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The Secret World of Arrietty

A Japanese Anime film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (original Japanese release) and Gary Rydstrom (U.S. release)

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Diminutive Marvels

  • Feb 17, 2012
Animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi's directorial debut hasn't the compelling novelty of Hayao Miyazaki's classics nor the dramatic rigor of Isao Takahata's contributions to the Studio Ghibli canon, but its reflective ambiance and technical merit warrants the venerated animation studio's imprimatur.

Though here transposed by Miyazaki's script to Japanese setting and idiom, admirers of Mary Norton's The Borrowers won't find a better adaptation in motion than this of the charming juvenile novel, though it's been attempted thrice afore to varying results via both televised and theatrical features, and a TV miniseries. Titular Arrietty is the sole adolescent daughter in a family of rare wee folk: self-proclaimed "borrowers" who stand no taller than 10 cm, and pilfer foodstuffs and lost items to supplement their cozy abodes located under human homes. Warned by her parents to eschew their relatively gargantuan neighbors for fear of danger, Arrietty nonetheless befriends a gentle, sickly teenage boy afflicted by a critical heart condition. However, numerous hazards threaten Arrietty and her kin: ravenous crows, a plump, predatory house cat and a well-meaning yet manic and scheming maid obsessed with capturing the Lilliputian scavengers to prove their existence!

Arrietty's best moments occur during its frequent, silent, unhurried interludes, which elegantly complement its story's leisurely pace. Action also abounds, emphasizing the exhilarating perils of miniature life in contrast to its quiet, deliberate joys. As expected, animation throughout is superb, rendered in vibrant hues and clean, exact lines. Especially fine are its exquisitely painted backgrounds depicting natural and domestic locales. Every rustling paper scrap, liquid drop and crawling bug is animated with appropriate detail of form and motion to assure verisimilitude, and a subtle sound design perfectly augments the realism of these visuals. This production's nigh-complete paucity of CGI is fully refreshing, a reminder that sedulous craftsmanship still trumps cheap gimmickry.

Although Disney's anglophone vocal talents are satisfactory in their roles, and a score composed by French singer and harpist Cécile Corbel and Filipino songwriter Dale Sison serves to accentuate crucial dramatic scenes, Arrietty's end titles regrettably showcase Summertime, a noxious pop song exclusive to the film's North American release sung by Arrietty's voice actress, Bridgit Mendler. Obnoxious and wholly uncharacteristic of the film's air, its inclusion is Disney's only misstep in the repackaging of this feature for stateside audiences.

For those willing to engage an animated feature in which understated charm and character development are at least as prominent as spectacle, where heartfelt regret and fondness alike are wrung from a bittersweet conclusion, The Secret World of Arrietty is a very welcome treat. Paired with another Ghibli film of like milieu for a double-bill viewing - My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Ocean Waves, Spirited Away - it's sure to feel as warmly comfortable as those superior titles.

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December 19, 2012
Thanks for sharing!
March 15, 2012
When this hits DVD and Blu-ray, I'll certainly be giving it a shot. Great review, dude!!
March 18, 2012
Thank you! If you enjoy Ghibli's milder conflations of fantasy and personal drama, you're sure to like this.
February 18, 2012
I skimmed your review and it's Good to know that you gave this a high rating--I am leaving in 30 minutes to see this one. I will be back to comment further once I've seen it. :)
February 18, 2012
It really is a lovely picture. I'm sure that you're enjoying it now!
February 18, 2012
OH, Snuudles! :D I *love* your beautiful and wonderful reviewsie! ^-^ We had *so* much funsies watching this todaysies! :D I'm excitedsie to watchie the Japanese versionsie with you *soonie*! ^-^ Heehee! ^-^ Yaysies! ^-^ Muuuuuuuu! ^-^

*rubs nosies & cheekies*
*juicy yummy kisssssssssssssssssssssssies* ^-^

♥ Annusya ♥
February 18, 2012
Thou art the sweetest of all baby bops! A more accurate translation via subtitles, end titles bereft of American dreck and essential bathroom breaks will surely provide a better viewing experience.

*rubs cheeks*
*pip kisses from head to toe*
February 18, 2012
OH, YOU are the sweetest of all baby bops snops! ^-^ Yaysies! ^-^ It will be so much funsies! ^-^

*rubs cheekies & nosies*
*pawsies pawsies pawsssssssssssies*
*pip kissies YOU from head to toesie!* ^-^

♥ Annusya ♥
More The Secret World of Arrietty reviews
review by . February 18, 2012
posted in ASIANatomy
Amazing, Enchanting, Mesmerizing Japanese Anime About A Very Little Girl and a Young Boy....
A few years ago, Disney bought the distribution rights to several of Studio Gibli’s creations. I was ecstatic since it would mean that Studio Gibli’s animated films would have better access to U.S. shores but at the same time, I was also hesitant since I was afraid that they would not include the original Japanese language track, and if they did, it would not be the default language in the dvd releases (no 5.1 Dolby usually). Well, seems like director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s “The …
review by . April 18, 2013
posted in ASIANatomy
My love for Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli know no bounds. With each film they manage to capture the magic, the art, and the heart that make films great. Even what I consider their weaker films, such as Ponyo or Kiki’s Delivery Service are good films and always leave me smiling and happy (well, with the exception of Tales From Earthsea). The Secret World of Arrrietty is no exception, and in many ways I believe serves as an example of one of their better films.  It’s not as grandiose …
review by . May 25, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
The Secret World of Arietty isn't exactly a new film.  Like many Studio Ghibli films it was released in Japan long before it was brought here to US Shores.  But also like so many of those films it is very heartwarming and takes it's audience pretty seriously.  It's an enchanting film.  It has a couple of strange things that keep it from being perfect, but it's definitely close to that.      The movie focuses on Arietty and her parents.  …
review by . February 18, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Perhaps I’m just artistically deficient, but I find the look of anime unappealing. It’s not the backgrounds so much as the characters, especially their faces, many of which are drawn according to a fixed iconography that essentially cuts corners in the ways of expression. You see this with their mouths, which may adequately put forth smiles or frowns but consistently fail to suggest the illusion of vowel sounds, which are more complex …
Quick Tip by . February 14, 2012
posted in ASIANatomy
Studio Gibli made this movie....'nuff said. Any anime fan knows how good they are.      Based on the story "The Borrowers"....I wish they were showing this in the original Japanese Language.      See Full Review Here.     
About the reviewer
Robert Buchanan ()
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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About this movie


  • Opened February 17, 2012 | Runtime:1 hr. 35 min.
  • G
  • Arrietty (voice of Bridgit Mendler), a tiny, but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents (voices of Will Arnett and Amy Poehler) in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper (voice of Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to “borrow” scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts. But when 12-year-old Shawn (voice of David Henrie), a human boy who comes to stay in the home, discovers his mysterious housemate one evening, a secret friendship blossoms. If discovered, their relationship could drive Arrietty’s family from the home and straight into danger.
  • Cast: Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett, Carol Burnett, David Henrie, Moisés Arias
  • Director: Gary Rydstrom
  • Genres: Action/Adventure, Animated,/Fantasy
  •  Poster art for "The Secret World of Arriety."
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    Genre: Adventure, Animation, Drama, Fantasy
    Release Date: 2010.7.17 (Japan), 2010.9.9 (South Korea), 2010.11.30 (France), 2010.12.25 (Hong Kong), 2011.7.29 (UK), 2012.2.12 (Australia), 2012.2.17 (USA, Canada)
    MPAA Rating: G
    Screen Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
    Runtime: 94 minutes
    Studio: Studio Ghibli, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Dentsu, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Mitsubishi Shoji, Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV), Toho Company, Walt Disney Company
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