Sep 17, 2014

Review: Kari-gurashi no Arietti [The Secret World of Arrietty] (2010)

Aside from a TV series from 1992, this is the third adaptation of Mary Norton's novel The Borrowers. I've seen the other two adaptations with varying results. The 1997 version is a little bit of a childhood nostalgia trip for me and John Goodman is irresistible fun in that one. I can see its shortcomings though. On the other hand, you got the 1973 version which is a great example of a movie aging horribly. These two movies stacked up against an animated Studio Ghibli? Let's just say that I don't fancy their position.

The Borrowers to me sounds like a wonderful project for Studio Ghibli. It's only the fourth movie from the heralded animation house not to be directed by either Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata so that's a pretty big deal. Hiromasa Yonebayashi got the honours and he was directing for the first time ever in fact. He was probably shaking in his boots with such big shoes to fill, not to mention with Miyazaki himself looking over his shoulder as an executive producer. With the big box office take worldwide as well as tons of critical adoration, it looks like Yonebayashi can rest easy.

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Genre: animation, adventure, family
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Produced by: Toshio Suzuki, Hayao Miyazaki, Walt deFaria, etc.
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa
Music by: Cécile Corbel
Running time: 95 minutes
Production company: Studio Ghibli, Dentsu, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, etc.
Distributed by: Toho Company, Intercontinental Film Distributors, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, etc.
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Budget: $23,000,000
Box office: $145,570,827 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Mirai Shida, Ryunosuke Kamiki, Shinobu Otake, Keiko Takeshita, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Tomokazu Miura, Kirin Kiki 

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Synopsis


Sho (Ryunosuke Kamiki) arrives at the home of his great aunt Sadako (Keiko Takeshita). He suffers from some sort of illness that isn't really made clear. He's to stay with his great aunt Sadako and her maid Haru (Kirin Kiki) to rest and to certainly not exert himself. Sho sees a tiny little figure run to a vent in the house but dismisses it as impossible. The figure is in fact Arrietty (Mirai Shida), the daughter in a family of "borrowers." That night, Arrietty goes with her father Pod (Tomokazu Miura) for her first night of borrowing from the giant residents of the house.

Review


The animation as well as the animation design is just amazing. The Secret World of Arrietty is the kind of animated movie that will age extremely well. The detail is just mind boggling but also comes off as totally charming and cute really. We're talking about four-inch people living in a world of giant people. Their home is a beautiful mishmash of big people items appropriated for their needs. You could just endlessly pause the movie just to admire the house of Pod, Homily and Arrietty.

The hostile world that Arrietty and her parents face daily is well explored in TSWoA. Animals from cats, rats, crows or creepy crawlies represent varying degrees of danger for a tiny person. Everything is just so mindboggingly BIG. The sounds of big people items powerfully reverberate to the ears of Arrietty and her family. It's just amazing how well Hiromasa Yonebayashi has shown the world through the eyes of a borrower.

The soundtrack that was scored by Cécile Corbel is another huge strength of The Secret World of Arrietty. It's rich sounding and does a good job at highlighting the more emotional portions of the movie. Beware, Arrietty's Song which is performed by Corbel herself and plays during the end credits is unbelievably catchy. I've been whistling or silently humming it ever since I heard it

I do find however that in comparison to other Studio Ghibli movies, I wasn't as charmed with the story as I usually was. The Secret World of Arrietty is more of a slow burner in that regard but that's not to say that I didn't like it. It's a beautiful, albeit simple story that takes its time to develop before completely unleashing itself. Watch it completely and you'll see, it'll leave you in awe.

So while The Secret World of Arrietty is not my favourite Studio Ghibli movie, it's a top animated movie without a doubt. The animation is pristine perfect and I also loved the voice acting too. I saw this in the original Japanese language so I can't comment on the UK or US dub. I'm sure that they're both pretty good but I can only really vouch for the quality of the Japanese voice acting. I got to go find myself a copy of the soundtrack now before I forget.

Rating


7.5/10