I certainly hope it isn’t, but When Marnie Was There might be the perfect film to be Studio Ghibli’s last. I can’t think of a good spoiler-free plot summary, so I suggest the film’s website for one. Marnie is without a doubt a masterpiece, and if you have high expectations of Studio Ghibli, especially after the stunning The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, they will absolutely be met, if not exceeded. Marnie again shows that Studio Ghibli doesn’t need Hayao Miyazaki to bring genius and wonder to the silver screen. Yet, unless my eyes deceived me (and that is definitely possible), Marine had several subtle, yet beautiful nods to Studio Ghibil’s other films: the broomstick in the car (Kiki’s Delivery Service), two cats etched into a desk (which was covered too quickly by a bag for me to read; also Kiki), what appeared to be a Totoro on a shelf in the background (My Neighbor Totoro), painting on a hilltop (The Wind Rises), and what may have been another nod to Kiki when we see Sayaka in Marnie’s window with what appeared to be the Kiki’s Delivery Service sign on the back wall of the room.
That said, Marnie has many wonderful small details in its art that are on visible for a split second. I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on the Blu-ray release, no doubt much later in the year. As Studio Ghibli excels at, Marnie is also a very emotional film. Thanks to another fantastic dubbing job by GKids, that emotion is present in both the Japanese and English audio tracks. I dare say that no emotion was lost in translation, be it joy, pain, or mystery. Some of it is so subtle though that it takes watching Marine more than once to pick up on it all (in my case, Sub followed by dub.).
Marnie’s masterful script and art are complemented by an equally masterful soundtrack, which I may well have to purchase from iTunes. Some of the pieces in Marnie remind me a bit of Madoka Magica’s soundtrack, very likely because of the emotions each piece can invoke. Marine’s soundtrack is nothing short of elegant, both moving and mysterious in appropriate situations. It doesn’t take Joe Hisashi to make a memorable Ghibli score. Marnie’s ending theme might take some long-time Studio Ghibli fans by surprise by being English (maybe not, especially if you saw The Secret World of Arrietty) but it is very fitting, painfully so given its composer, Priscilla Ahn, shared feelings of aloneness with the protagonist Anna.
If Marnie is in fact Studio Ghibli’s last film, I can’t think of a better film from Studio Ghibli to be the end. Marnie fully met my expectations for a Studio Ghibli film. It is beautiful, moving, and while without some of the magic from other Ghibli films, it is just as full of wonder. From Anna’s struggles to the mystery behind who Marnie is, there is not a single second, let alone frame, of Marnie that does not make it worthy of a spot on your shelf when it is released outside of theaters. If Marnie is showing at a theater near you, make time to see it. Even if you are a die-hard sub “purest”, see the dub too if it’s offered. If it isn’t showing in your area, GKids offers the chance to make it happen, but you are responsible for getting the word out, so go beg your local theater to show it and beg your friends, family, everyone to see it.
All images © 2014 GNDHDDTK