As Studio Ghibli’s latest animation, When Marnie Was There, hits UK cinema screens, Michael Leader speaks with director Hiromasa Yonebayashi…

There are so many emotional aspects interweaving throughout the film, about growing up, friendship, being adopted, about being an outsider to the mainstream culture. But then you also have the time-slip plot and the genre workings of fantasy-tinged melodrama. What was the essence of the film for you?

The central theme of this film is Anna, who closes herself outside of the world. Her gradual change was very important. At the beginning she is expressionless, but through her interchange with Marnie and beautiful nature you gradually see her expression coming back. By the end of the film she’s almost a different girl. To depict that change in one film was very important.

It’s the influential moments in friendship and relationships that create that change.

At first, she closes herself off to others. Anna didn’t notice but her stepmother Yoriko loved her but she didn’t realise. When she moved to the countryside with her auntie and saw Marnie, all the beautiful nature and her peers, she gradually realised that actually the people around her love her.

This and your previous film, Arrietty, are both adaptations of English-language children’s books from half a century ago. I’d like to know what it was that you saw that was relevant about these books to modern day children, and what excited you about retelling these stories.

I think that’s because we depict human beings, not just children, as having to struggle with interaction is relevant through time and people. With Marnie, she is isolated and she hates herself because she has closed herself off from the world. Children these days are connected to friends and others through SMS, they can connect with them anytime, anywhere. Some children feel isolated and tired of it as well though. So for girls like that we wanted to make a film that gives them a enough courage to step forward.

On the other hand, Arrietty is a very outgoing and adventurous child, so I was wondering what was relevant to today’s children from Arrietty?

In Arrietty they were borrowers – they borrow things to live. I saw myself in Arrietty when I was making it because she and her family lived under the house and had to borrow things from big people. In the end her family move out from that hiding place under the house and sail to a different world, into the unknown with hope and looking into the future. I’m not really sure if that was relevant to today, but at the time that I was making it I definitely saw Arrietty in me.

When Marnie Was There is in cinemas from 10th June 2016…