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Title: When Marnie Was There

Movie: :4.5stars:
Video: :5stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :3stars:

HTS Overall Score:94

After Miyazaki retired from filmmaking, I was heartbroken and wondered where the Studio Ghibli line would end up. Miyazaki wasn’t the only director in the famed animation studio’s repertoire, but he was easily the most prolific and well-known name. Enter in director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, with his first job under the studio name, giving us a completely spellbinding tale of love and friendship. “When Marnie was there” weaves a sweet, yet melancholy yarn about a young girl who is on the outskirts of society. There’s a big dollop of heart and a dash of the supernatural thrown in for good measure, but if you can keep a dry eye by the end of the film you’re a better person than I.

Anna (Sara Takatsuki) is a lonely girl. She suffers from depression and Asthma, making her kind of a loner in the world of High School. Orphaned at a young age, she lives with her mother Yoriko (Nanaka Matsushima) and her husband, but her fragile world is filled with knowing doubt. Her parents seem loving enough, but Anna recently discovered that her parents received subsidies from the government due to their lack of wealth. Fearful that maybe they only love her for the money (a fear common to many foster children), Anna just quietly draws and wheezes the days away. Yoriko, desperate for her daughter to feel better, acquiesces to the doctor’s advice that she needs some fresh air. Sending Anna out to the country with the girls adopted Aunt and Uncle, Yoriko hopes for the best.

Anna really doesn’t see the trip as anything special. Sure she feels a bit better with the ocean breeze in her face and the giant marsh behind them giving tons of room to play, but this just feels like another abandonment to the teenage girl. Playing around in the marshes, Anna is attracted to the beautiful, but rundown mansion on the other side of the water. Getting in a boat and daring to visit it one day, Anna runs across a beautiful blonde haired girl named Marnie (Kasumi Arimura). Becoming fast friends, the two share everything together. Walks on the beach, playing in the sand, and even a giant party at the mansion. Anna starts realizing something is strange when Marnie mysteriously disappears one day. Clues get dropped along the way and Anna starts to piece together a tragedy years in the making.

I enjoy Studio Ghibli releases a lot. So much so that I was more than ecstatic to check out “When Marnie was there”. Nothing prepared me for how incredible the film actually was though. It seems a fairly straight forward tale, with some obvious supernatural elements, but as the film progressed I was awestruck with how well the pieces fit together. Anna deals with complex emotions in a young girl, dealing with many facets of life. As an orphan she struggles with elements of self-worth and self-desire. Her life is dominated with fear and anxiety as she wonders if her new parents actually love and care for her. She also deals with the bitterness and begrudging anger that builds up knowing that she was robbed of a birth family. One she gets to the countryside things change, as she learns what true friendship is, and the need to love and care for someone more than caring if that person loves you back.

We all know these Ghibli movies have some elements of the supernatural, especially with Miyazaki at the helm, but “When Marnie was there” weaves mild elements of the supernatural into the overarching storyline without making it overtly mystical or spirt like. You’ll know the supernatural elements when you see them, but I won’t spoil exactly WHAT they are as that would be a major spoiler. Sufficed to say, the subtle hints of mystery and the spiritual are intertwined very delicately with the more grounded tale of girl learning to lover herself and others, despite her pained past. I can’t think of very much bad to say about the movie AT ALL. There was a few cheesy lines here and there, and a few bits of dialog that felt mistranslated, or at least translated into words that didn’t feel as impactful, but those were few and far between a movie that is this close to being perfect.


Rated PG for thematic elements and smoking

Video :5stars:
Oh my goodness. I love Studio Ghibli encodes, but Universal has outdone themselves with a simply exemplary encode. The animation style is rich and varied, allowing for all sorts of visual nuance to appear on screen. You can see the individual seeds and core of a tomato being sliced, and the blades of grass bending long the marsh shore in the wind. Clothes wrinkle and shift on a person’s body as they would in real life, and the colors are incredibly vibrant and pure. There is no sign of digital artifacting anywhere on the release and the characters themselves show no signs of jaggies or lost animation lines. Blacks are inky and deep, with fantastic shadow detail, even among the darkest of nights. I love finding a 5/5 picture quality movie and it has been a while since I’ve a PERFECT looking image, but the wait is over. A+ all the way.

Audio :5stars:
Universal and Studio Ghibli has given us the obligatory dual audio options for release, with one being in 5.0 DTS-HD MA lossless and the other a matching Japanese track. I found it a bit strange that there is no dedicated LFE channel, but the mix is superb, with no lacking elements whatsoever. The baked in bass is more than enough to give heavy weight to the crashing thunder, or the slamming of a heavy wooden door. Vocals are crisp and clear on both tracks, and while I naturally like the original Japanese audio a bit better, the English track is well voiced and just as robust as the Japanese. Surrounds are utterly fantastic, giving us one of the most nuanced and detailed surround experiences I have ever heard. The rustling of leave and grass in the wind is almost felt as well as heard, shifting from one direction to the other and cocooning the listener in of the best senses of immersion I can imagine. For those of you who were worrying. the movie has BOTH literal subtitles, as well as dubtitles that match the English translated track.

Extras :3stars:

• The Making of "When Marnie Was There"
• Yohei Taneda Creates the Art of "When Marnie Was There"
• Feature-Length Storyboards
• U.S. Trailers
• Behind the Scenes with the Voice Cast
• Foreign Trailer and TV Spots

Overall: :4.5stars:

“When Marine was there” may very well be the last Studio Ghibli movie according to many sources, as the fate of the studio is still being decided with Miyazaki’s departure being permanent. As sad as that may be, this final entry into the Studio Ghibli lineup is probably the perfect way to go out. It’s incredibly accessible to people of all walks of life, and doesn’t cater to the weird as some of their other ones have been. It’s grounded, it’s mystical, it’s sweet and its heart wrenchingly sad, but above all, it’s simply fantastic. The audio and video are 100% knock you dead level of amazing and even though this one doesn’t get a gazillian extras, there is enough to satisfy most with an impressive mixture of commentaries, interviews and trailers. MUST WATCH.

Additional Information:

Starring: Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura, Nanako Matsushima
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Written by: Keiko Niwa (Screenplay), Joan G. Robinson (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.0, Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.0, French DTS 5.0
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG
Runtime: 103 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 6th 2015

Buy When Marnie Was There On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Skip It

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