When Marnie Was There (reviews - page 2)

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This page lists information about reviews related to the film When Marnie Was There.

Reviews (continued)

Minneapolis Star Tribune

4 June 2015

Review: 'When Marnie Was There' is a fine swan song for Studio Ghibli

REVIEW: Feeling is the central focus of “When Marnie Was There,” a modest adaptation of Joan G. Robinson’s 1967 novel, as the house that Miyazaki built goes out quietly.

By Colin Covert

Japan’s beloved animation empire, Studio Ghibli, is apparently saying sayonara.

Its revered catalog of beautifully visualized, sensitively expressed children’s programming, which created the Oscar-winning “Spirited Away,” has been underperforming at box offices in Japan and internationally. True, they are often minimal on action, but always priceless in imagination. How regrettable it would be if such lushly hand-drawn 2-D movies were no longer available to young viewers who favor brash computer-generated films. The latter may look more realistic, but often feel far less.

Feeling is the central focus of “When Marnie Was There,” a modest adaptation of Joan G. Robinson’s 1967 novel. Moving the action from the east of England to eastern Japan and moving the story to the present, it retains the basic themes.

Anna, a lonely foster child, never connected to the kind woman who took her in following the deaths of her mother and grandmother. Anna keeps her adoptive mother at arm’s length, calling her Auntie. Suffering a bout of asthma, she is sent away from the city for a fresh-air vacation, staying with a caring couple who encourage her to explore the sandy beach. On one of those tours she encounters a seaside mansion occupied by a charming girl named Marnie, who becomes Anna’s first friend.

Who is Marnie? That’s one of the film’s key questions. We watch it unfold shifting between modern scenes apparently genuine and others seemingly two generations old that suggest dreamlike memories. Marnie and Anna can meet either way. They connect quickly, but keep secrets from each other, and us. We wonder who Anna is at heart, whether Marnie’s welcoming attention will encourage her visitor to grow into a wise, caring and generous girl. And why would that be Marnie’s concern?

There are passages of anxiety here, with rising tides and thunderstorms that put the girls in moments of Gothic urgency, but they are few. This is a film defined by patience and attention, an adventure of emotional exploration. The feelings in play are as richly textured as the images, which can turn a plump housewife carving a vegetable meal into art. It is a love story, but not a romance. Boyishly cropped brunette Anna and exquisitely beautiful Marnie, her long blond hair fluttering, hold hands, exchange hugs and sometime need firm embraces to dry their tears. But what is developing between them is not a preadolescent crush. It’s the start of the friendship of a lifetime, a fantasy becoming real. Much like a Ghibli film.

New York Magazine/Vulture

22 May 2015

When Marnie Was There Starts Slow, But You’ll Be Crying by the End

By Bilge Ebiri

“In this world, there’s an invisible magic circle,” our heroine Anna, 12, tells us at the beginning of the new Japanese animated film When Marnie Was There, based on Joan G. Robinson’s 1967 children’s book. “There’s inside, and there’s outside.” Judging by the forlorn way she looks at her schoolmates playing among themselves, the lonely Anna, we suspect, is very much outside the circle. Or rather, she sees herself outside it: Though the film is sympathetic to her self-loathing, it also makes it clear that Anna’s feelings of persecution stem from within. A foster child who lost her biological parents at a young age, this girl seems forever to be poking away at an unhealable wound.

When Anna has an asthma attack, her foster parents send her to an aunt’s house by the seaside, where the air will be clearer. There, Anna finds herself drawn to a mysterious, sprawling, abandoned mansion (dubbed “the Marsh House”), which is reachable for her at low tide. But what’s this? In one window of the allegedly empty Marsh House, Anna sees Marnie, a beautiful blonde girl about her age. Like Anna, Marnie is lonely — neglected by her parents and occasionally terrorized by her maids. The two become the best of friends, but at first it's hard to tell why, other than the fact that they're drawn to each other — mystically, passionately, even dangerously. Whether Marnie exists in real life is also initially up for debate: For starters, she seems to belong to a past era, with her beautiful dresses and her elegant, old-fashioned surroundings. More important, Anna only ever seems to visit The Marsh House in a dreamlike state; their encounters usually end with her waking up in a field of grass or by the side of the road. Is this a figment of her imagination?

Initially, it’s hard to pin down exactly where the story is going. At times, it seems to take the form of a gothic mystery. (The film occasionally reminded me of Bernard Rose's brilliant, seminal thriller Paperhouse.) Other times, it feels like a sensitive coming-of-age tale, as Anna's anger over not having a biological family finds its correlative in Marnie's sadness over her own distant parents. I even briefly wondered if the film might turn into a strange adolescent romance, given the fervor with which Anna and Marnie yearn for each other's company.

But this type of clever uncertainty is also the stock in trade of Studio Ghibli, the animation company best known for the films of co-founder Hayao Miyazaki. This time out, the director is Hiromasa Yonebayashi, one of Miyazaki’s protégés (he also directed The Secret World of Arietty), and he’s learned his lessons well: When Marnie Was There, like many of the best Ghibli films, walks a fine line between simplicity and ambiguity. As the film dances around its emotions, we get the sense that it’s circling something it can't quite bring itself to express. But this hesitancy rarely bothers us. Because, as we suspected, the film does have a game plan after all: It’s saving the emotional fireworks for the end. And that's all I can say about that. When Marnie Was There may start off a bit awkwardly, but it'll have you bathing in your own tears by the time it's over.

New York Post

20 May 2015

‘When Marnie Was There’ a Ghibli ghost story

By Sara Stewart

“I hate myself,” 12-year-old Anna thinks to herself, setting an appropriately melancholy tone for Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli’s adaptation of a British-penned young adult novel from the 1960s. An outsider in her school, Anna’s good at art but prone to anxiety-induced asthma attacks, as well as angst about being an orphan.

Sent away to the country to stay with her foster mom’s relatives and get healthier, she finds herself drawn — as so many Gothic heroines do — to a rambling old mansion across the marsh, said to have been uninhabited for years. There, she meets a blond girl her own age who becomes her first real friend — except for the part where the friend, Marnie, may not be real.

“When Marnie Was There” keeps up the tradition of Ghibli’s unparalleled rendering of natural beauty, but it also, more interestingly, has a fine ear for the intensity of girlhood friendships and the dark places of childhood that adults tend to miss. The strangely blond Marnie appears to lead a fabulously wealthy life with her jet-setting, party-throwing parents, until Anna learns she’s been raised, and bullied, by maids and nurses. Anna, for her part, isn’t just a social outcast — she’s actively sort of awful at times, calling one new friend a “fat pig” out of nowhere.

But the two form a friendship that teaches both how to love — and then, in a moving final act, Anna learns the truth about Marnie’s back story from a new resident of the marsh mansion. Subtle, sometimes really sad and honest about the struggles of adolescence, “Marnie” is a worthy last entry from Ghibli before the studio reportedly goes on hiatus.

New York Times

21 May 2015

Review: ‘When Marnie Was There,’ by Studio Ghibli, Animates a Friendship With Ominous Undertones

By Jeannette Catsoulis

Beneath its calm, exquisitely detailed surface, “When Marnie Was There” bubbles with half-formed ideas and undeveloped themes. Suggestion and subtext jostle for attention, and the extent to which they intrude will depend mainly on the age of the viewer. To the tinies, this gorgeously animated adaptation of a 1967 young-adult novel by the British author Joan G. Robinson will seem a simple tale of friendship found and unhappiness banished. Others, however, could experience the story’s sweetly supernatural drift as a veil for gnarlier intimations of child abuse, sexual awakening, ethnic confusion and even mental illness.

Possibly the last feature of its kind from the much-lauded Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli (whose founders, Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, recently announced their retirement), “Marnie” is psychologically darker and less fantastical than most of the studio’s previous output. Its emphasis on the richness of nature and the fortitude of young girls, though, remains intact as Anna, an asthmatic 12-year-old, is sent to live with relatives at the seaside. Orphaned at a young age, Anna is an unusually prickly heroine who derides her anxious foster mother (“She whines like a goat!”) and simmers with self-loathing. Sulking outside the “invisible magic circle” inhabited by her peers, she pours all her emotions — including spikes of violence — into her drawings.

But when Anna meets Marnie, a golden-haired beauty with an unsettling tendency to appear and disappear at odd moments, everything changes. The seemingly abandoned mansion in the marsh where Marnie lives is transformed at high tide by glamorous parties — a glittering world that welcomes Anna as one of its own. Seduced by Marnie’s ardent attentions, she barely notices their ominous undertones or her own lapses in memory whenever her new friend is around. Like a princess in a fairy tale, Marnie moves in stardust and traffics in mystery.

Unfolding in painstakingly realized interiors and painterly landscapes, “Marnie” is a muddled merger of ghost story, fantasy, time travel and coming-of-age. Fighting all of these, however, is a first-love story — a passionate connection between two damaged souls. This becomes quite explicit when Anna, perpetually dressed like a boy, jealously watches Marnie dance with a young man, then questions their mutual devotion. But the director, Hiromasa Yonebayashi (perhaps mindful of appealing to younger children), only flirts with this and other, thornier undercurrents, like the suggestion of Marnie’s abuse at the hands of her forbidding maid and the fury with which Anna responds to the suggestion that her eyes are almost blue.

The result is a movie that’s neither eventful enough for little ones nor ripe enough for teenagers. The conclusion is rushed and poorly staged, yet the damp caul of loneliness that envelops the film’s early scenes feels moving and true. We don’t have to read the book to suspect that its author — who was born in 1910 and lived through two world wars — had, like Anna, more than a theoretical acquaintance with the aftermath of abandonment.


21 May 2015

A Journey Of Self-Discovery In 'When Marnie Was There'

By Ella Taylor

The adolescent girl at the heart of Hiromasa Yonebayashi's haunting When Marnie Was There has the cropped dark hair, wide eyes and square-peg awkwardness that will be familiar to fans of Studio Ghibli animated movies. Unlike the feisty, willful sprites of Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away and many other Ghibli treasures though, Anna is a cowed, sensitive soul with artistic leanings. At school she's friendless and bullied. At home, where she lives with adults she calls Auntie and Uncle, she's a mouse so anxious and fearful of rocking the boat that her worried guardians decide to send her to the country for the summer.

For reasons we'll learn about later, Anna (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld) believes she's being dumped on the cheerfully phlegmatic couple with whom she's billeted. Trust soon grows as they allow her to roam free with her sketchbook in a Ghibli landscape tailor-made for adventure, danger and self-discovery. Even without its moving parable of emotional repair, When Marnie Was There has all of Ghibli's exquisitely hand-drawn sense of place — a wild green marshland inspired by the quake-prone Japanese island of Hokkaido, complete with waving wildflowers, erratic weather, and not a tweety-bird or cute bunny in sight to cue gooey emotions.

On one of her solitary outings, Anna happens upon a Gothic mansion that looks strangely familiar. Perhaps in deference to the 1976 [sic] British novel by Joan G. Robinson on which the film is based, the cavernous home contains a blond, blue-eyed little rich girl named Marnie (voiced by Kiernan Shipka). Marnie has been on the lookout for a best friend to rescue her from her own sadness. The two lonely girls become soul-mates, yet Marnie keeps vanishing and re-appearing without explanation. A third girl, appealingly owlish and dependable, materializes to further complicate the question of what actually exists outside the terrifying world of Anna's traumatized imagination. Amid tumultuous internal and climatic storms, Anna is freed at last to process long-suppressed memories of how she came to be a foster child.

More than one kind of orphan emerges from the movie's intricately-layered plotting. Expect no wicked stepmothers or redemptive dwarves, though. With a few exceptions the adults are benign, though some have their own tragic losses to contend with. As for Anna, she has the wrong end of the stick about who she is and where she comes from. Like every Ghibli girl, she must work her way through her fears and anxieties in her own, wonderfully old-fangled way.

The Oregonian

5 June 2015

'When Marnie Was There' review: Is this Studio Ghibli's swan song?

By Marc Mohan

When Oscar-winning animator Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from filmmaking in 2013, it marked the end of an era.

Hope remained, however, that Studio Ghibli, the company Miyazaki co-founded in 1985 and for which he directed masterpieces including "Spirited Away" and "My Neighbor Totoro" would continue to carry the torch for quality, hand-drawn animation. They have, reasonably well, until now.

The gentle supernatural fable "When Marnie Was There" is, for the moment, the final film from Studio Ghibli, which announced last September that it was suspending operations indefinitely.

Like many Ghibli movies, it's about a young female protagonist who has a life-changing brush with the supernatural. Twelve-year-old Anna is sent to live with her foster mother's relatives in the country after suffering a serious asthma attack. Alienated and depressed, she wanders the nearby marshes and comes across a dilapidated mansion. Anna has strange dreams and visions about the estate, and befriends a mysterious blonde girl named Marnie who seems to live there. No bonus points will be awarded for predicting Marnie's ethereal true nature.

In a lot of ways, it's hard to fault director Hiromasa Yonebayashi ("The Secret World of Arietty"). The story, adapted from a 1967 novel by British author Joan G. Robinson, is emotionally rich and empathetic toward adolescent angst in a way that's rare in any movie, let alone one directed at that age group. The visuals are splendid, especially the beautiful backgrounds of the marshes where Anna and Marnie meet. People who complain there aren't any interesting, smart movies about girls need to take their kids to films like this one.

And yet, as unfair as it might be to Yonebayashi, it's hard not to wonder what Miyazaki could have done with this material. "When Marnie Was There" is a bit too familiar, and at times gentle to a fault. Without the exuberant imagination of its guiding light, perhaps Studio Ghibli is right to take a momentary hiatus until not everything it does will be obscured by his brilliance.

Otaku USA

21 July 2014

When Marnie Was There Review

Studio Ghibli in the post-Miyazaki era

By Matt Schley

When Marnie Was There is an important test for Studio Ghibli. It’s the first film of the post-Miyazaki (and ostensibly post-Takahata) era, in which a new generation of directors, writers and producers will attempt to continue what Miyazaki, Takahata and Suzuki created.

I went in to Marnie with a certain amount of trepidation – I was not a huge fan of Yonebayashi’s Arrietty, which had all the trappings of a Ghibli film but little of the soul. But When Marnie Was There is a solid film that shows great promise for the future of the studio: it feels the work of Studio Ghibli, but, crucially, not like a slavish copy of a Miyazaki film.

Marnie is based on a 1967 young adult novel by Joan G. Robinson about a young girl named Anna. Anna, transported to Sapporo in the Ghibli adaptation, is a shy and self-loathing junior high schooler, a talented artist but without friends and prone to panic attacks.

Anna’s mother, fearing for her health, sends her to live with her aunt and uncle in a rural town where she can breathe fresh air and relax. Anna seems just as uncomfortable in her new environment as her old one until she meets Marnie, a girl Anna’s age who appears only near an abandoned mansion and makes Anna promise not to tell anyone about her.

Is Marnie a ghost? A figment of Anna’s imagination? Or something else entirely?

That’s one of the great successes of When Marnie Was There: it’s not immediately clear where the film is going. What initially feels like a story of pre-teen angst slowly becomes something more magical before taking a bit of a sinister edge. This isn’t to say the tone is inconsistent: rather, Marnie keeps its cards close to its chest, only deploying them when the time is right. It’s a slow but satisfying burn to the conclusion.

Ghibli has a record of making films with young female characters, and Marnie is no exception. There’s a big difference, though, between superhero types like Nausicaa or Kiki and normal humans who struggle and evolve over the course of the film. Anna falls into the latter category, one of Ghibli’s least upbeat female characters, at least at the start of the film.

Anna’s situation and attitude reminds me a lot of Momo from 2012’s A Letter To Momo: a young girl feeling depressed and confused by the changes in her life who's forced to move to a new environment. As it so happens, Momo’s director, Hiroyuki Okiura, reportedly did some animation work on this film, and Masashi Ando served as character designer and animation director on both.

If there’s thing to be disappointed about in this film, though, it may be the animation, which aside from a few choice shots, feels very workman-like. Then again, this isn’t a Hayao Miyazaki fantasy piece: aside from a few supernatural elements, it’s the story of a friendship between two young girls, and aside from a few iffy CG shots, the animation does the job.

If there was any worry about Ghibli repeating itself by adapting yet another female-oriented children’s book, those fears are thankfully unfounded. When Marnie Was There turned out to be the kind of source material Ghibli hadn’t really tackled before. While this might disappoint fans who’d like the studio to churn out Hayao Miyazaki copies ad infinitum, it bodes well for a thriving creative future for director Yonebayashi and Studio Ghibli.

Philadelphia Inquirer

29 June 2015

Film Review -- 'When Marnie Was There': A minor, yet beautiful ghost story

By Molly Eichel

When Marnie Was There is a pretty ghost story from Studio Ghibli, the animation house that Hayao Miyazaki built. Circumstance, however, casts an unfortunate pall over the film.

Miyazaki, the legendary animator behind the classics Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl's Moving Castle, announced his retirement last year. That decision, in essence, put an end to Studio Ghibli (it's officially "on hiatus," with no restart date in sight). It's a shame. The studio, especially Miyazaki's creations, had been the source of some of the most breathtaking hand-drawn animation ever put on the big screen.

It's difficult to put that out of your mind while watching When Marnie Was There - a movie that can't be judged without thinking, "This is it?" for Studio Ghibli. It's sad that a great studio ends on a minor note. But When Marnie Was There still deserves to be considered on its own merits, and while not a masterpiece, it is beautiful, nonetheless.

Anna (Pitch Perfect 2's Hailee Steinfeld in the English-language dub) is a 12-year-old who prefers the company of her sketchbook to that of other people. Her adoptive mother (Geena Davis) is worried that her asthmatic charge has grown depressed, and sends her to live with relatives in the countryside.

Anna finds solace exploring a mansion. There, she meets the mysterious Marnie (Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka), who, unlike many other 12-year-olds, appears and disappears at a moment's notice.

So, Anna enters Marnie's world and does not blink when her blond friend takes her to fancy parties with people in period dress, or ends up asleep, dirty and shoeless, by the side of the road after hanging with her new spectral friend.

The bulk of the story comes in the movie's final act, piling on an explanation of the previous events, making the film feel bottom-heavy.

Like other Ghibli films, When Marnie Was There is gorgeous to look at. Even when the plot moves slowly, as it does in the beginning, there are sumptuous settings to get caught up in. And like its predecessors, When Marnie Was There, based on the book by Joan G. Robinson, is full of a kind of magic - one that is not questioned, but taken at face value from children who are not yet cynical enough to reject the impossible.

With Studio Ghibli gone, that magic goes with it.

Rocket News 24

21 July 2014

Our take on Studio Ghibli’s newest anime, When Marnie Was There【Impressions】

By Casey Baseel

In one way of looking at things, it’s a great time to be a fan of Studio Ghibli. In the course of its history, the famed anime production house has often taken two years between releases, but the recent debut of When Marnie Was There marked the third Ghibli theatrical premiere in the last 12 months.

At the same time, studio co-founder and acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement from anime films also has plenty of long-time fans on edge. Still, we weren’t about to pass up the premiere of a new Ghibli movie, so we grabbed a ticket and went to see Marnie for ourselves.

Titled Omoide no Marnie (lit. “Marnie of Memories”) in Japanese, the film is an adaptation of the children’s novel by British author and illustrator Joan G. Robinson. The Ghibli film changes the setting from England’s Norfolk to Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, but retains the basic premise of Robinson’s 1967 original. Even protagonist Anna’s name is the same, although the anime gives her the Japanese version of the name written in kanji characters.

Twelve-year-old Anna, voiced by actress Sara Takatsuki in her first anime role, has always had a frail constitution, and as the movie opens is spending the summer convalescing at a seaside village on the Hokkaido coast. In a nearby marsh stands a manor house, where one day Anna meets and befriends a blond-haired girl named Marnie, voiced by fellow anime newcomer Kasumi Arimura.

For Anna, who has largely closed off her heart to others, making a genuine friend is a profound experience, and the focus of the film is the deepening interpersonal relationship between the two girls. As Anna spends more time with Marnie, though, she becomes increasingly conscious of something unusual about her friend. Why is it that Marnie seems to disappear at times, or become suddenly frightened at others?

With the film’s spotlight placed squarely on the feelings two young girls have for each other, some may be tempted to label When Marnie Was There as belonging to the yuri subgenre of anime, which focuses on romantic love between women. That wasn’t the opinion our movie reporter, Kaori, came away with after watching the film, though. “Marnie is Anna’s first friend, so she’s very attached to her,” Kaori explains. “On top of that, there’s something undeniably mysterious about Marie… which makes Anna want to know more about her, and leads her to start unraveling the truth,” she told us after taking in the film for herself.

Visually, the film is unmistakably a Ghibli production in its character designs and overall animation quality. “Even more so than usual, a lot of care has gone into the building interiors,” reports Kaori, who found the green hues of Anna’s room and the plush furnishings of Marnie’s to be particularly memorable, as was the film’s lavish ballroom scene. The credit for this these likely goes to Yohei Taneda, an experienced live-action production designer who has dabbled in anime work before, but is serving as art director for an animated feature for the first time with Marnie.

This is only director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s second time helming a film, and his first directorial effort, 2010’s Arrietty, was produced when Miyazaki was still a full-fledged Ghibli staff member (not that Miyazaki’s retirement has stopped him from dishing out advice at his old workplace). Nonetheless, Kaori had high praise for Yonebayashi’s ability to craft the sort of atmosphere Marnie’s story demands. “Watching the film gives you a feeling of floating between reality and fantasy.”

While there’s no shortage of fans who’d love to see Yonebayashi grow into being “the next Miyazaki,” the Marnie director himself doesn’t seem to be interested in competing with or even necessarily emanating his legendary predecessor, as shown in comments he made to the media. “I don’t think I’m going to change the world with this film in the way that Miyazaki has,” he asserted. “Coming after The Wind Rises and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, both of which were directed by true masters [Hayao Miyazaki and long-time Ghibli director Isao Takahata, respectively], I’m simply trying to make a Studio Ghibli film for children once again.”

Kaori concurs, noting that in comparison to Miyazaki’s and Takahata’s newest films contain profound messages and themes for adults to mull over, Marnie, like Arrietty before it, has a smaller, more intimate focus. This doesn’t mean the movie is strictly for children, though. “As we grow up, we tend to lock a part of ourselves away, deep inside our hearts. Watching When Marnie Was There, though, I could feel it starting to reawaken.”

Sounds like Ghibli’s post-Miyazaki era is off to a good start to us.


22 May 2015

“When Marnie Was There”: Tomboy meets ghost in this wistful seaside tale that might be Studio Ghibli’s last

Lonely girl makes odd new friend in this possible swan song from Miyazaki's legendary studio

By Andrew O'Hehir

“When Marnie Was There,” a wistful, lovely and faintly sinister fable about a lonely tomboy and her spectral new friend, may well be the final animated film produced by Japan’s legendary Studio Ghibli. If it doesn’t measure up to the studio’s best and most fantastical films, notably such Hayao Miyazaki classics as “Spirited Away,” “Princess Mononoke” and “My Neighbor Totoro,” it has some of their essential spirit and carries the sad, sweet flavor of farewell.

Arguably “When Marnie Was There” is a bit of an anticlimax, although this work from director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, a longtime Ghibli animator and Miyazaki lieutenant who also directed “The Secret World of Arrietty” in 2010, is highly enjoyable on its own terms. Ghibli should probably have closed its doors after either Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” or co-founder Isao Takahata’s gorgeous, hand-drawn “Tale of the Princess Kaguya,” both of which are highly original works and very close to animation masterpieces. Yonebayashi’s film is more like a classic, mid-period Ghibli offering, an adaptation of a Western children’s book (in this case, a 1967 novel by English author Joan G. Robinson) transferred to a Japanese context and laden with just a little adult-oriented psychology.

I’ve only seen the Japanese version of this film; in most American theaters you’ll hear Hailee Steinfeld as the voice of Anna Sasaki, this story’s androgynous orphan heroine. An isolated, asthmatic and artistic child on the cusp of puberty, Anna is sent from the city of Sapporo to a remote seaside town by her well-intentioned guardian, to stay with a jovial aunt and uncle she barely knows. You couldn’t ask for a more time-honored setup: It’s the summer-getaway story, the magical friend story and the hidden-retreat story, channeling everything from E. Nesbit and “The Secret Garden” to ancient fairytale.

After a slightly draggy opening, Yonebayashi and his animators create a ravishing backdrop for Anna’s enigmatic adventures, a marshy, beachfront cove (which admittedly resembles Cornwall more than Japan) where a wordless old fisherman gives Anna boat rides and an abandoned mansion, accessible only at low tide, looms in the distance. Anna dreams about the ravishing blonde girl named Marnie (voiced in English by Kiernan Shipka), who under certain conditions can be seen in that house, long before she meets her. Introverted and antisocial as she is, even Anna understands immediately that Marnie – with her Gilded Age outfits and her Addams-family household of distant parents and imperious servants – does not exactly intersect with everyday reality. But who cares? Anna has a friend at last, even if it’s a friend who induces memory loss and causes her to wake up in strange places, dirty, shoeless and lost.

For adult viewers, Anna’s relationship with Marnie may carry the resonance of sexual awakening – she’s none too happy when she sees Marnie dancing with a boy – and the specific quality of Marnie’s less than ideal family life evokes themes from darker supernatural fables. But Yonebayashi keeps those ideas drifting on the movie’s changing currents; they are suggested, rather than insisted upon. This is a story about an unhappy 12-year-old girl who is not sure she wants to grow up at all, let alone what sort of adult woman she is likely to become. There are moments of hushed magic here, of moonlit, seaside and tree-shadowed visual poetry, that rival anything Ghibli has ever created. And the quiet, fierce integrity of “When Marnie Was There” – its refusal of easy melodrama; its willingness to confront loss and sadness and mortality while still believing in magic – reminds us how much one Japanese company has transformed the art of animation.