Anime: When Marnie Was There

Anna and Marnie

When Marnie Was There , (Omoide no Marnie, "Marnie of My Memories" , 2014)

The 22nd anime film produced by Studio Ghibli, written and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, and based on the novel "When Marnie Was There" by Joan G. Robinson. It was released on July 19, 2014.

Anna is an introverted, alienated and asthmatic twelve-year-old girl from Sapporo, who only finds solace in her talent for drawing. To aid her health, Anna's parents send her to a relatives living in a rural seaside part of Japan, where Anna soon becomes fascinated by a large Western-style manor looming at the borders of the marsh next to the village she stays in. The first time she goes there she finds it abandoned and run-down, but on her second visit the house is suddenly full of life and light. More importantly, it appears to be home to a blonde girl named Marnie, who looks exactly like the girl Anna had been seeing in her dreams.

The girls feel an immediate connection, which grows ever deeper each time they meet. Still, Marnie and the manor she is living in remain a mystery. Why does the place look abandoned when Marnie is not around? What is Marnie's true identity? And what are her ties to Anna?

In typical Studio Ghibli style, with gorgeous animation and music, the movie gradually unfolds the meaning of Anna and Marnie's encounters, with Anna meeting several other important people along the way who all help her on her journey to find herself.

Tropes include:

  • Bittersweet Ending: After finding out Marnie was Anna's grandmother, she finally grows out of her abandonment issues and appreciates for her foster mother, however, we also find out that Marnie had a very tumultous and sad life: she lived a very abusive childhood and it didn't get better when she grew out after her husband's untimely death, getting committed to a psychiatric hospital for a time, being blamed by her daughter, Emily, of abandoning her which led to Emily running away and having Anna only to die with her husband on a car crash. Marnie tries to raise Anna herself but dies a year after the accident, leading Anna to be placed in foster care in the first place.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Anna matures a lot throughout her adventures with Marnie.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The elderly woman, Hisako, who Anna notices painting by the shore. She is Manie's childhood friend, and provides Anna and Sayaka with the first half of the truth about Marnie's identity.
  • Definitely Just a Cold: Anna falls unconscious a few times in the movie, but refuses to acknowledge she has a problem.
  • The Ferry Man: Alluded to. The first time Anna visits the manor she found herself stranded on the other side of the bay after the tide came in. A silent fisherman finds her and brings her back to the village.
  • Foster Kid: Marnie's governess abuses her when her parents aren't around. Anna fears Yoriko only adopted her for the money.
  • Ghostly Goals: Marnie wants to spend time with Anna, who is truly her granddaughter, and help her grow beyond her abandonment issues.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: The beginning of the movie is virtually dripping with romantic tension between the two main characters, which led many viewers to believe that this would lead to a payoff by the end. Alas, Marnie turns out to be Anna's grandmother, and as a girl she had feelings for Kazuhiko, a boy whom she later marries.
  • Ill Girl: Anna, though she works her way up to Plucky Girl by the end.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Anna and Marnie. This is significant, as blue is a very exotic eye color in Japan and Anna's blue eyes do not go unnoticed, which just feeds her sense of isolation.
  • Jerkass: The governess and two maids abuse and bully Marnie when her parents are away.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Marnie is Anna's grandmother.
  • Love Letter Lunacy: Parental love version: Anna's isolation and depression began when she found a hidden letter to her mother that rocked her whole world.
  • Ms. Exposition: Hisako, whose story fills in many of the gaps by the end of the movie.
  • Mukokuseki: Subverted Anna's blue eyes attract notice and are an important clue to her heritage.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The imagery used in promotional materials led many people to believe that the movie deals with the budding romance between the two female leads. It doesn't.
  • Parental Abandonment: Marnie's parents are present, but often leave her with an abusive governess; Anna's abandonment issues stem from several traumatic early childhood incidents.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Anna and Marnie's relationship seems to veer in that direction at first. Things are not quite as they seem to be though.
  • Scenery Porn: This is by Studio Ghibli, so this is to be expected. Still, the animation of the water in that marsh is gorgeous.
  • Time Travel: Combined with Living Memory. Both seem possible in the beginning and the difference matters in the end.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Anna and Marnie, respectively. It's a rare example with an introverted tomboy and an outgoing girly girl.
  • Write Back to the Future: Marnie's diary in effect though not in intent.