
This is an extremely wealthy neighborhood, with gated estates and covered import cars. The cat leads her to a strange antique store, filled with luxurious and exotic curios from the West.
Remember, Shizuku lives like a typical middle class Tokyoite in a cramped urban high rise. Here are some pictures to compare…
And here, Shizuku is struck by a mysterious statue of a cat gentleman.
This is probably one of the most influential movies in my whole life and I want to continue with the film summaries in a later post. For now, I want to stress two things.
- The hot summer days pass and nothing really happens…
- Until Shizuku puts herself on an adventure
It is similar to the post I wrote yesterday. I wrote, writing is dirty work. To write, you have to push yourself out into the world, head into the forest, and put things into motion. Nothing will change until you put yourself out in the world.
I am roughly day 22 out of 30 of my Writing Challenge. I kind of want to spend the entire day reading books and ignore the nagging sense that I really ought to be doing more with my life. But instead I will head out into the summer heat and open myself up to adventures that will hopefully lead my life somewhere more meaningful.
Sept 9 (23/30)
Started Writing: 10pm
Word Count: 1,012
Review: I have not updated my blog with the word counts for the last few days! I think it was out of shame? Because it is 11pm and I am exhausted but still updating out of pride.