Who’s excited for another Ghibli movie? I am! After being not incredibly intrigued about The Wind Rises, I’ll admit, I kind of stopped keeping an ear out for Ghibli news; however, the internet is going wild over their newest animated feature.
When Marnie Was There is Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s second directorial piece—his first being The Secret World of Arrietty—and a re-imagining of Joan G. Robinson’s novel of the same name. Ghibli’s adaptation follows the story of introvert Anna as she floats through life without knowing how to interact with people and slowly learns to hate herself. One evening as Anna escapes the pressures of being social in town, she comes across a mysterious girl who goes by the name Marnie. While the two immediately forge a friendship, Marnie also makes Anna swear that their friendship will remain a secret. Anna is only happy to comply, excited to have made a friend at long last. Though Anna learns through Marnie how to overcome some of her anxiety and self-loathing, forces are at work that try to tear the two girls apart. What are these forces, and are they supernatural in nature? Why are you asking me? I haven’t seen the movie.
Other than being a Ghibli movie, what’s got the internet so riled up? Now that is a question I can answer. While tales of friendship, especially between young girls, are especially important in media, from the trailer this movie seems as though it takes one step beyond. What I’m getting at is that Anna and Marnie totally sound like they’re in a relationship. A romantic one. If proven to be true, this would be the first Ghibli film with a lesbian relationship, and if dubbed for an overseas audience, it could be one of the first widely distributed films featuring romantic love between two young girls. I don’t think I have to explain how important this sort of representation is: needless to say, it would be huge.
However, getting it dubbed overseas is already a big “if”, outside of the possible lesbian relationship. In Japan, Marnie has failed to impress; its box office earnings are currently about half of what Arrietty made when it was released. In addition to this just being a general disappointment, this could actually spell trouble for Ghibli as a whole. According to former producer Toshio Suzuki, the future of Studio Ghibli depended strongly on the success of this film. Yet now that Marnie has clearly fallen below expectations, this future is now uncertain.
On a personal level, although I desperately want to help support Ghibli and enjoy this film, I’m a little wary. I really didn’t like the pacing or the story of Arrietty and finding out that Marnie was directed by the same guy kind of killed the hype a little bit. However, just as Goro Miyazaki improved from Earthsea to From Up On Poppy Hill, I have faith that Yonebayashi has also grown from his experiences. I look forward to watching it, and if you’re interested in keeping Ghibli afloat, I’d say watch it too. Let the company know how important they are, and that just because Hayao Miyazaki retired, it doesn’t mean that
Ghibli is any less magical!