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When Marnie Was There (思い出のマーニー , Omoide no Mānī, literally Marnie of [My] Memories) is the 21st animated psychological drama film written and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, produced by Studio Ghibli and released on July 19, 2014. This is Yonebayashi's second directorial work after The Secret World of Arrietty in 2010 and was his final film before he left Studio Ghibli and joined Studio Ponoc.

It is based on Joan G. Robinson's same-named novel. It transposes the setting from Norfolk, England in the original novel to Hokkaido, Japan. The film follows Anna Sasaki living with her relatives in the seaside town. Anna comes across a nearby abandoned mansion, where she meets Marnie, a mysterious girl who asks her to promise to keep her secrets from everyone.

The first edition of the novel was published in 1967 by the British publisher Collins and sold 250,000 copies. He was nominated for the Carnegie Medal finalist in 1968, and was televised on the BBC's Jackanory in 1971 (5 episodes). It was first published in Japan in 1980 by Iwanami Bunko Boy.

It was the final film for Studio Ghibli, before they announced that its division would take a short hiatus after The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, and the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki a year before the film was released.[1] The film featured the final work for Studio Ghibli animator Makiko Futaki, who died in May 2016.[2]

The film was released in theatres on 19 July 2014,[3] and on Blu-ray and DVD in Japan on 18 March 2015.[4] It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature]at the 88th Academy Awards.

On July 27, 2014, Nippon TV presented Until The End of The Creation of When Marnie Was There, a 42-minute documentary following the film's release in Japanese theaters.

Poster Catchphrases

  • "There is an invisible magic ring in this world." (この世には目に見えない魔法の輪がある。)
  • “I love you very much” (あなたのことが大すき。)
  • "In that cove, I'm waiting for you. Permanently--" (あの入り江で、わたしはあなたを待っている。)

Plot

Anna's Journey

"She's probably a hermit at school."
"It's true that stress can trigger asthma attacks."
"Meanwhile, my husband's off on a business trip. Maybe he and I are partly to blame, too."
"12 years old... It's a difficult age."
"Have you noticed anything about her?"
"She... always has an ordinary face."
"I'm sorry."
"Like she won't show her emotions...."
—Yoriko speaking with Anna's doctor

Anna Sasaki is sent to a rural, seaside town after suffering an asthma attack.

Anna Sasaki is an introverted 12-year-old girl living in Sapporo with foster parents, Yoriko and her husband. She believes that there is an invisible magic circle in the world and feels like she is on the outside away from everyone else. One day at school, she collapses from an asthma attack. Yoriko discusses with Anna's doctor about her recently withdrawn attitude as she no longer smiles or talks about her friends at school. The doctor and her parents decide to send her to spend the summer with Setsu and Kiyomasa Oiwa, relatives of her foster mother Yoriko, in the rural, seaside town of Kissakibetsu, where the air is clear, located between Kushiro and Nemuro. The town where the Oiwas' live in used to have lots of people visit, but after a highway was built, people stopped passing through. While driving Anna notices a silo on the hill, according to Kiyomasa it's used to store feed on farms but that silo hasn't been used in ages, in fact it's a place where all the local kids dare each other to go in and says it's a good idea to avoid the place all together. When they arrive at the house, Anna thinks the house is nice, with their children all grown up, Anna will be sleeping in their daughter's room, who is now working in Tokyo as a Yoga instructor.

After getting settled, Anna goes for a walk and sees an abandoned mansion across a salt marsh, she goes to investigate it. She looks around, finding it familiar, she goes to get a closer look. She realizes that no one has lived there in ages as the place is falling apart. While up at the house she doses off but when she realizes it's sunset, she leaves but gets trapped there by the rising tide until she is found by Toichi, a taciturn old fisherman, who brings her back to the pier with his rowboat. During that time, Anna thinks she sees lights in the house turning on, but seconds later, it is only the sunlight. When she returns to the Oiwa's, Setsu tells her that the mansion used to be a vacation home for some foreigners, but that it has been empty for a long time while Kiyomasa warns her to stay away from the mansion since he believes that the mansion and the silo are haunted. Starting that night, Anna dreams of seeing a blonde girl in the mansion.

The Marsh House

"Aw come on, he's a great guy. Just not much of a conversationalist.."
"You should ask him for a ride again.."
"Anna! Ask him for a ride. Hoo Hoo!"
"I will..."
"But seriously though, it's really best you stay away from The Marsh House.."
"How come?."
"Ghosts."
—Anna thinks about journeying to the Marsh House

Anna fails to get along with her peers during the Tanabata festival.

Over the next few weeks she goes to sketch the mansion and every night she sees the girl a little more. One day before she goes out Setsu takes her to meet their neighbor, Mrs. Kadoya who has wanted to meet Anna and also has a daughter named Nobuko, who is around her age. The women decide that the girls should go the Tanabata Festival together and Setsu lets Anna borrow her daughter's old yukata but Anna is not pleased by this since she hates festivals. On the night of the Tanabata festival, Anna gets into an argument with Nobuko and runs away to the mansion across the marsh where she meets Marnie, the blonde girl. The two agree to keep their meeting secret and they meet again on the next evening. Anna returns at high tide, she and Marnie are properly introduced. Marnie helps Anna with rowing and they have some cookies and juice. They play together and get to know each other (slowly, so they won't find out too much). Afterwards Marnie invites Anna to a party at the mansion, which is filled with guests. Marnie disguises Anna to get her into the party. Marnie stole her Nan's shawl, and when the Nan, Georgina Gordon tells her it's bedtime, they lure Nan upstairs and lock her in Marnie's room and go back downstairs. Marnie introduces Anna (as a flower girl) to her parents and the guests, but Anna's shyness gets the better of her and she goes somewhere else in the room. While there, Anna sees Marnie dancing with a boy named Kazuhiko. Later, some townspeople find Anna asleep by the post office and take her back to the Oiwa's. The next day, Anna returns to the mansion to find her missing shoe, but the mansion appears abandoned and dilapidated again.

One week later, while sitting on the shore sketching, Anna meets Hisako, an older woman who paints pictures of the marsh and the mansion. Hisako comments that Anna's sketches look like a girl whom she knew when she was young, and who used to live in the mansion. She also tells Anna that the mansion is being renovated for new owners. Anna runs to the mansion, where she meets a girl named Sayaka, who believes that Anna is Marnie until Anna tells her that she isn't. While Sayaka goes to get them drinks, Anna reads the diary discovered by Sayaka that was hidden in a drawer. Marnie's diary was actually moments that Anna was a part of: The night out on the boat and the party she attended. Anna also reads that because of what Marnie did at the party she was grounded and was not able to go out for a while. While reading Anna sees some pages are missing.

The Girl in the Blue Window

"You're my precious secret. I haven't told anyone about you, and I won't. If someone finds out, they'll only spoil it. Please, promise me. That we'll remain a secret."
"Forever."
"Yes."
"It'll be our secret."
"Forever."
—Anna and Marnie make a pact

Anna meets the mysterious Marnie.

The next day, Marnie reappears again and the two girls say how much they missed each other and discuss their home lives. Anna wishes she had her real parents like Marnie, but she wishes she was an orphan with loving foster parents like Anna. Anna admits to finding government documents that show how her foster parents are paid to take care of her. Anna makes the assumption that they only pretend to love her for the money. Marnie then shares with Anna how her parents are always traveling abroad, her mother has to travel for work so she doesn't get to see her too often and due to her Father's work, she only gets to see him twice a year, she also tells how they leave her in the mansion with her nanny and two maids, Ursula and Ella De Vil, and how they abuse her physically and psychologically. She manages to sneak out of the mansion when the staff gossips and that is when she feels so free. When her parents are at home they throw so many incredible parties, that's when Marnie sees her parents, gets a brand new dress and always gets to dance, that is when she feels like the luckiest girl in the world. Marnie tells Anna that the maids are also cruel and often threaten to lock her in the silo near the mansion. Anna leads Marnie to the silo, where she helps her confront her fear. Anna wakes up at the stairway in the rain, only to find Marnie gone, she goes to look for her and while running remembers her sad childhood times.

Meanwhile, Sayaka finds the missing pages from Marnie's diary, which include passages about Kazuhiko and the nearby abandoned silo. Sayaka and her brother find Anna unconscious and bring her back to her relatives' house. While in her feverish state, Anna dreams about confronting Marnie, who tells Anna she is sorry for leaving her and that she cannot see Anna anymore. Anna says a heartfelt goodbye to Marnie and during which the rain stops and the sun shines.

The Two Confess

"I missed you. I kept calling you in my heart."
"And I you."
"Come with me."
"No! This time you come with me."
"I... I can't go far from the mansion."
"Okay then, we'll go wherever you want."
—Anna invites Marnie to her room

Anna develops an inseparable bond with Marnie.

When Anna recovers from her fever, Sayaka shows her the missing pages and a painting Hisako gave to Marnie. They converse with Hisako who tells them about Marnie's story (but does tell the girls the story does not have a happy ending): A long time ago Hisako and Marnie played together when they were children and were such good friends. Marnie loved her parents and all the parties they threw, but deep down she was neglected. Her parents were always traveling for work and the maids and Nan who watched her were very unkind to her. Years later, Marnie married Kazuhiko, her good friend and they had a daughter named Emily. Kazuhiko soon became sick and died not too long after. Marnie was then committed to a sanatorium to recover from the psychiatric effect of her husband's death, and Emily was sent to boarding school, since Marnie's parents had also died and she had no one to look after Emily. After Marnie was released and Emily came back from boarding school at the age of 13, Emily blamed Marnie for abandoning her, even though she knew her mother was sick. The two were not able to make up and Emily ran away and got married, she was expecting with a daughter herself, but she and her husband were killed in a car accident when their daughter was one year old. Marnie raised her granddaughter, and cared for her very much but deep down Marnie still could not get over the shock of losing her daughter and when her granddaughter was two Marnie became very sick and passed away. After Marnie's death, her granddaughter was placed in an orphanage.

After the story Sayaka cries but Anna thanks her for telling them, Hisako tells the girls that while Marnie had a sad life she lived it to the fullest with a smile on her face.

A Final Wish

"Marnie adored that mansion. She loved seeing the marsh from her window. She said it felt like the birds were speaking to her. She had a such a sad life but she lived it to the fullest. Living life with a smile. She had a lonely life but she was determined to be happy."
"So you've met Marnie, too."
"Wish we could've played more, Anna."
"Me too, but the plan was always just for the summer."
"Will you come again next summer?"
"I'm sure I will. I'll write you."
"I'll write you, too."
—Anna learns her true identity and says farewell

Anna learns the truth of Marnie's past from Hisako.

At the end of the summer, Yoriko goes to the town to take Anna home. She gives Anna a photograph of the mansion and says it belonged to Anna's grandmother. When Anna sees Marnie's name written on the back, she realizes that she is Emily's daughter and Marnie's granddaughter. This revelation helps to bring Anna closure about her identity. Yoriko also tells Anna about the government payments for her care. However, Anna admits she knew about the payments but now no longer cares about them because she still loves her. For the first time, Anna calls Yoriko her mother. During the end credits, Anna says goodbye to the friends she met in town, before seeing Marnie in the mansion waving goodbye to her, as Yoriko drives Anna back home.

Characters

Anna Sasaki (アンナ , An'na)
Sara Takatsuki (Japanese), Hailee Steinfeld (GKIDS)
The main protagonist of the film. A 12-year old 1st year middle school student. She has dark hair with bluish black eyes. Anna was adopted by Yoriko Sasaki. She was raised by her grandmother, who later passed away and was then taken in by the Sasaki's a few years later.
She feels she is cursed following several tragedies in her family, and tries to hide her disappointment beneath a blank expression. She enjoys painting and loves sketching landscapes, but not portraits.
She loved her adoptive parent, Yoriko Sasaki, and thought of herself as her real child until she discovered she had been receiving child support from the state. Knowing this made her question the purity of Yoriko's love. As a result, she became lethargic and idle. She has since cared about anything and spends her time doing nothing. She is later relocated to Hokkaido due to her asthma, which further deepens her loneliness, until she discovers the wetland mansion and met Marnie.
Marnie (マーニー , Mānī)
Kasumi Arimura (Japanese), Kiernan Shipka (GKIDS)
The only daughter of a wealthy family living in a wetland mansion with pale blonde hair and blue eyes. She can speak fluent Japanese. Playing with children in the village was strictly forbidden, which made her determined to be friends with Anna who visited the swamp. She is actually Anna's grandmother.
When she was little, she was nearly trapped in a silo by her maids, and has since been afraid of going to the silo. Despite her sad and lonely life, she is determined to have a good life.
Yoriko Sasaki (佐々木 頼子 , Sasaki Yoriko)
Nanako Matsushima (Japanese), Geena Davis (GKIDS)
Anna's adoptive mother. A woman who always looks uneasy. She's worried that Anna doesn't apply herself. She loves Anna and sees her like her biological daughter.
Setsu Oiwa (大岩 セツ , Ōiwa Setsu)
Toshie Negishi (Japanese), Grey Griffin (GKIDS)
An old acquaintance of Yoriko. A large, round-faced woman living in Hokkaido. She has a grown up daughter and volunteers to take care of Anna.
Kiyomasa Oiwa (大岩 清正 , Ōiwa Kiyomasa)
Susumu Terajima (Japanese), John C. Reilly (GKIDS)
Setsu's husband. Works as a wood carver. He is kind to Anna and enjoys being funny.
Tōichi (ワンタメニー・ウェスト , Wantamenī U~esuto)
Ken Yasuda (Japanese), Fred Tatasciore (GKIDS)
A quiet fisherman. He often gives Anna a ride on his boat, though the two barely converse.
Nobuko Kadoya (サンドラ , Sandora)
Akiko Yoritsune (Japanese), Raini Rodriguez (GKIDS)
Residents of the seaside town. 13 years old. She's chubby. She's the chairman of the school. Dislikes Anna for being a layabout.

Setting

The old silo that appears in the film is based on Burnham Overy Staithe Windmill.

The novel is set in the fictional seaside village of Little Overton in Norfolk, England, modeled after Burnham Overy, a seaside village also in Norfolk. The author, Joan G. Robinson, had a strong connection with Norfolk throughout her life, particularly in 1950s, when she and her family spent the summer in Burnham Overy every year.

One evening, as Joan walked down a swamp trail, she saw a brick mansion with blue windows and doors from across the swamp. When she took her eyes off and looked back again, the mansion had blended into the landscape as if it had disappeared. A few minutes later, when the setting sun illuminated the mansion, she saw a girl lounging by the window combing her golden hair. Joan jotted down her ideas in several notebooks during the summer and spent about 18 months completing the novel.

Joan's eldest daughter, Deborah Sheppard, says that the protagonist Anna mirrors Joan's childhood memories. According to her, Joan's mother (Deborah's grandmother) was a tough person who deprived her daughter of affection during her childhood. Also, according to a story heard by Masataka Ikeda, an emeritus professor at Chuo University, in the late 1990s at a guest house in Bunham Overy, Joan visited Bunham Overy with her two daughters every summer, where it was revealed her youngest daughter was adopted and lived in a very similar situation as Anna.

Behind the Scenes

Development

The novel When Marnie Was There was published in Japan in 1980 by Iwanami Bunko boy in two volumes.

The original novel by Joan G. Robinson had previously been cited by Hayao Miyazaki as one of his favorite children's novels. Hiromasa "Maro" Yonebayashi, who had previously directed The Secret World of Arrietty, was assigned the project by Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki. Even though Arriety was the biggest hit in Japanese cinema in 2010, Yonebayashi felt he had unfinished business in directing and felt he hadn't said everything. The project was set up during the production of The Wind Rises (2013).

Yonebayashi admitted he hadn't read the novel yet, but did so after receiving a copy from Suzuki. He found the story moving, but "thought it would be very difficult to visualize as a film," stating the majority of the narrative followed Anna talking about her feelings in a sensitive and fragile way. "A visualization of those words would be very difficult. But at the same time I thought that if I could succeed, it would be a very rare type of film. Anna builds a wall around her, she refuses help from the outside, but at the same time she’s screaming out for it as well, and eventually she realizes she’s loved by the people around her and she’s gradually adapting to the realities of life."[5]

Hiromasa "Maro" Yonebayashi, the relatively young director behind the film.

His interest was later renewed, however, and he began to conceive of new elements for the story, such as Anna's characterization as an artist. “It was an interesting read, but I felt it would be difficult to make an animated film out of it,” Yonebayashi explained.

After this first reading, he initially refused the project. But he still tried to draw some illustrations. “I thought it might be a good idea to bring something more. Anna draws herself. Through his drawings or his way of writing, I could perhaps also describe the feelings of the character." It also has the idea of adding scenes not present in the original text, as Anna and Marnie dancing under the moon or night scene picnic. “I drew all of this, and going through these steps, I finally said to myself: I want to continue, and maybe I can finally make this movie."

Places such as Sapporo were part of the film.

On December 12, 2013, the production for the film was announced. On accepting the director position, Yonebayashi said that he had no intention of changing the world, as Miyazaki could with his adaptations. After two adult-oriented Ghibli films back-to-back, namely The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, he wanted to return to a Ghibli movie aimed at a younger audience. For this new start, Suzuki has added Yoshiaki Nishimura to production, and a very young team of collaborators and newcomers to carry out this project.

Early Marnie concept sketches by Hiromasa Yonebayashi.

"I started reading this book about 10 years prior to production and I wasn’t moved at all. But in Japan there were two volumes, and I never got through the first one, no matter how many times I tried. But after this production was decided, I read everything and it all made sense. I thought Anna meeting Marnie, who understands her, would be enough. But actually it wasn’t, it’s not just about love, it’s about identity." said Nishimura.[6]

For producer Nishimura, Yonebayashi is a calm person who likes to take his time. However, the producer remembered Yonebayashi's statements very clearly: he wouldn't let anyone say that Studio Ghibli was unable to make a good movie without Takahata and Miyazaki.

Nishimura further explained that he took the job for two reasons - the first was after hearing Takahata during an internal screening of Arriety, “If a young producer had put all his soul into it, maybe the film would have been better."

The second reason has its origin when he was still working on the storyboard of Princess Kaguya with Takahata. Yonebayashi then confessed to him that when he worked on his storyboards, sometimes, he could not judge if they were good or not. He was a little envious of Isao Takahata, assisted by a person to give him his opinion. Nishimura therefore agreed and immediately began working on the storyboard of Marnie with Yonebayashi. So he worked on Takahata's film while starting to work on Marnie. Late at night, he joined Maro at the apartment in which the director had isolated himself to work.

Production

"“This time, Miyazaki's name is not in the credits of the film... Which means I have to work without a 'holy monster' around me."
—Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Hiromasa Yonebayashi drew a comic on how he was captivated by Marnie's smile. Also featured in the film's visual guide is a stoic portrait of Anna Sasaki.

Hiromasa Yonebayashi worked 18 months on the screenplay and storyboards before starting production of the film. In the end, Toshio Suzuki said that Hayao Miyazaki himself would have been unable to create something so sensitive. “When Yonebayashi was working on Arrietty, the whole team gathered around him to support him because he was a beginner and no one knew if he was able to complete the project” explained Nishimura. “But this time around, he makes his decisions quickly and his work is very convincing."

Toshio Suzuki observed a general supervisory position, providing advice such as changing the setting of the story to Japan. However, it was merely perfunctory as he wanted to see how the new team would operate. "It was I who launched this project," he explained. “I chose the main collaborators and organized the schedule and I will participate in the promotion of the film. But I will no longer be present at production meetings with the film crew. It was I who set up the main players on this project, but now it's up to them to manage its production. I will certainly want to give my opinion, but I will abstain."

Masashi Ando, a Ghibli veteran animator since the 90's, joined the project and provided invaluable insight to the team.

Yonebayashi chose his team carefully, selecting Ghibli veteran Masashi Ando as animation director, and Yôhei Taneda as art director for the sets. Andô joined Studio Ghibli in 1990 and worked as animation director on Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. However, he left the studio after the production of Spirited Away, due to artistic differences with the director. He became a freelance animator and notably worked for Satoshi Kon. By selecting Andô , Yonebayashi wanted to appeal to a personality who knew how to say no to Miyazaki's methods.

Andô took care of the animation, but he also participated in the screenplay with Keiko Niwa and Yonebayashi. Different questions were indeed posed to him when he apprehended the original text. Reading the novel, Andô did not really grasp the charm of the story. All the characters around the heroine, Anna, were all too sweet, and the events didn't feel logically structured to her. Andô then shared these questions with director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who then offered to revise the script together. When Andô proposed an idea to Yonebayashi, the latter listened and thought, then made him a new proposal. They thus advanced the scenario through constructive discussions.

Art Director Yôhei Taneda helped create the vivid landscapes of the film.

Andô worked closely with Yonebayashi, from the screenplay and on the sakuga. They each gave one another their honest opinions, as if they were at the same hierarchical level. Yonebayashi joined Studio Ghibli in 1996, Andô is considered the sempai. Even though it had been a long time since he worked at Studio Ghibli, Andô explained: “What was interesting about this production is that instead of asking me if Miyazaki will like it this time - here, I gave my opinion and expressed my ideas. I think there are pros and cons to being able to give your opinion. How the studio's younger collaborators react to this new freedom will be important for the future of the studio."

Taneda's detailed background work elevated the film's style.

Although the setting was changed, the decision was made to retain Marnie's appearance as blonde and blue-eyed, though Miyazaki was opposed to this decision. He later criticized the usage of Marnie's character to promote the film, opining that it was "plain outdated and cheesy." "Yes I know it’s unusual but we chose it because of that very reason. But actually it’s because in the original novel there is an illustration of Marnie with blonde hair and blue eyes. It’s difficult to depict blonde hair in animation, but I took on the challenge, and we changed the setting to Japan so Marnie became a sort of mysterious existence in that setting. To put the Western world and Japan together, we managed to create an original world." said Yonebayashi.

The main difficulty comes from the main character, Anna Sasaki, who is someone who does not show his feelings. To bring it to life, the animators tried to create a multitude of faces devoid of emotion.

Yonebayashi returned to the marsh that inspired the film with Anna's voice actor Sara Takatsuki for the TV special, Until The End of The Creation of When Marnie Was There.

Yonebayashi intended the film to be encouraging to children in Japan who felt lonely and isolated, and hoped that "when they see Marnie, maybe they could take a little step forward". Key focus was placed upon highly detailed character movements and backgrounds, as well as depicting the details of Anna's experience in the environment. The Marsh House that is central to the story was designed by Yohei Taneda, who Yonebayashi asked "to draw the Marsh House as if it were another character who watches over Anna." Taneda scouted buildings in Hokkaido for inspiration. During an interview, Yonebayashi explained, "Our production designer, Yohei Taneda, has lots of experience in live action films, so I asked him how to achieve that effect. We went to Hokkaido and took a lot of references of landscape, scenery and architecture."

"To depict the marsh landscape's mysterious side, we played a lot" adds Yonebayashi. “As a rule, in Ghibli films, we find a very clear, blue sky with white clouds. This is what I used until now. But this time it's a little different."

Seen here are the directing staff and lead voice actors. Part of the film's promotions included a life-size recreation of the rooms of the Marsh House, including Marnie's iconic blue windows.

Normally for Ghibli films, the storyboards were completed before background sets were completed. For this production, the sets were designed first before the storyboards were completed. By constructing a miniature of the Marsh House, Yonebayashi was thus able to visualize the placement of characters in the sets, as well as to plan his camera frames during his work on the storyboard, directly after the scenario. This working method strongly influenced the film.

At the end of the production, Hayao Miyazaki had announced his retirement and that the production side of Studio Ghibli was to be shut down. Yonebayashi explained to Cartoon Brew what he learned from his experience at Ghibli, "There are so many things that I have learned at Studio Ghibli. The most important has been my involvement as an animator in director Miyazaki’s films, when I was able to learn how to draw many types of animation — even as I was often scolded by him. This has been the inheritance of a lifetime for me."[7]

Dubbing

The final script of the film.

Because the film is set in Hokkaidô, TEAM NACS, a troupe of artists from the island, plays a small role in the film. Hiroyuki Morisaki, Ken Yasuda, Shigeyuki Totsugi, Yô Ôizumi and Takuma Otoo had lent their voices to Hayao Miyazaki's film, Howl's Moving Castle.

Sara Takatsuki, the actor that voiced Anna Sasaki, explains how she got the role, "In the auditions I've done so far, my confidence has often fluctuated, but this time I strongly wanted to accept it because it was a Ghibli work. I even declared to the manager, "I will definitely accept it" (laughs). Even though my feelings increased that much, when I finished the audition, I lost confidence ... Moreover, I had time to make a decision, so I gave up once saying that I had fallen. So the moment I heard that it was accepted, I felt like a dream."

The two leads of the film, Sara Takatsuki and Kasumi Arimura, recorded their lines together.

Kasumi Arimura, the actor of Marnie, then said, "To tell the truth, this was my second audition for Studio Ghibli's work. When I first received it, it was at the time of my debut, and I didn't have much experience in acting, so I just felt nervous. So I had a special feeling this time. But when I went to the audition, it was the first day and I was a top batter! I was really nervous, but I feel like I've taken the plunge and put out all of me. At the audition, I played both Anna and Marnie."

Regarding the challenges for the role, Takatsuki said, "As the story progresses, Anna grows up, so I was conscious of changing her voice along the flow. At first, I close my heart, so I try to keep my emotions inward as much as possible, and even if I cry, I feel like I'm crying. In the second half, it created a bright atmosphere. It was also an instruction from director Yonebayashi (Hiromasa), and it was also a part that I consciously played."

TEAM NACS, a troupe of artists based in Hokkaidô, performed minor roles in the film.

On the other hand, Arimura said, "To be honest, Marnie, who I played, was a difficult role. The tension changes a lot, and there are some lines that are outrageous. But that is Marnie's personality. It's packed with mysterious elements, so it doesn't change your emotions momentarily, even with a little mischief and a little devilish part. I tried not to think too deeply."

Takatsuki elaborated on the challenges of anime dubbing versus live action acting, "In the case of anime, I learned that it also expresses reactions that are not used in real life. This When Marnie Was There is a quiet work overall, so the sound is even more important. Even if you say "Marnie", there are dozens of detailed expressions, and in one scene it took more than 30 minutes just to say "Marnie"."

To help with their performances, both lead actors recorded their roles together.[8]

Advertising

Yoshiaki Nishimura presented several concepts for the film's final poster visual to Toshio Suzuki. Seen here is the rejected concept with Marnie's profile. Also seen are two later Studio Ghibli films that had their trademark blue skies to show a Ghibli release for summer had come.

The advertising catchphrase “I love you very much,” was chosen. Producer Nishimura and Toshio Suzuki held a several discussions on this and concluded that people these days are just waiting for someone to hear or say "I love you". They then decide about the promotional visual that can accompany it. Nishimura brought various images from the film and Suzuki asks him to show them to everyone present at Studio Ghibli. They must select the image most representative of the film. Nishimura is very attached to the visual of Anna and Marnie back-to-back holding hands. But the former producer doubts.

"What are they doing?" Suzuki asks.
"They hold hands," answers Nishimura.
"But why are they back to back?"
"They are one person and not two," Nishimura responds.
"We don't understand anything..."

They failed to come to an agreement.

For Nishimura, there is another reason for the use of this visual: the two girls wore short sleeves outfits. Traditionally, Studio Ghibli films always came out in the summer. Ponyo and The Wind Rises both had posters that featured blue skies and clouds. The reason is to give the impression that Ghibli's Summer has arrived. In people's minds, it's summer, so "We're going to go see Ghibli's movie in theaters." Nishimura wanted to find this effect with the poster of the film Marnie that had no blue sky.

Suzuki needed convincing that Anna Sasaki and Marnie standing back-to-back while holding hands to symbolize they are the same person' was a good idea for the final promotional visual for the film.

“It has nothing to do with it,” Suzuki retorts. "You see the poster of Chihiro? It's all black and in addition, there is a big pig on the poster. There is no connection with what you are telling us. For The Cat Returns, the girl sleeps in the grass. I searched for this image in the film before I found it. The team disagreed because her face was in profile. But if Haru was in front, it wouldn't have worked and people wouldn't have come to see the movie. But in the end, it was what was needed and it was successful. You will continue to search." Suzuki still needed convincing that this was the promotional visual meant for the film.

A day or so later, Suzuki holds a final meeting to decide on the film's final poster visual, “I've been working for Studio Ghibli for a long time and I have my own opinion when it comes to advertising,” he explains. “I never take any risks, I never go on an adventure and I always choose a safe bet. I take a risk when I have no other choice. For Marnie, it was kind of the case, because the basics of this film were a bit particular, in a good way and a bad way. In any case, different from Miyazaki and Takahata films. It's a "young" film, always in a good and bad way. It was necessary to highlight the “fresh” side of the young succession of the studio after the announcement of Miyazaki's retirement. We have lost this reassuring aspect of Studio Ghibli but we have gained in freshness. And that's the important point of this film."

"This drawing Anna and Marnie assembly described the film" concluded Nishimura. “I spoke with Suzuki about it. This film shows the evolution of Anna's feelings. She is quite withdrawn psychologically but Marnie supports her. This drawing symbolizes the film well."

Release

When Marnie Was There was released in Japan on 19 July 2014. On January 14, 2015, GKIDS announced that they would be distributing the film for a North American release. The film premièred at the New York International Children's Film Festival on 27 February 2015. The film had its UK premiere during the BFI London Film Festival on 10 October 2015 with a wider release scheduled for 10 June 2016.

The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD in Japan on 18 March 2015, and released on Blu-ray and DVD in America by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on 6 October 2015.

Reception

Box Office

The film was aired several times on Nippon TV's "Friday Road SHOW!". First on October 9, 2015, then July 14, 2017, and finally on April 3, 2020.

When Marnie Was There opened at third place, grossing ¥379 million during its opening weekend in Japan. By its fourth weekend, it had earned ¥2.08 billion, made an additional ¥930 million in its next two weekends, and had a total of ¥3.63 billion by its eighth weekend. In North America, the film had grossed US$186,844 by its third weekend.

It was first aired on terrestrial television on Nippon TV's Friday Road SHOW! on October 9, 2015. It was part of the Autumn Ghibli, event where Howl's Moving Castle was also shown after. It earned a strong 13.2% audience rating. It was then re-broadcast on July 14, 2017, and earned a 9.7% rating. It was re-broadcast again on April 3, 2020, and earned a 7.6% rating. It was aired along with Kiki's Delivery Service.

Book Sales

Following the success of the film, Robinson's original novel experienced a boost in sales internationally. Her agent Caroline Sheldon sold the rights of the book to 10 countries, including Japan, Italy, Spain and China. The book was also re-released in English by HarperCollins Children's Books as part of its classics range.

Critical Response

A wide variety of "Marnie" merchandise was made for the film.

When Marnie Was There received positive reviews. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 91%, based on 91 reviews, with an average of 7.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "When Marnie Was There is still blessed with enough visual and narrative beauty to recommend, even if it isn't quite as magical as Studio Ghibli's greatest works." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 72 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

In 2015, it was nominated for the Best Animation Award for the 38th Japan Academy Prize and 9th Asia Pacific Screen Awards. It won in the 32nd Chicago International Children's Film Festival. In 2016, it was nominated for the 43rd Annie Awards.

David Jenkins of Little White Lies noticed the subtle references to Alfred Hitchcock in the film – from Vertigo to The Birds. According to Director Yonebayashi, "I wasn’t particular conscious of this, but probably there is an element of suspense. It begins with the meeting of Marnie and Anna, but gradually we wonder who Marnie actually is. Referencing other movies is actually quite rare for Studio Ghibli – we haven’t done it before. I think there is a psychological link to Hitchcock, and that’s why you might have felt that similarity. But it wasn’t intentional."

Music

Marnie Was There Soundtrack Music Collection (思い出のマーニーサントラ音楽集 , Omoide no Marnie Santora Ongaku Shuu) is the two-disc soundtrack composed by Takatsugu Muramatsu and performed by the Yomiuri Japan Symphony Orchestra. It was released on CD and digital download on the iTunes Store on July 16, 2014.

The first disc contains six Image Album tracks. These tracks were made to express the personality of the characters and feel of places in the film. The second disc contained the film's official soundtrack.

The melody of Marnie's song (Tracks 16 and 27 on Disc 2) is taken from the piece Recuerdos de la Alhambra, composed by Francisco Tárrega for solo guitar.

Priscilla Ahn, the writer and performer of the movie's theme song, Fine on the Outside, also released an accompanying album to the film called Just Know That I Love You on July 16, 2014.

Track listing

Disc 1

No Name Length
1 The Oiwa Home (大岩さんの家 Oiwa-san no Ie) 3:36
2 High Tide, Low Tide (潮の満ち引き Shio no Michibiki) 3:43
3 Anna (杏奈) 3:38
4 Marnie (マーニー Mānī) 4:37
5 Sayaka's Dream (彩香の夢 Sayaka no Yume) 2:23
6 "Anna (Piano Version) (杏奈(ピアノバージョン) Anna (Piano Bājon))" 3;54
7 Total Length

21:50


Disc 2

No Title Length
1 An Ordinary Face' (「普通の顔」 Futsū no Kao) 1:40
2 Anna's Journey (杏奈の旅立ち Anna no Tabidachi) 1:42
3 Sending a Postcard (ハガキを出しに Hagaki o Dashi ni) 2:00
4 The Marsh House (しめっち屋敷 Shimetchi Yashiki) 2:09
5 The Light Is On!' (「明かりがついてる!」 Akari ga Tsuiteru!) 0:23
6 The Girl in the Blue Window (青い窓の少女 Aoi Mado no Shōjo) 0:57
7 Sketching on the Boat (ボートの上でスケッチ Bōto no Ue de Suketchi) 0:43
8 The Girl Stood Up! (少女は立ち上がった! Shōjo wa Tachiagatta!) 0:39
9 'Like Just What I Am' (「わたしはわたしのとおり」 Watashi wa Watashi no Tōri) 0:59
10 When I Held a Doll (人形を抱いていた頃 Ningyō o Daiteita Koro) 0:47
11 It's Not a Dream!' (「夢じゃないわ!」 Yume janai wa!) 3:25
12 "The Two on the Boat (ボートの上の2人 Bōto no Ue no Futari)" 1:47
13 Three Questions Each (質問は3つずつ Shitsumon wa Mitsu Zutsu) 1:14
14 The Party (パーティ会場 Pāti Kaijō) 1:45
15 Kazuhiko and Marnie Dance (和彦とマーニーのダンス Kazuhiko to Mānī no Dansu) 2:22
16 Let's Dance, You and I!' (「あたしたちも踊りましょう!」 Atashi-tachi mo Odorimashō!) 1:57
17 While Cutting Tomatoes (トマトを切りながら Tomato wo Kirinagara) 1:14
18 Hisako's Painting (久子の絵 Hisako no E) 0:37
19 The Blue Diary (青い日記 Aoi Nikki) 2:43
20 The Mushroom Forest (キノコの森 Kinoko no Mori) 1:21
21 The Two Confess (2人の告白 Futari no Kokuhaku) 3:38
22 It's Like We Traded Places!' (「入れ変わっちゃったみたい!」 Irekawatchatta Mitai!) 0:57
23 Anna Runs in the Storm(杏奈、嵐の中を走る Anna, Arashi no Naka wo Hashiru) 0:46
24 A Final Wish(最後のお願い Saigo no Onegai) 2:52
25 Hisako's Story 1 (久子の話1 Hisako no Hanashi 1) 3:13
26 Hisako's Story 2 (久子の話2 Hisako no Hanashi 2) 1:26
27 When Marnie Was There (思い出のマーニー Omoide no Mānī) 1:58
28 Fine on the Outside" (Words and music written by Priscilla Ahn) 4:14
Total Length 49:29

Trivia

  • Lead actors Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura were chosen among 300 candidates after a 3-day audition process at the end of 2013. According to Producer Yoshiaki Nishimura, the first person chosen was Kasumi Arimura.
  • During the party scene at the Marsh House, two men are heard saying, "That story is really a masterpiece" and "That's right." The voice actors are staff members for Question for one hundred million people!? Waratte Koraete! (笑ってコラえて!), a long-running variety show on Nippon TV.

Voice Cast

Character Japanese cast English dub cast
Anna Sasaki Sara Takatsuki Hailee Steinfeld
Marnie Kasumi Arimura (young)
Ryoko Moriyama (old)
Kiernan Shipka
Taylor Autumn Bertman (young)
Catherine O'Hara (old)
Sayaka Hana Sugisaki Ava Acres
Hisako Hitomi Kuroki Vanessa Williams
Mila Brener (young)
Yoriko Sasaki Nanako Matsushima Geena Davis
Kiyomasa Ōiwa Susumu Terajima John C. Reilly
Setsu Oiwa Toshie Negishi Grey Griffin
Nanny Kazuko Yoshiyuki Ellen Burstyn
Tōichi Ken Yasuda Fred Tatasciore
Nobuko Kadoya Akiko Yoritsune Raini Rodriguez
Doctor Yamashita Yo Oizumi Bob Bergen
Neighborhood Association Officer Takuma Otoo Unknown
Art Teacher Hiroyuki Morisaki
Mrs. Kadoya Unknown Kathy Bates

The following are additional English voice cast

Credits

Credit Staff
Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Screenplay Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Keiko Niwa, Masashi Ando
Art Noboru Yoshida, Takashi Omori, Yohei Takamatsu, Youichi Nishikawa
Character Design Masashi Ando
Key Animation Akira Honma, Akiyo Okuda, Atsuko Otani, Atsuko Tanaka, Atsushi Tamura, Ayako Hata, Ei Inoue, Eiji Yamamori, Hideki Hamasu, Hiroomi Yamakawa, Hiroyuki Okiura, Katsutoshi Nakamura, Katsuya Kondo, Kazuyoshi Onoda, Kenichi Konishi, Kenichi Yamada, Kitaro Kousaka, Makiko Futaki, Masafumi Yokota, Megumi Kagawa, Michiyo Suzuki, Misa Koyasu, Moe Usami, Naoko Kawahara, Naoya Wada, Ryosuke Tsuchiya, Shinji Hashimoto, Shinji Otsuka, Shinji Suetomi, Shougo Furuya, Shunsuke Hirota, Takaaki Yamashita, Takayuki Hamada, Takeshi Honda, Tsutomu Awada,
In-between Animation Akane Ōtani, Akiko Teshima, Alexandra Weihrauch, Asako Matsumura, Asami Ishikado, Ayaka Saitou, Chizuru Inoue, Eimi Tamura, Emi Hirota, Emi Nakano, Etsuko Tamakoshi, Etsuko Yamamoto, Eun-Ah Park, Hiroko Tezuka, Hiromi Niwa, Hisako Yaji, Hu Young Jeon, Jinko Tsuji, Jung Hee Shin, Kaori Itou, Kaori Miyakawa, Keiko Tomizawa, Kengo Takebana, Kim Boksim, Kiyoko Makita, Kumiko Ohtani, Kumiko Tanihira, Kumiko Terada, Kunoko Akiyama, Maho Takagi, Mai Nakazato, Maiko Matsumura, Maiko Suzuki, Mariko Matsuo, Mariko Suzuki, Masakiyo Koyama, Masako Akita, Masaru Okuwaki, Masaya Saito, Masayo Andō, Maya Fujimori, Mayumi Ohmura, Megumi Higaki, Mi Kyung An, Michiko Oda, Misaki Kikuta, Mitsuki Chiba, Moyo Takahashi, Nanako Egami, Natsumi Hasebe, Natsumi Morimoto, Reiko Mano, Rie Eyama, Rie Nakagome, Ritsuko Shiina, Rui Yakata, Ryeong Hee Park, Ryōsuke Mizuno, Ryōsuke Murahashi, Sadakazu Kato, Satoshi Senba, Sayaka Yamai, Seiko Azuma, Setsuya Tanabe, Shinichiro Yamada, Shiori Fujisawa, Shouko Nagasawa, Soon-Ha Hwang, Sumie Nishido, Takeshi Ohkoshi, Tomoko Miyata, Tomoyo Nishida, Tomoyuki Kojima, Wei Ni Huang, Yasumi Ogura, Yayoi Toki, Yohei Nakano, Yoriko Mochizuki, Yoshie Noguchi, Youko Tanaka, Yu Matsuura, Yu Fen Cheng, Yui Ōzaki, Yuichi Tajima, Yuka Matsumura, Yuka Saitō, Yukari Yamaura, Yuki Fuse, Yukie Watanabe, Yukiko Kunitake, Yukina Hosaka, Yuko Tagawa, Yūko Tani, Yuna Fueki, Yuri Yagisawa, Yuuko Fujita
Animation Check Minoru Ohashi
Animation Director Masashi Ando
Director of Photography Atsushi Okui
Music Takatsugu Muramatsu
Sound Director Koji Kasamatsu
Art Director Yohei Taneda
Color Design Yūsei Kashima
CG Miki Umezawa, Norihiko Miyoshi, Yoichi Senzui
Producer Yoshiaki Nishimura
Executive Producer Toshio Suzuki
Production Studio Ghibli

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