Reviewing When Marnie Was There

I’ve been meaning to post this for quite a while, actually, but I’ve never been in the right frame of mind for it. Now? Yeah, it’ll do. Doesn’t mean I’ll be able to get to the end of this without some emotional response though…

So, a while back, I posted a list of my favourite animated movies, and whilst for the most part that list does still hold up, I have to say, if I had seen this movie back then, it would have definitely been on there. Not quite sure where, but definitely near the top. Studio Ghibli has long been associated with quality animated movies, and even with the very real possibility that this is their final gift, what a gift to leave on!

Based actually on an English novel by Joan G. Robinson, this film tells the story of a young girl named Anna, who’s artistic, highly introverted, suffers from asthma and lives with a foster family who worry about connecting with her, and her connecting with other people. Truth be told, Anna suffers from a degree of self-loathing. But when a doctor suggests to her foster mother that she get away from the bustle of a city life, she agrees, and sends Anna to live with her sister and brother-in-law in a seaside town near Sapporo for the summer. Although initially about as disconnected as before, including upsetting some of the locals, Anna discovers an apparently abandoned mansion across a marsh, but occasionally sees lights on there too. One night, she discovers a girl her age living there, a girl named Marnie, who’s full of unbridled openness and friendliness towards Anna, and the two of them pick up a very dependable and close friendship, which is very open to interpretation in the way they act, particularly at how Marnie jovially declares Anna to be her ‘precious secret.’ It eventually becomes clear however, that Marnie is incredibly elusive. Occasionally, Anna will find the mansion completely derelict, despite being very full of life when Marnie’s there. It’s obvious that there’s more to Marnie than meets the eye, but given the insight Anna’s had to Marnie’s life in that mansion, one rather isolated and full of neglect, leads to her resolving to help Marnie however she can, no matter who she is, where she came from, or even if she’s even real…

Perhaps what makes this movie stand out to me more than the other Ghibli ones I’ve seen is how this has much more of a story to it than something like Kiki or Spirited Away, which may have something to do with it being a novel first. Kiki is just a slice of life movie, and whilst Spirited Away had a goal accomplished at the end of it, it’s still mostly focused on Chihiro’s interactions in a strange environment. Both these things work fantastically for the movies, but as someone very interested in narrative, this just caught my attention more. I felt like there wasn’t a single thing I could miss about it. Marnie’s introduction gave me all kinds of questions, and continued to intrigue me as the movie played out. Having to know an ending is a true sign of an engaging film. The characters are also fantastic, both the supporting and the main – perhaps Anna’s just all the more relatable to me, particularly how she talks about an ‘invisible magic circle’ in the world, representing social interactions, and how she is on the outside. The emotions Anna runs through throughout the flick is actually reminiscent to what I often go through. See, I told you it would be emotional for me to go through this…but anyway…

The way these two characters work off each other is incredible. There’s a scene where they have a long conversation about their feelings which doesn’t feel heavy-handed or forced or in any way boring…I mean, I love characters talking about their feelings, but this does it all the better with scene transitions relating to what they’re saying, and as it’s Studio Ghibli, you know the backgrounds are just going to be gorgeous-looking. This film is, and it knows it. Just the shots of the marsh, the town, the water, they’re all so beautifully drawn, and despite being hand-drawn, just look and feel so real. It translates well into the pacing of the movie too, as even though the story is plot-driven, they sometimes just allow you to experience the atmosphere of the place, and it really works. The eponymous Marnie isn’t actually introduced until about half an hour in, allowing for you to feel as Anna does, just the way this little town works. There’s a scene with Anna walking home at sunset, and she passes a cyclist as she turns a corner. Why was this detail included? I don’t know, remove it and the story would still be complete, but it’s just such a nice detail. I can’t explain it. It’s just wonderful.

For all my gushing about this movie, you might wonder if it has any flaws. Well, yes, I’d say it did – but it’s difficult to talk about them without going into spoiler territory. I will do my best though.

By the end of the film, you are given an answer as to Marnie’s identity. It certainly fits, although on reflection, the explanation does raise a few questions which might distract a keen viewer, particularly about the nature of Anna and Marnie’s relationship as shown, and the possibilities of Anna’s role in all of this. Again, difficult to word without giving anything a way, but I imagine it could give some audiences a less than resolved feeling by the end. It did in my case when I first watched, but upon re-watching it recently, most of that vanished, because in all honesty, the vagueness presented to you didn’t change the strength of the relationship that we had seen develop throughout the story, nor the strength of Anna’s character development. It does end on a distinctly positive note, so it’s not as if these characters we’ve grown to care about are robbed of a happy ending. It’s just perhaps not as robust to analyst as some others might be. Sure, it raises a few questions, but it solves the major ones and does wonders for your emotions as you do so. Ultimately, these flaws are minor and don’t dent it by much of a margin.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone, even more so for fans of anime and/or hand-drawn animation. It’s emotional, it’s engaging, it’s beautiful to look at, it’s beautiful to listen to, I’ve gone on about it long enough, so go and see it if you haven’t already.


Top 10 Hottest Animated Women

Alright! So, I wanted to do another list. And I thought to myself, as it’s been one of those weeks, I want to do something nice and laid-back. So…10 hottest animated women it is.

What? I can have guilty pleasures can’t I? And I guess the guilt in the matter comes from entertainment geeks like me finding themselves so deeply into series that they find themselves hankering after fictional characters, and then considering the possibility of mental help because we have cognitive dissonance about reality.

As I am a committed feminist, I’m trying to avoid any kind of objectification here, although with women that aren’t real I don’t think that matters as much…furthermore, the merits I will consider for the women that have made it onto this list aren’t just based on looks (though they do help) but the personalities that draw me. It’s interesting to consider, I think, the creator’s intentions behind these characters and whether viewers were meant to be attracted to them or whether it’s just incidental. Which, quite frankly, says a lot about both the viewer and the creator. I’ve also decided to do strictly animated characters as live-acted characters run the risk of having me just attracted to the actress rather than the character they’re playing – in that way, any character played by Chloe Grace Moretz is always a winner. :O

So, without further ado, let me introduce my top 10 ranking hottest animated women….!!! This is going to be very revealing…


#10) Sena Kashiwazaki

NikuOn the offset, she might seem a pretty obvious choice, but there’s more to Sena that just being a blonde, big-bosomed unsubtle bisexual with a cute little fang visible when she’s excited. As I mentioned in my Haganai review, Sena is a nice little deconstruction of the typical popular girl trope in that she’s fed up of being treated superficially by her peers and wants some real friends for a change. Unfortunately she’s far too used to her social status and her attitude presents a rather obvious lack of social tact. This is a hell of a lot of fun to watch but also becomes charming when you recognise her optimism and her gradual shift to humility. In the Haganai review, I also stated Rika was my favourite character, but she strikes me more as the best friend type than anything else. Sena, on the other hand, is the perfect romantic foil for Kodaka, our protagonist, and with this in mind on top of the other traits you notice immediately, I think Sena definitely deserves her place on this list.


 #9) Esmeralda
(The Hunchback of Notre Dame)

She’s the one who gave Claude Frollo the unholy boner, and you can see why. I’ve always had a thing for this particular skin-tone, and, well, as far as intention goes, obviously she was meant to be drawn as realistically alluring to two of the heroes and the villain. But that’s not the only reason to like her – she’s gutsy, she’s resourceful, and she doesn’t take the crap she has to deal with lightly. Frollo, with her tied to the stake, offers her freedom in exchange for sex. She responds by spitting in his face. Brilliant. Add to that a fantastic singing voice highlighting an incredible selflessness, and you too will be singing into your fireplace, having sexy hallucinations and wondering whether your images and fantasies of her will earn you a spot in hell for unstable perverts. Not that that’s happened to me…



#8) Leone
(Akame Ga Kill!)

Akame Ga Kill is one those shows that you can never be sure who they’re going to kill off next, and all the time I was pleading with the show that they wouldn’t kill off Leone. It’s weird, because I’m certainly not a furry, and whilst Leone is hardly an anthropomorphic animal (those paws and ears are actually just temporary extensions of her powers) she certainly has something animalistic about her, and in a series so full of vibrant, colourful characters, this was very clearly intentional. So, is it her animal-like nature I find so alluring, coupled with the slightly more feral habit of barely wearing anything on the top half of her body, exposing both impressive cleavage and a sexy abdomen? Or is it her personality, terribly gutsy and very forward in her dealings with the opposite sex (hell, the same sex sometimes as well)? It’s probably a combination of the two. To put it shortly, I’d definitely want this girl in my house…she can keep my cat company.


#7) Hinata Hyūga
(Naruto franchise)

In no uncertain terms, Hinata is my favourite character of the highly popular Naruto franchise, and it strikes me as interesting that her creator’s liking of her slowly seemed to grow, until he eventually succumbed to the only logical conclusion and her marry her long-time love interest, the eponymous protagonist himself!
Due to the timeskip the series has, Hinata is given plenty of time to develop. In the original series, she was immensley shy, obstructively selfless, but still overly loveable and cute. Post timeskip, and she’s still just as selfless, but getting over her shyness, utterly driven, and sexy…like, REALLY sexy…
Still one of the best scenes in the entire show is when Naruto, having been finally shut up by the motive reveal of one of the classiest antagonists ever, has Hinata rush to defend him, confess her love before nearly dying. It still brings a lump to my throat every time I think about it and her conclusion was well worth waiting for.



#6) Rapunzel

Admitting your attractions to animated characters is bad enough, but it’s when such things get distracting when you’re trying to watch a more family friendly film. The because lure of Tangled, was, for me, Rapunzel herself. Her wide-eyed curious nature is basic enough, but I get the feeling the animators were really pouring a lot into her design. Nobody had done a Disney-style fairy tail in CG-animation before, they obviously needed to make sure their lead was wonderfully pristine, down to beautiful detail on her famous hair to her adorable little overbite.
Now, as I am a Frozen fan, and in fact a much bigger lover of Frozen than Tangled, it’s easy to wonder why I didn’t put Elsa or Anna on this list. It’s true – Elsa and Anna are both beautiful, they have good relationship, and have personalities that compliment each other perfectly, and I doubt I’ll get tired of Anna’s antics of Elsa’s ice powers. But…Rapunzel perpetually foregoes shoes, and on this list, that automatically gives you about twenty points. Sorry ice sisters. It’s nothing personal.
Wow, this is even more awkward than before. I think I need to go and think about what I’ve done…


#5) Kurumi Tokisaki
(Date A Live)

Oh, well now…
Being the insane, psychotic slightly yandere banshee of a harem series, there is absolutely no way Kurumi’s hotness was unintentional, which makes me feel a little bit better.
Known as Nightmare, she is the only spirit observed that actually seems genuinely malevolent, rather than just a victim of unfortunate circumstances. With time and space manipulating abilities, her goal is Shido, the protagonist who is attempting to neutralize and save spirits by dating them. She wants not only his abilities, but clearly his body too, and it’s that kind of deliberate entertaining factor which makes us love Kurumi so much. Perhaps a highly dangerous girlfriend, but certainly an attentive one…



#4) Minene Uryu
(Future Diary)

OK, so this one’s potentially dangerous too, what with being a free-lance terrorist, but…I don’t care…
First introduced as an opponent to our protagonists in the survival game, Minene (or the 9th) quickly became one of the more important characters. We got to see her have plenty of development, more than most of the other diary users, and I loved virtually every minute of it. It didn’t bother me than she lost her eye and then later one of her hands. It didn’t bother me that she’d sooner kill me than much else. She just radiated hotness! Not only does she look inexplicably gorgeous, but she is, once again, a character that doesn’t care what the world hands her, because has always resolved to fight back. It’s only when she realises she has a conscience that the strain of what the world hands her returns.
On top of that, she’s a COSPLAYING terrorist, which, let’s be honest, would be a pretty cool way to go. It now seems blindly obvious why she was stripped almost naked when captured by the 12th…



#3) Erza Scarlet
(Fairy Tail)

Also known as Titania, the queen of the fairies, Erza has certainly lived up to her reputation. The men want her, the women want her, she’s just reputable in her badassery, her leadership, her love for strawberry cake and her wonderful array of armour and outfits. Erza is by far my favourite character in the series, and her backstory didn’t disappoint either. So far in my viewing of the series, it’s probably the darkest step the story took, and I loved it for that. Not much else to say on the matter. If you don’t like her…then, well, more for the rest of us. I have a poster of her on my wall too…



#2) Tenten
(Naruto franchise)

Even though Hinata is my favourite Hinata character, Tenten, for me, is the finest girlfriend material. Despite being listed as a ‘main supporting character’ Tenten gets so little screentime it’s insulting, despite her being Kishimoto’s favourite character to draw. Well, I can certainly see why…
Unlike most of the girls in other teams, I like how Tenten’s main fixation doesn’t seem to be romance. She’s sick of all the double standards against kunoichi in this world (which although aren’t explicitly stated, are quite evident) and maintains a headstrong outlook in order to become a great ninja. It’s just a shame such potential for character development was sidelined as much as it was, and so we have to rely on fillers and our own imagination to decide what this gorgeous weapon’s mistress did in her spare time.
I’m imagining it quite vividly…



#1) Lucy Heartfilia
(Fairy Tail)

One has to wonder as to why Hiro Mashima didn’t get a prize for Most Attractive Drawing when he was designing this character. One of the main protagonists of the show, I was drawn to Lucy the second she appeared. And…I really was. Damn…
I think the real appeal of this character comes from the fact that she seems to fit into any kind of fanservice you want. Not only does she have an unlimited choice of costumes, but the kind of situations and clothing damage she’s susceptible too throughout the series seem only just slightly over the top. Not too much so it’s still believable, but just enough so you notice the character seems to have been retconned into a fanservice character. Which she does EXTREMELY well.
This isn’t to say Lucy doesn’t have a character – she shares the heart and drive of the other members of Fairy Tail and has a compassionate side despite her attention deficit and a little too much focus on the glam. Even for all it’s plot repetition and slightly bizarre situations, Fairy Tail does at least promise to have something worth coming back to…ahem…


So, there was the list, I’m sure you found it incredibly awkward and now think I’m some of freak. Well…join the queue. Obviously I should probably seek help for fantasizing about relationships with fictional characters, but if you share similar sentiments to me, let me know which animated characters you find attractive. It’s a way of growing that’s harmless. I think.

All images belong to their respective owners.