When Marnie Was There – Hiromasa Yonebayashi – 2014


Omoide no Mânî CoverOriginal title: Omoide no Mânî
Rating: 4 Stars
Year: 2014
Directors: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Duration: 103 min.
Genre: Anime, Drama, Fantasy

When Marnie Was There

When Marnie Was There (trailer) is only the second film of this Japanese director, but it looks as if he’s been around for ages. That’s because he has been. Yonebayashi has worked as an animator for about two decades now and worked on anime film classics such as Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. After his directorial debut with Arrietty in 2010 comes this film, which is completely different in almost every aspect. Arrietty was a children’s adventure about tiny people living inside the walls of real people’s houses. When Marnie Was There is still primarily meant for children, but it really works well for adults too. This is mainly because of the topics of the film such as loneliness, friendship and finding out who you are. Those are topics grown-ups also deal with. It doesn’t change though that the main character is a 12 year old teenage girl living in Sapporo, a large city in Japan.

But not for long. Due to her bad health – she has asthma – her mother sends her to the country side where the fresh air should do her good. The girl – Anna – ends up living with relatives in a small sea side town called Kushiro. While there Anna sees an old mansion across a march. It looks like it hasn’t been lived in for quite some time. It fascinates her, and she wonders why it has such a strange familiarity to it. Some time later, during a festival called Tanabata she wanders off to the march and sees light burning inside the old mansion. There also happens to be a little row boat. As any curious child would do (right?) she gets in the boat and rows to the mansion. There she meets an odd girl with long flowing blonde hair and blue eyes. They talk some, and decide to meet more often. The blonde girl reveals her name is Marnie. On one of such meetings Anna is smuggled into the mansion to see that a high society party is going on. However, the next morning the mansion looks like its old self again, with boarded windows and overgrown walls. What is going on? Who is this Marnie, and how does Anna fit into all this?

Some of the really good parts of this film are its main story and its music. Also the animation is done quite well. The only thing stopping it from being a truly fantastic film in my opinion is that some characters don’t seem very fleshed out. There could’ve been a little more side story with some of the local girls, the mute fisherman or her relatives. But that doesn’t stop this film from being a must-see for anime/animation lovers. Also it might very well be the last ever Ghibli film to be made. Sadly the studio isn’t doing too well, and with the retirement of both of their success directors things don’t look too good. It looks like we might have to conclude that Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, Isao Takahata’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya and When Marnie Was There are going to be the last three films we’re going to see from this animation studio. Out of those three, I would rank When Marnie Was There second, just ahead of The Wind Rises but well behind Kaguya. 2014 isn’t going to be remembered as a very good year for film I suspect, however this one is easily among the best releases of the year. An introvert’s delight.

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