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Shizuku and Seiji exhibit believable strengths and flaws: their warm humanity contrasts markedly with the shabby superficiality of the characters in many American animated films. The lively performances of Brittany Snow and David Gallagher transcend the geographic limits of the story to make Shizuku and Seiji the kids the viewer wishes lived next door. Miyazaki's script suggests that a sense of magic can exist, even in everyday Tokyo. Whisper of the Heart was the only film Yoshifumi Kondo directed before his untimely death at age 47, but its understated charm stands as a monument to his talent. (Rated G, suitable for ages 10 and older: tobacco use) --Charles Solomon