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Score: 8.17/10


Suffering from frequent asthma attacks, young Anna Sasaki is quiet, unsociable, and isolated from her peers, causing her foster parent endless worry. Upon recommendation by the doctor, Anna is sent to the countryside, in hope that the cleaner air and more relaxing lifestyle will improve her health and help clear her mind. Engaging in her passion for sketching, Anna spends her summer days living with her aunt and uncle in a small town near the sea. One day while wandering outside, Anna discovers an abandoned mansion known as the Marsh House. However, she soon finds that the residence isn't as vacant as it appears to be, running into a mysterious girl named Marnie. Marnie's bubbly demeanor slowly begins to draw Anna out of her shell as she returns night after night to meet with her new friend. But it seems there is more to the strange girl than meets the eye—as her time in the town nears its end, Anna begins to discover the truth behind the walls of the Marsh House. Omoide no Marnie tells the touching story of a young girl's journey through self-discovery and friendship, and the summer that she will remember for the rest of her life. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

With Studio Ghibli it’s hard to separate the monoliths previous works from it’s new ones. Even just last year Isao Takahata released his swan song “Kaguya Hime no Monogatari” which broke ground on an animation level, added narrative depth to a tenth century folk tale, and was certainly Ghibli’s most ravishing work since Sen to Chihiro. Yet despite the narrative currently surrounding Studio Ghibli (a subsidiary of Disney no less) going under, Kageyabashi manages to weave an extremely simplistic and rather flat tale similar in pace to his previous effort Arietty.

Although based off of a novel, the story manages to be paced rather poorly and often tends to wander into pretentious ground. What starts as an awkward encounter laden with romantic undertones between two girls in the countryside ends up meandering into purely sentimental fog. The “twist” conclusion while not totally overplayed felt exhausting and tired, and the short duration of only 102 minutes flares frequently due to the unfeeling main heroine. Anna’s character while understandably young, shows very little development throughout the narrative and instead simply does an about-face right after the conveniently written Hisako simply explains the entire story of Marnie. The mystery of the girl vanishes into thin air along with the girl herself, as Marnie’s character too, is highly contradicting. As a child she was frequently bullied and harassed by the maids who took care of her, yet Marnie still holds “a great fondness” for the mansion in which she lived in. The inconsistency of Marnie’s character which changes from a mentor-like friend towards Anna into a tormented coward seems all too confusing, and ultimately dissatisfying especially when comparing this films character study to other animated films in the same genre such as Flanders no Inu.

Visually Omoide Marnie displays some of the industries finest hand-drawn work. A great attention to detail can be seen in the creation of the Oiwa’s home the animation detail of characters in the background such as the festival sequence or the opening scene in the playground. A few notable good cuts also help elevate the narrative and even provide some interesting take on foreshadowing. An excellent example is a cut from Anna’s sketch of Marnie into Anna’s face itself in the same position on screen. Other than this though, very few liberties were taken in terms of originality, and the score is by all means simply average.

With that said I must conclude that while Omoide Marnie is a very pretty film, it is not well-paced. The lead characters are irritating and trite, and the conclusion feels rushed and a bit shallow. The ultimate issue is that for a film that does not have much action, there is also not a lot to be said about it. The movie passes through like a haze, leaving little to chew on. For an animated supernatural film it lacks whimsy and it’s overt serious tone is simply too ham-handed for how it addresses it’s subject matter. It is hard for me to recommend this film therefore only watch if you are very interested in the sasuga animation of Studio Ghibli.

Ah, When Marnie Was There, or Omoide no Marnie, was an absolutely beautiful movie that hopefully will not be the last one produced by the famous Studio Ghibli. I've had the pleasure of being able to attend the first screening outside of Japan in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on the 31st of January 2015. Since there hasn't been a review until now, and the soundtrack has been looping on my headphones for nearly a month, I believe it is time for me to step up and write the first (and my first) review on MyAnimeList. Hopefully, without any kind of spoiler (but, I will correct a few details from the synopsis -- don't worry; nothing spoilerish). STORY 9/10 The story for When Marnie Was There is based on the novel of the same name by Joan G. Robinson. Anna, the lead protagonist, has no friends, suffers from asthma attacks, and has a talent for sketching. She is rather closed off, rarely shows emotions, and is suspected to be depressed. After suffering a severe asthma attack, it is concluded that she should go live in the country for a while, away from the pollution. The pacing of these events is quite fast, but the continuation has an excellent pacing. As you've probably read from the synopsis, she begins to connect with a mysterious girl, Marnie. As you watch, pay attention to the expressions and interactions between the two girls. The interaction, the subtle changes in expression, and the strange occurrences that don't quite make sense make the story. Waiting for the story to unfold without paying attention to this, and without thinking about the plot, will make for a much less enjoyable experience. The pacing is excellent, the story telling is great, and the plot is amazing -- but don't expect an action-packed panty-shot fan-service movie. This is a story about adolescence, friendship, connecting, and mystery; and is just that in its purest form. ART 9/10 I could sum this up as "typical Studio Ghibli". If you don't know what that means, shame on you. To elaborate, everything from the character expressions, to the environments and the little decorations in the rooms is sublime. The attention for detail is extremely high, you could take a picture of a landscape or indoor room (stuffed with decorations) and get something that looks extremely similar to the environments and art shown in movie. As I mentioned at the story, especially the expressions deserve a lot of praise. A lot of attention and detail went into this, and you can see that the massive amount of experience and hand-drawn scenes delivers. SOUND 10/10 This should come as no surprise due to my earlier statement of continuously listening to the sound track for almost a month, but the sound is top notch. Like other Ghibli movies, the background music blends perfectly into the atmosphere and complement the mood and environment. At the end of the story, at the credits, once you've experienced the mood and growth of the characters, the ending theme "Fine on the Outside" by Priscilla Ahn begins to play. I cannot begin to describe how perfectly attuned it is to the mood you are in at the end of the ride; it compliments the entire story, and even feels like it is part of the story. If you've listened to it before, the meaning and feeling will change completely. The sound was excellent, and the album by Priscilla Ahn complimenting the movie is filled with great songs. Don't listen to it before you've seen the movie, though, as many of the songs on that album actually tell parts of the story! OVERALL 10/10 It should come as no surprise, I really, really enjoyed the movie. It is an excellent movie, worthy of being a movie produced by Studio Ghibli, and if the worst thing happens -- an excellent final movie to be produced by them. After a month before reviewing the movie I can draw an honest conclusion; When Marnie Was There is now my favorite Ghibli movie. I hope to see the movie again soon, and hope that you'll enjoy it as much as I did.

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