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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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Such an Enchanting World

  • May 25, 2012
Rating:
+4
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.  They are small tiny people about the size of your finger, perhaps, who come out at night to "borrow" things because they're "borrowers."  They only take what they need and usually never anything more.  There is only one rule they have to abide by.  That's not to be seen by any of the humans.  Arietty is a spirited little girl who is excited for her first borrowing, but her father is a little nervous because, well, a new boy has come to the house.  His name is Sean (and yes, I know, he has the same name as me, you'd be person number 14,932 to point this out) and during Arietty's first borrowing she manages to be spotted by him.  He calls out for her not to go.  She then abandons what she has "borrowed."  To her surprise, however, Sean brings it and places it by the window so that she can take it freely.

Unfortunately there's trouble afoot as the house keeper named Hara.  She knows there are "little people" running around and she intends to prove it someday.  And when it becomes apparent that Sean has run into them trouble ensues.

As an adult watching a movie intended for a younger audience there is always one thing that can be very annoying rather quickly.  Well, two things.  The first is that a lot of kids movies just try way too hard to be cool.  The second is that a lot of them just can't go without pop culture references and jokes to keep the children involved.  The reason Pixar movies tend to work so well is because they don't have to rely on that stuff to entice their child audience.  They treat them as though they're actually smart rather than playing the game of, "Do you get this joke?"  There aren't always that many animated films that come out and do that.  Studio Ghibli has continuously put out these kinds of films.  Where as a kid you understand it because it's just a good, simple story, and as an adult you don't look back years later and wonder just WHY you watched it in the first place.  Arietty succeeds in this regard on a lot of levels.

The quality and smoothness of the animation is really incredible.  In fact, it's some of the best animation the studio has done.  It's accompanied by a very touching and moving soundtrack as well as some pretty good and unique sound effects.  As Sean walks to Arietty, for instance, he sounds like a giant.  But when we are shown Sean and it isn't from her perspective it doesn't appear that way.  It's small, but it's a detail worth noticing. 

What really helps the movie a lot, however is that it is largely about friendship.  There's no strange romantic love between Sean and Arietty and there's no forced loved story in any sense of the word.  It's basically just about friendship and how important this bond between people really is.  The chemistry between Sean and Arietty really works and manages to hold the film together.  This is especially true because the other characters aren't quite as amazing.  It's not their story.  Arietty's father, for instance, is a very serious man who believes they have to move because Sean has seen Arietty and the mother only serves two motivations.  The first is to provide comic relief and the second is to further a conflict that doesn't come for quite some time into the film.  But more on that later.  They're charming characters but the film makes no secrets: This is Arietty's story.

There are a couple of things that do stand out quite a bit, however.  This is by far not the best that the studio has produced (where Spirited Away still reigns as my favorite).  Mainly because the pacing can take some time.  You have to be patient.  Arietty spends quite a bit of time introducing us to what Arietty and the borrowers do before then building on the relationship between Sean and Arietty.  This means the central conflict of the film doesn't come up for quite some time.  And when it does it's a rather short lived moment.  It's fun, but in a movie like this it's a wonder why there was virtually no conflict before.  There isn't a lot of things thrown on top.  There just happens to be quite a bit of character building with Arietty and Sean first.  When it gets going it's a really rewarding experience.  At times there are even moments that you're not quite sure are really there.  At one point Arietty finds a pin, for example, which she fashions as a sword... but it's never really needed or necessary.  At least not for the central conflict the movie (eventually) gives us.  When things are finally resolved it is not exactly the best ending we could hope for.  It's bittersweet, which I love, but also comes off as a bit rushed which I hate. 

And yet it's still really entertaining.  It was good from start to finish.  The characters are fascinating and sympathetic, the production values are amazing.  The only real problem the movie has is its uneven pace where some parts (dare I say) will seem boring to the average movie goer at first.  Aside from that there isn't much reason not to see this film.  It's a really rewarding one overall, it just doesn't deliver fully in a couple of areas.

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May 26, 2012
This was an amazing film--it was proof that one does not need any fancy CGi to engage and enthrall an audience. Just happy that more people are finding the film as enjoyable as I have. I got the bluray this week to add in my collection. Nice review!
 
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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 . February 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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
Caption
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.     
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About this movie

Wiki

  • 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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    Details

    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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