The Secret World of Arrietty

Hello again, bloggers! Chani here once more! I am on a roll as of late it seems, doesn’t it? ^_^

Well, yesterday I went to the movie theater and saw the latest Studio Ghibli film… The Secret World of Arrietty, in English, or Kari-gurashi no Arietti (The Borrower Arrietty), in Japanese. It was written by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki along with Keiko Niwa, and directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. As it is still only in the theaters in the US I had no choice but to watch the English dubbed version (I usually prefer subbed), but Ghibli/Miyazaki films are usually dubbed fairly well and this was no exception. It was an extremely enjoyable movie experience and one which I will recount and describe here.

Secret World of Arietty - Japanese Poster poster

Warning… SPOILERS! Oh yes, spoilers most definitely abound in this brief recap/review, so if you want to be surprised go see the movie and then come back. I highly, highly recommend seeing it either way. Because like most Studio Ghibli films, it is excellent, dubbed or subbed.The Secret World of Arrietty is based on the 1952 British novel “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton, and some of its sequels. From what I’ve read online it seems that it follows the earlier part of the stories quite closely, though I’ve never read any of the Borrowers books myself, though I do believe I saw at least part of some of the many film versions at some point. The Studio Ghibli adaptation was released in 2010 in Japan, and is only just making it to US shores now… sigh, I feel so behind. LOL.The movie tells the story of a family of borrowers, or tiny doll-sized humanoid creatures that live hidden in human homes, and survive by “borrowing”, or taking little things that they need such as bits of food or tissue or discarded items, from the humans without being seen. The borrower family of concern in this movie are husband and wife Pod and Homily, and their teenage daughter Arrietty (prounounced AH-ree-eh-tee (Japanese) or AIR-ee-eh-tee (in the dub), but definitely not A-RYE-eh-tee, as I originally thought). Arrietty is the main character.We open, however, on Shawn (Sho in the Japanese version), who is moving into the home of his great aunt Jessica (Sadako in the Japanese version), which is maintained by the caretaker Hara (Haru in the Japanese version). Shawn is sickly but we don’t yet know why, and is supposed to stay with Hara in this house in the country to try and rest, as his parents are too busy with work to help him.

clip_image006Upon his arrival he thinks he glimpses Arrietty in the grass. There is also a cat, named Nina in the US dub but apparently unnamed in the Japanese version, who clues him in to her whereabouts because Nina would like to attack/pounce on the borrowers, as most cats would do with small creatures. :DWe then switch to Arrietty’s point of view and follow her home to see her lovely bedroom which she’s furnished with plants and things she’s collected outside.

clip_image008As usual for Studio Ghibli films, the detail for backgrounds, especially those involving natural objects, is done phenomenally. Anyone who loves the natural world will really appreciate how well it is depicted in these movies.

clip_image010clip_image011You can also see in the above two pictures how well the artists did with rendering the small size of the borrowers relative to other objects. We see the large droplets of water and the leaves and flowers. The water, especially, I found was done well. Such as when the borrowers make tea for each other and the water doesn’t pour out of the kettle, but rather drips out in little plopping droplets, which is very realistic considering their small size. Things of a similar nature are done on many objects throughout the film, really enhancing the realism.We next meet Arrietty’s parents, Pod and Homily. Tonight will be her first night borrowing, and although the family is a little concerned because of the newcomer to the house (Shawn), they decide that yes Arrietty will still go borrowing with her father to get some sugar and tissue paper for their family.

clip_image013We also get to see Arrietty put on her special borrowing outfit and put her hair up with a borrowed human clip of some sort, which is pretty cute.clip_image015The borrowing trip, on the other hand, does not go so well. She is spotted by Shawn, drops her sugar, and they are forced to abandon their tissue paper as well so go home with nothing to show for their trip, except a small pin Arrietty found discarded, which she decides to use as a sword.clip_image016The remainder of the film details her adventures in getting to know Shawn, even though she knows she shouldn’t as borrowers are not meant to be seen. She initially only speaks to him behind a leaf to attempt to remain in hiding, but eventually allows him to see her later in the film.

clip_image018This leads to problems as Hara becomes suspicious and insists upon trying to capture the borrowers. This is exacerbated by Shawn and Arrietty’s relationship because now Hara has more proof of the borrowers’ existence. When Shawn discovers the place that Arrietty and her family live under some floorboards and tries to give them a dollhouse kitchen that his great-grandfather had designed for the “little people” he believed in, even though Arrietty’s mother loves the kitchen, they determine that they have no choice but to move and try to find a better, safer place to live where the “human beans” have not discovered their existence.They meet a “wild”, forest-living borrower named Spiller who assures them that he knows of three other borrowers nearby and perhaps they can move to that area.

clip_image020Arrietty is excited to meet Spiller as he is the first other borrower she’s met before and he is about her age. He is definitely a bit more… feral than Arrietty’s family, but I see some potential for him and her there, oh yes I do. 😀

clip_image022When Arrietty explains to Shawn that they have to move, Shawn confesses that his heart is failing and he is scheduled for surgery soon but he has little hope that it will help him, and he fears he might not survive. Arrietty tells him he should fight for his life.
clip_image023clip_image024clip_image026clip_image028Meanwhile, Hara has captured Homily while Pod is out looking for places to move to. Arriety and Shawn must go and rescue her mother while at the same time keep the exterminators that Hara has hired from finding any evidence of the borrowers, by hiding all of the things that belong to them. Ultimately it proves successful, Homily is rescued, Hara is foiled, but sadly Arrietty and her family still have to move. Nina the cat has reformed and made friends with Arrietty by now and leads Shawn to the edge of the property where Arrietty and her family are about to float downriver in a teapot along with Spiller to find their new home. Shawn and Arrietty say their good-byes and thank each other for their friendship. The movie ends with Shawn narrating that he never saw Arrietty again, but a year later (meaning that he survived his surgery – YAY !:)) he hears reports from some neighbors about things going missing in their house, so he knows the borrowers are alive and well. We also see a lovely little potential couple scene where Spiller shyly offers Arrietty a raspberry to eat as they float downstream together on the teapot. Aww! 🙂

Overall I found the movie wonderful. It has the usual whimsical quality of Ghibli films, along with lush scenery, excellent animation, engaging story, and absolutely wonderful background music. I highly recommend purchasing the soundtrack, which I believe is available on iTunes. Or alternatively you could shop at YesAsia or CDJapan for it. The main theme, “Arrietty’s Song”, was sung by French singer Cécile Corbel, and according to the Wikipedia page for the movie she apparently sings the versions of the song in French, Japanese, English, German, and Italian. Pretty impressive! She also composed the excellent background music for the film.

The voice acting for the English dub was generally done very well, especially for the female characters. Arrietty’s actress was especially good, Bridgit Mendler. It seems she’s done some Disney stuff but I’d never heard of her before seeing her in this film – still, she did amazing. Her mother, Homily, was played by Amy Poehler and did well, too. Finally, Hara the antagonist caretaker was played by Carol Burnett, a very famous actress who, of course, did an excellent job. Unfortunately, I felt like the male characters, specifically Arrietty’s father Pod (Will Arnett) and the boy Shawn (David Henrie), didn’t convey the appropriate amount of emotion I wanted. I’m sure they’re good actors, but I guess there’s just something about trying to get American men to play the right amount of “flat” emotion that Japanese men can do and still make it sound enthusiastic but American men do and just make it sound… flat. It’s hard to explain, but both Pod and Shawn sounded more tired and rehearsed than any of the girl characters, and more stiff as well. This could just be my opinion, but that’s how I felt about it.

Again, I highly recommend seeing this! I was the only lone adult in the movie theater that did not have children with me, but although the story is pretty whimsical I still wondered if at certain points it might be slow-moving and make the children in the theater bored where adults would not. Either way, I think the Miyazaki and Ghibli films have mass appeal to both adults and children and are always worth a trip to go see, even dubbed. 😀

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