It took me a while to check this movie out. I was all ready to check it out but I often got distracted. It was not until I heard there was a controversy surrounding the movie that my attention was grabbed. After finally seeing the movie, what are my thoughts on both it and the controversy? Find out as we take a look at When Marnie Was There.
This will be another one of my special “2-Part” G-Views where the first part will focus on the movie as a whole and the second will discuss more intricate details. Basically part 1 is spoiler-free and part 2 is spoilerific.
Alternate title: Omoide no Marnie (Japanese)
Genres: Drama, Psychological.
Themes: Coming of Age, Neglect, Self loathing.
Running Time: 105 minutes
Plot Summary: A young introverted girl is sent to the countryside for health reasons. Once there she is drawn to a mysterious mansion located near a marsh where the tide rises after noon. There she meets an unlikely friend in the form of Marnie, a young girl with flowing blonde hair. A mystery revolving around the blonde girl’s identity and why both the mansion and her are somehow familiar to Anna begins.
As of this review the only Studio Ghibli movies I had seen before this one were Kiki’s Delivery Service, Castle in the Sky and the excellent Spirited Away. Basically I have experience with the studio’s work and know that it is greatly respected for its stellar hand drawn animation quality (A rarity in Western animation nowadays) and intricate storytelling…but I do not worship them as messiahs of Japanese animation. I just acknowledge and respect their well earned reputation. This movie is no different.
Having been turned into a fan of anime shows and episodes that take place in the countryside such as Non Non Biyori and Barakamon and knowing how SG excel at natural settings Marnie’s animation quality was another visual treat that had me glued to the screen every time it showed off its breathtaking scenery. The same goes for the soundtrack in all its tranquil glory. I am a sucker for the serene.
Having lauded the animation and sound how does the movie fare in storytelling? Great. That is to say it depends on how the viewer takes in the subject matter and relates to adolescent children going through the experiences Anna and Marnie went through: The worlds they grew up in, the people around them, basically everything they see and hear. See, the moment a child becomes capable of processing its surroundings and everything within is the moment he or she starts developing their worldview and emotional stability. As the movie progresses Anna’s introversion, poor social skills and self loathing makes sense. Her journey is not only about solving a mystery and her friendship with Marnie but also her learning to change. No duh but it is worth emphasizing. Everyone in the country is kind to her but her inner struggles make it hard for her to connect with others despite them meaning her no harm, once again emphasizing the emotional influence on how and where a child is raised and who a child interacts with. It can get intense. As for how Marnie feels…
As far as the mystery Anna got herself into goes, it is a well told one slowly giving viewers pieces of the puzzle while Anna slowly but surely puts two and two together without it being a cakewalk, especially with Anna having poor health and state of mind to contend with. What I am saying is the mystery is a tricky one that will have viewers guessing along with our brunette heroine and that is a good thing.
This being a Ghibli movie there are obviously supernatural elements…but not in the way one would expect. They are there but they are not the usually fantastical kind one would expect from the studio. It is a line between believable emotions and unusual happenings.
Having said all that the movie’s main draw is the friendship between Anna and Marnie. Two people who could not be more different from one another…and yet instantly drawn together. It is amusing and adorable…for viewers who had seen the English dub. Had they seen the subbed version…
Controversy time. In the English dub Anna got “Tomoyo’d” (Cardcaptor Sakura). That is not the controversy though. See, without spoiling anything, yet, there is a debate in the yuri nation on whether this movie’s original dub is yurirific, specifically Anna X Marnie. After seeing the movie myself and for reasons I will explain in part 2…I would have to say yes it is, provided the viewer paid close attention. And I do mean close attention.
If there is a flaw it is most likely with the pacing as time passes quickly but it is a minor one that does not greatly affect the movie.
Overall while I thought When Marnie Was There was a great movie (I do not care how it ranks among other Ghibli films) but this is a film I can understand some not enjoying as much as I did. It all depends on how viewers can relate to adolescents and how much they enjoy Ghibli films. I have only spoken about Anna and Marnie because while the rest of the cast do a pretty good job, it is all these two. Again all yuri fans need to do is pay close attention.
Check out part 2 here. Once again it will contain spoilers.