Omoide no Marnie, otherwise known as “When Marnie was There”, is potentially the last film to be created by Studio Ghibli now that Hayao Miyazaki has retired. However before I go onto the review itself, I wanted to talk a bit about Studio Ghibli, given how many wonderful films have come out of it and the personal attachment I have with the studio itself.
Studio Ghibli is a Japanese animation studio which is based in Tokyo and was founded in 1985. They are best known for their unique take on anime feature films. Eight of the fifteen feature films made by Studio Ghibli were amongst the top 15 highest grossing films in Japan. Four of their films received Academy awards over in the US- most notably “Spirited Away” which won a Golden Bear in 2002 and academy award for best animated feature film in 2003. However, in August 2014, Studio Ghibli had announced that production would have to be temporarily ceased due to Hayao Miyazaki, the director, retiring.
On a personal level, I have watched many of the films that have come from this studio as I have grown up and they all seem to captivate me in some way. Spirited Away was full of fantasy and crazy ideas, “My Neighbour Totoro” was a fun film that just made you feel happy inside, “Whisper of the Heart” was one of the best slice of life films out there- and then there are many more that I could go on about! In short, the work done by Studio Ghibli is always to a high standard- their art is always sublime (many scenes are often hand drawn), the music is always captivating and in general it gives you the magical feeling that films from Walt Disney also often give. I am very sad to hear that Miyazaki has retired but I also wish him the best in whatever he wishes to pursue and would like to thank him and the staff for the wonderful films they have made over the years.
Being the last film ending a legacy, I was not sure how Miyazaki would be sent of. However in the end, I believe that “Omoide no Marnie” does just that. The film itself would fall into the “Mystery and Physiological” genres, although I would personally also add fantasy and drama to that. The story itself will be a simple one with a twist- however with this show it is the way it is portrayed that makes this simple show a really engrossing watch.
The plot itself is centred on Anna Sasaki, a 12-year old child who lives with her foster parents- Yoriko and her husband, who we don’t really ever see. At school she collapses because she has an asthma attack and as a result her parents decide it is best if she spends her summer with her aunt and uncle in the countryside in a rural seaside town, where the air is cleaner. Sasaki herself is a very quiet and introverted character who finds it difficult to open up to others- often resulting her in reacted in odd ways, which does not help when she is around others at school. She is left on her own to do what she does- often sketching in her little sketchbook.
At the seaside town, she spots an old abandoned mansion across a marsh. It can be reached only by boat when the tide is up and for some reason she just can’t seem to get it out of her mind. However one night, she sees that the lights are actually on and there are people actually living there. Upon exploring she finds a younger girl around her age called Marnie. For some reason she is able to open up to her and instantly they have a strong bond. However all is not as it seems and the story from here will not be what you expect as you are taken for an interesting ride through a rather interesting story. There isn’t much else action to speak off, the film really only does focus on Marnie and Sasaki once they have met. However it is the story that is told that will really keep you going through it- I cannot say anymore as to give any hints or spoilers but just wait and watch and you will be surprised!
The film itself is of an average length and you never really find yourself thinking “when will this be over” or “why am I even still watching this”. The story has a neat progression that builds up well to the final climax- dropping hints here and there about what it may be.
As expected from any Ghibli film, the art is spectacular and the attention to detail is very high. Whether it is a background or just a scene inside a house- there are so many things which are drawn out that you might not even notice although it gives it a very real feeling to it. The best artwork is of the surrounding trees and of the actual marsh itself. The colour palette is akin to that of a paint palette, the colours are soft and blend nicely into each other. The music is also of a very high standard, Studio Ghibli, as ever mixes in the right sounds with the on screen action and you really do feel it when they are trying to make a point.
Character development is good as far as the main characters Sasaki and Marnie are concerned. Other side characters such as Yoriko and Sasaki’s aunt are also given a bit of screen time although very, very little in the context of the two main characters. The whole story revolves around Sasaki and Marnie and then you learn more about them through the briefest of interactions with other characters and flashbacks. Perhaps if there was an area where the film could have improved then it would be this- by introducing one or two more major characters. However, personally, I liked the detailed focus on only those two since the other side characters weren’t stereotypical either and even if they interacted for a brief moment of time, they added something to the show.
The show does explore lightly some more serious themes of finding it hard to fit into society, what a young child feels when knowing they are adopted and the idea of family life. Although these are themes which are mostly just there to set up the story, rather than being an integral part of it.
If this show were not to appeal to someone then it would be for someone who is more interested in action and lots of adventure. This film is like a “fantasy slice of life” if I may say so- it is very calming and it’s the kind of show you watch when you sit back with a cup of tea.
Overall, I loved the ending of the film and honestly did not see it coming until the very end. The show does justice to Studio Ghibli and is a wonderful way to sign off- it includes all the typical traits of the studio. If you enjoy this film, be sure to look up some other films made by Studio Ghibli!
Final Score: 9. 2