Anna Sasaki is a 12-year-old girl who lives in Sapporo with foster parents, Yoriko and her husband. One day at school she collapses from an asthma attack, so her parents send her to spend the summer with Setsu and Kiyomasa Oiwa, relatives of Yoriko, in Kushiro, a rural, seaside town where the air is clear.
Anna sees an abandoned mansion, dilapidated and overgrown, across a seaside marsh and wades across the marsh to investigate it. She looks around, wondering why it seems so familiar to her, but gets trapped there by the rising tide. Toichi, a taciturn old fisherman, rescues her with his rowboat. On the way back across the water, Anna sees the house for a moment in good repair and well-lit. 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. That night and on other nights, Anna has a dream of seeing a blond girl in the mansion, having her hair brushed by an old woman.
On the night of the Tanabata festival, Anna discovers a rowboat by the shore and rows it across the marsh to the mansion, where she meets Marnie, the blond girl. Anna tells Marnie about her dreams, but Marnie assures Anna that she is not dreaming now. The two agree to keep their meeting secret, and they meet again on several evenings.
One evening, Marnie invites Anna to a party at the mansion. The house is filled with guests. Marnie disguises Anna as a local flower girl to get her into the party. While there, Anna sees Marnie dancing with a boy named Kazuhiko. Later some townspeople find Anna asleep by the post office. The next day, Anna returns to the mansion, but it appears abandoned and dilapidated again.
A young girl is sent to the country for health reasons, where she meets an unlikely friend in the form of Marnie, a young girl with flowing blonde hair. As the friendship unravels it is possible that Marnie has closer ties to the protagonist than we might expect.
When Marnie Was There is a Japanese anime film written and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, produced by Studio Ghibli, and based on the novel When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson. It was released on 19 July 2014. It was the final film for Studio Ghibli before they announced that the film division is taking a short hiatus after The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, and the retirement of Hayao Miyazaki a year before the film was released. This is potentially the last feature film to be released by Studio Ghibli as a result of the hiatus.
When Marnie Was There
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Starring: Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura, Nanako Matsushima, Ryôko Moriyama, Toshie Negishi, Ava Acres, Kathy Bates, Mila Brener
Screenplay by: Keiko Niwa, Masashi Ando, Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Production Design by: Yohei Taneda
Art Direction by: Yohei Taneda
Animation Department: Masashi Ando
Music by: Takatsugu Muramatsu
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and smoking.
Release Date: May 22, 2015