This post includes a character analysis of Anna Sasaki, the protagonist of the 2014 film “When Marnie Was There”.
When Marnie Was There
In “When Marnie Was There”, Anna Sasaki is a shy 12-year-old who lives in Sapporo. Since she suffers from asthma, her foster parents send her to spend the summer with relatives, Setsu and Kiyomasa, in a seaside town. There, Anna discovers an old mansion by the marsh and meets a mysterious blonde girl named Marnie.
Anna and Marnie become close friends and share their secrets with each other. However, Anna soon realizes that there is something off about Marnie. The once glamorous mansion that Anna saw is actually an abandoned and dilapidated house. It turns out that Marnie is a ghost from the past. Many years ago, she used to live in the mansion until she met a boy named Kazuhiko.
Marnie’s only happy memories are with Kazuhiko, her first love, who later became her husband. Despite her privileged background, Marnie actually had a sad childhood. Her parents were often absent, leaving Marnie under the care of her abusive nannies. Anna helps Marnie confront her trauma and find peace, while Marnie helps Anna overcome her loneliness and insecurity.
In the end, Anna discovers that Marnie was actually her grandmother. She also makes friends with a local girl named Sayaka, who lives in the renovated mansion. Anna thanks Marnie for everything and returns to Sapporo with a new outlook on life.
Note: For those who are interested, here is another article discussing the meaning behind the ending of “When Marnie Was There”.
Anna Sasaki Character Analysis in “When Marnie Was There”
“When Marnie Was There” presents Anna Sasaki as an introverted girl who often calls herself “ugly”. Needless to say, Anna struggles to connect with other people. She has no friends at school, but there is something that helps her cope with solitude: drawing.
In terms of personality, Anna Sasaki is shy and deeply insecure. Her lack of confidence stems from her deep abandonment issues. Anna’s biological parents died in a car accident. After their deaths, Marnie, Anna’s grandmother, stepped in and took care of her as a baby. However, Marnie ended up dying too. Without any living relatives to take care of her, the system placed baby Anna in foster care.
Deep inside, Anna Sasaki has very conflicting feelings about her biological parents. Despite knowing the truth behind their deaths, she can’t help but feel a certain resentment towards them. The girl still feels that they “abandoned” her. However, Anna was always loved by her family, she just didn’t know it. Even her foster parents love her, but Anna was so “in her world” that she failed to see that.
Anna Sasaki’s Character Evolution
In the beginning, Anna Sasaki’s introverted nature prevented her from enjoying the small things in life. Unlike Marnie, Anna is not a very charming girl, which made it very difficult for her to make friends. Anna’s low self-esteem and self-hatred really crippled her. The girl had problems receiving compliments because she thought they weren’t genuine. To put it simply, just enjoying herself was something rather difficult for someone like Anna.
However, a lot of Anna Sasaki’s personality (and general outlook on life) changes after meeting Marnie and learning more about her past. First, Anna stops harbouring deep feelings of resentment and abandonment towards her family. Second, Anna sets herself free from the tragedies that took away her loved ones. Third, Anna decides to finally embrace the love of her foster parents.
When Anna finally came to terms with her own identity, she became a totally different person. She was much more open and jolly – someone that you would like to be friends with. Having said that, it was never about her looks (as she thought), it was her attitude. That might explain the “bullying incident”.
So, was Nobuko really antagonizing Anna? The thing is, Anna is a very insecure person. In addition, she’s a huge introvert, meaning she keeps a lot of thoughts to herself. Now, people can’t read minds. Maybe Nobuko was acting normally, but Anna took things the wrong way. In the end, Anna apologizes to Nobuko, realizing the hostility was all in her head.
The last scene of “When Marnie Was There” shows Anna Sasaki waving goodbye to her new friends. In this particular moment, Anna no longer saw herself as a loner or someone who was separate from the crowd. Now, Anna sees herself as part of it.
Anna Sasaki and Marnie (Relationship Analysis)
Was Anna in love with Marnie? The answer is “no”. Marnie is Anna’s grandmother, therefore, there is no romantic subtext between the two characters in “When Marnie Was There”. Personally, I don’t get why this question gets asked so often. Maybe some people didn’t watch the film all the way through.
Nonetheless, it’s possible to say that Anna had a certain fascination for Marnie when they first met. Her curiosity can be justified by Marnie’s charming personality and her mysterious aura. Also, given that Anna struggled to make friends, Marnie was technically one of her few friends, if not her only friend.
Due to their similar life circumstances, Anna and Marnie bond rather quickly. They both served as each other’s emotional support. Their friendship and mutual trust eventually healed both girls from their emotional trauma, allowing them to move forward. Anna gave what Marnie was looking for, which was forgiveness. And Marnie showed Anna that she has love around her, as a matter of fact, she was always wanted and loved.
The protagonist of “When Marnie Was There”, Anna Sasaki, reminds the audience that it’s important not to shut oneself out of the world. Also, in order to take a step forward, it’s important to let go of the painful past.
Anna Sasaki proves that life is okay without friends, but it can be even better when in good company. After going through the journey, Anna became a much more open person and also more embracing of the good things in life, such as love from family and friends.
Overall, Anna Sasaki is an endearing character, but it takes time to warm up to her. She proves that mindset and attitude are everything. In a way, people become what they believe. In Anna Sasaki’s case, her initial insecurities were all in her head. The girl always had love in her life, but at the time, she wasn’t ready to accept it.