TL;DR – coming of age drama about a girl trying to find her calling through books, stories and a small statue of a cat in a suit called the Baron.
Review (warning: spoilers)
Shizuku is a voracious reader and a lover of books that spark her imagination. She enjoys writing songs and can even hold a tune even though she doesn’t think she can sing. She’s mindful of the small things in life, and these fascinate her to no end. For example, a cat that sits next to her on a train, an antique store that holds a cat statuette with eyes made of sparkling stones, a restored grandfather clock, sun rises, and watching a boy craft a violin out of wood.
It’s the attention to detail that Shizuku notices, and so, when she discovers that many of the books she borrows from the library have been borrowed previously by someone named Seiji Amasawa, she starts wondering who this boy might be.
Along the way she goes through the trials and tribulations any young girl goes through at high school including the joys of a love triangle when she discovers the boy her best friend, Yuuko, has a crush on, actually likes her. The whole situation compounded when she identifies that Seiji Amasawa is a boy at her school that teases her relentlessly, which she fails to realise until later is ‘code’ for ‘I like you’.
Slowly, she comes to know the real Seiji and falls in love with him, but not before she realises that his lifelong goal is to be a violin maker, and he will be travelling to Italy for a two-month study. Shizuku feels the pull to achieve something of herself during this time and invests all her energy into writing a novel.
The attention to detail that Shizuku’s character exhibits is also captured in the detail of her surroundings and the detail of animation that one would expect from Studio Ghibli. Somehow, animating the simple things adds layers to what is essentially a drama that could be filmed in real life. The way Seiji rides his bicycle with Shizuku on the back, the detail of the grandfather clock when it strikes midnight and reveals mechanical dwarves that tell a fairytale story, the hustle and bustle of trains and in classrooms, the cityscape views from atop a hill, the many hidden treasures in an antique shop… you take the animation for granted because it’s so effective.
Magical in its simplicity, gorgeous in its detail, and a story written by Hayao Miyazaki himself, this is a journey in appreciating the small things and learning to believe in yourself.
9 out of 10