When Marnie Was There

Haven’t seen a Ghibli film in a while so I decided to watch When Marnie Was There. Best to say my emotions were not prepared for this kind of assault.

Based on Joan G. Robinson’s book of the same title, When Marnie Was There tells the story of Anna, a 12-year old girl dealing with some personal issues, as she moves to Sapporo for the summer where she meets a mysterious blonde girl. I think it is worth noting that the upon the release of the trailer for this movie, a lot of people speculated on it being a yuri/shoujo ai movie. It is not. Although it is not hard to see the potential homosexual undertones between Anna and Marnie, I assure you that once you finish the movie, you’ll realize there was nothing romantic between their relationship.

I don’t think I have to point out how everything in the movie looked absolutely beautiful. The colors, the detail, the background–everything is beautiful. Just look at this food porn right here:

Studio Ghibli makes the most delicious looking food.
The Marsh House.

Priscilla Ahn’s song “Fine On the Outside” was also a really, really perfect choice for the movie’s ending song. Given the fact that Anna is dealing with issues of self-hatred and other family-related things, I thought the song perfectly encapsulates Anna’s character. It’s perfect.

Also, the fact that the protagonist is a 12-year old and already dealing about issues such as being adopted, and hating herself as well as the people who abandoned her is kind of new when it comes to Ghibli movies. Usually, the Ghibli fare for these kinds of protagonists is young love and fitting in. However, we have here a protagonist who finds solace in her solitude and, ironically, finds forgiveness in escape.


The latter part of the movie was truly heartbreaking. I can’t. I lost control of my feelings and now they’re all over the place. It is in this part that you’ll realize that there was no homoerotic context (although of course, you’re still free to push this)–just pure, untainted love. It was pure it was painful to watch.

Anna’s sketch of Marnie. I’d give my soul to be able to draw like this.

I still feel sad that Miyazaki-sensei has retired and that it’s possible for Ghibli to stop producing movies, but I think Marnie is not such a bad way to go.


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A shy and quiet person who loves anime, books and Japanese food.

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