As she approaches the last summer of junior high, fourteen-year-old Shizuku determines to read as many books as possible in preparation for her future career as a writer. After meeting a boy named Seiji, whose taunts clearly indicate that he has a crush on her, Shizuku discovers an antique shop whose array of fantastical items inspires her to start writing a book starring the shop's most intriguing artifact, a top-hatted cat figurine called The Baron. This sensitive teenage love story was the first and last film directed by Yoshifumi Kondo, Miyazaki's anointed successor at Ghibli, who died suddenly in 1998. (Miyazaki wrote in his eulogy for his longtime friend and collaborator that "his drawings were shining with the real admiration towards youthful freedom"). Whisper of the Heart was the highest-grossing film of its year in Japan, and its gorgeously rendered fantasy sequences representing Shizuku's tales of The Baron (directed by Miyazaki) proved so popular that Ghibli made a spin-off film starring the dapper feline, The Cat Returns.