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omoide no mani

We are twiddling our thumbs here, because neither Miyazaki Hayao’s「風立ちぬ](Kaze Tachinu/The Wind Rises, Japan, 2013) nor Takahata Isao’s 「かぐや姫の物語」(Kaguya Hime no Monogatari/Princess Kaguya, Japan, 2013) have yet made it to UK shores, but there is already another Studio Ghibli project to look forward to: it has just been announced that「思い出のマーニー」(Omoide no Mani/When Marnie Was There) is being adapted for the screen by Yonebayashi Hiromasa.

Yonebayashi previously directed 「借りぐらしのアリエッティ」 (Karigurashi no Arietti/ The Secret World of Arrietty aka The Borrower Arrietty) for Studio Ghibli in 2010. Like Kagurashi no AriettiOmoide no Mani is based on a British novel: Joan G. Robinson’s When Marnie Was There. Although asiawiki.com currently lists the source material as having been published in 2002, that is not actually correct. Like other non-Japanese Ghibli source material (Mary Brown’s 1952 The Borrowers, Ursula Le Guin’s EarthSea books from the 1970s that inspired「ゲド戦記」/Gedo senki/Tales of Earthsea), it is an older book, first published in 1967. It went out of print and then was picked up just a little over a decade ago as part of Collins Modern Classic series. I have a feeling that Collins just got really lucky that the Japanese animation studio selected this as their next project and a whole lot of people will now rush out to buy the book (me among them! Just ordered it. :-D ).

The original novel, which was on a list of 50 recommended reads for children by Ghibli’s co-founder Miyazaki Hayao, is about Anna, a shy girl that has never had any friends. When she ends up in the countryside in the house of Mr. and Mrs. Pegg she meets Marnie and experiences friendship for the first time. No one else however seems to know of Marnie…

Japanese translation of Marnie (cover 1).

Japanese translation of Marnie (cover 1).

A longer, even more intriguing synopsis is available from Amazon:

Anna hasn’t a friend in the world – until she meets Marnie among the sand dunes. But Marnie isn’t all she seems…An atmospheric ghost story with truths to tell about friendship, families and loneliness. Anna lives with foster parents, a misfit with no friends, always on the outside of things. Then she is sent to Norfolk to stay with old Mr and Mrs Pegg, where she runs wild on the sand dunes and around the water. There is a house, the Marsh House, which she feels she recognises – and she soon meets a strange little girl called Marnie, who becomes Anna’s first ever friend. Then one day, Marnie vanishes. A new family, the Lindsays, move into the Marsh House. Having learnt so much from Marnie about friendship, Anna makes firm friends with the Lindsays – and learns some strange truths about Marnie, who was not all she seemed…

Fourteen out of sixteen reviews on amazon.co.uk give the book 5 out of 5 stars (the other two give it 4 stars), and readers are all gushing about a gem they discovered in their childhood days and dug out again to pass on to the next generation:

“This book is a keeper. I will treasure it forever.” (MJC)

“[I]t is a beautiful book which is achingly sad in parts, very mysterious and intriguing with an excellent ending.” (Clare)

Or my favourite one:

“I read this story in 1981 with my nine-year-old daughter while we were abroad and she had a mysterious debilitating illness. It made such an impression on her that she said that if she ever had a daughter she would call her Marnie. I am glad to say that Marnie was born on 1st January, 2010. It’s a wonderful story.” (Dr. P. M. Stoneman “Patsy Stoneman”)

Japanese translation of Marnie (cover 2).

Japanese translation of Marnie (cover 2).

Another intriguing line from the amazon.co.uk page: “An atmospheric ghost story with truths to tell about friendship, families and loneliness.”

And the film’s official tagline on its website: “There is a magical circle invisible to the naked eye in this world.” (Not my translation).

It all certainly seems like the perfect story to be made into a Studio Ghibli film. I am intrigued and like the sound of the twist that all the book reviews are hinting at. Let’s hope Yonebayashi will do justice to what seems like a wonderful tale.

Omoide no Mani is set for a summer 2014 release.

Bonus Bits

omoide no mani 1