Home > Reviews > WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (OMOIDE NO MARNIE) – Takatsugu Muramatsu


whenmarniewasthereOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

When Marnie Was There (Omoide No Marnie) is a beautiful Japanese animated film, based on the popular children’s novel by Joan Robinson, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi for Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. It tells the story of a young girl named Anna, who is sent to live in the countryside for health reasons. There she meets an unlikely friend in the form of Marnie, a young girl with flowing blonde hair. As their friendship develops, a series of unusual development begin to suggest that Marnie has closer ties to the Anna than she originally expected.

The score is by Japanese composer Takatsugu Muramatsu, and is absolutely stunning. Fully orchestral, with richly flowing melodies, gorgeous passages for various solo instruments (piano, woodwinds, and guitar), multiple themes, it has a real sense of lyricism and beauty that captures the spirit of the friendship between the two central characters. The 2-CD soundtrack from Tokuma Japan Communications includes an “Image Album”, featuring a half dozen specially arranged artistic interpretations of the music, and a standard score album, showcasing almost 50 minutes as it appears in the film.

The pieces on the Image Album are simply sublime, earmarking Muramatsu as a composer with a beautifully delicate touch, a clear mastery of all parts of the orchestra, and a knack for lushly romantic themes. The dreamlike “The Oiwa Home”, with its lyrical and expressive guitar solo; the ravishing “High Tide, Low Tide” with its majestic string writing; the effortlessly stunning “Anna”; the child-like and playful “Marnie”, which combines the guitar writing with a series of lovely woodwind textures; the lively and effervescent “Sayaka’s Dream”, with its optimistic sense of life and freedom; and the beautifully intimate solo piano version of Anna’s theme – the entire album is an absolute joy from beginning to end. In normal circumstances, this music would be enough to garner an unreserved recommendation on its own – but we also have a second CD of score that builds upon, and offers a number of variations on the themes.

Muramatsu’s orchestrations are light and playful, but full of emotion, often showcasing piano, guitar and harp, backed by a warm orchestral accompaniment for strings and woodwinds. The overall feeling is one of peacefulness and calm, peppered with sentimentality and nostalgia, and filtered through a child’s world view, but it’s not schmaltzy – the score’s heart is all very much in the right place.

Both Anna’s theme and Marnie’s theme feature prominently in the score, albeit in less spectacular statements, instead forming part of the fabric of the work, developing as they progress. After a gentle opening through cues like in “An Ordinary Face” and “Anna’s Journey”, pieces like “Off to the Post Office” feature lovely performances of Anna’s theme, while “The Girl in the Blue Window” offers the first hint of Marnie’s theme in the score itself. Elsewhere, “Like Just What I Am” and the extended “It’s Not a Dream” are a little darker, introducing a subtle synth element to add a hint of uncertainty and a touch of fantasy to the orchestral passages, while “The Two on the Boat” is built around a gorgeous oboe variation of Anna’s theme.

A classical pastiche cue, “The Party”, gives the score a hint of Victorian elegance; both “Let’s Dance, You and I” and the conclusive “When Marnie Was There” interpolate a pretty wordless children’s vocal; “While Cutting Tomatoes” is a sublime solo piano rendition of Anna’s theme; “Anna Runs in the Storm” has a sense of tragedy and drama; both “A Final Wish” and the second part of “Hisako’s Story” provide lovely, heartfelt renditions of Marnie’s theme; and the album concludes with a pretty song in English, “Fine on the Outside”, performed Korean-American singer songwriter by Priscilla Ahn. I really can’t recommend When Marnie Was There highly enough – for me, it’s one of the best animation scores of 2014, and will appeal especially to anyone who enjoys Joe Hisaishi’s style of warm, appealing writing for children.

Buy the When Marnie Was There soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Oiwa Home (3:35)
  • High Tide, Low Tide (3:42)
  • Anna (3:38)
  • Marnie (4:36)
  • Sayaka’s Dream (2:22)
  • Anna (Piano Version) (3:53)
  • An Ordinary Face (1:39)
  • Anna’s Journey (1:41)
  • Off to the Post Office (2:00)
  • The Marsh House (2:09)
  • The Light is On! (0:22)
  • The Girl in the Blue Window (0:57)
  • Sketching on the Boat (0:42)
  • The Girl Stood Up! (0:39)
  • Like Just What I Am (0:59)
  • When I Held a Doll (0:46)
  • It’s Not a Dream (3:25)
  • The Two on the Boat (1:46)
  • Three Questions Each (1:14)
  • The Party (1:44)
  • Kazuhiko and Marnie Dance (2:22)
  • Let’s Dance, You and I (1:57)
  • While Cutting Tomatoes (1:13)
  • Hisako’s Painting (0:36)
  • The Blue Diary (2:42)
  • The Mushroom Forest (1:20)
  • The Two Confess (3:38)
  • It’s Like We Traded Places (0:56)
  • Anna Runs in the Storm (0:45)
  • A Final Wish (2:52)
  • Hisako’s Story, Part 1 (3:13)
  • Hisako’s Story, Part 2 (1:25)
  • When Marnie Was There (1:57)
  • Fine On the Outside (written and performed by Priscilla Ahn) (4:14)

Studio Ghibli Records/Tokuma Japan Communications (2014)

Running Time: 21 minutes 50 seconds (Image Album)
Running Time: 49 minutes 29 seconds (Score Album)

  1. October 20, 2020 at 7:40 am

    I could not agree more, this OST is simply gorgeous. Very nice critic…

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