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Title: The Secret World of Arriety
Starring: Bridgit, Mendler, Amy Poehler,
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, Mary Norton (book)
Studio: Disney Studios
Rated: G
Runtime: 95 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: May 22nd, 2012

Movie: :4.5stars:
Video: :5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :2stars:
HTS Overall Score:87


Simplicity at it's best is the only way I can describe "The Secret World of Arriety". Most Studio Chibli films have a tendency of being deep and convoluted, but "Arriety" is probably the most uncomplicated of their films to date. Now, that isn't a bad thing, not at all. Miyazaki and Yonebayashi create a world full of magic and mystery out of things quite the ordinary. They weave their visual artistry throughout the simple story of a girl who's finding out just how big the world can actually be. Surprisingly, "The Secret World of Arriety" is not based on a Japanese story, but rather an american children's book called "The Borrowers." Nowhere near as epic as "Princess Monnonoke," or as sweepingly dark as "Castle in the Sky," this film focuses on the joy of experiencing the common things in life, the things that most people gloss over as mundane and boring. Instead of boring, however, Yonebayashi creates wonder; instead of mystery and action, we are pulled into a world of innocent friendship between two unlikely people. While not one of the award-winning Chibli films, "The Secret World of Arriety" is a great film in it's own right.

"Arriety" is based upon a children's novel written by Mary Norton and begins with a sickly child named Sho stumbling upon a family secret. Beneath his house dwells a family of Borrowers, a race of tiny people who in secret, "borrowing" things that normal humans wouldn't miss in order to survive. The daughter, Arriety, lives with her mother, Homily, and father, Pod, and has just hit that transition phase from child to adult where she must learn to hazard th dangers of the human world and "borrow" to survive. Unfortunately for Arriety, her debut mission is completely bungled when she is spotted by Sho. Borrowers have survived this long without the general populace finding out by being extremely careful, and if even one of them is spotted, they pack up and create a new home where they won't be seen again. As a warning, Pod tells Arriety that prior to their family, two others lived in their brick-pile home: one vanished without a trace; the other had to move to keep themselves safe. Arriety, however, is not content to simply ignore Sho's knowledge of her existence. Her efforts to discourage him actually foster an unlikely friendship with our invalid boy.
As with all good films, there can not be a hero without a villain. In this case, our villain is a grumpy old housekeeper name Haru. Haru is obsessed with finding the borrowers, who she is convinced are nothing but thieves and pests. Unwittingly, Sho ends of exposing the little family to a rain of terror from Haru and is forced to protect his friends. Through his mistakes and the bumbling of Haru one thing remains constant: friendship, is always worth fighting for, no matter if it's with someone 1/100th of your size.

"The Secret World of Arriety" is a story of magic and awe told from a point of view that draws us back in time to when we were young and experiencing the world for the first time, a time when the simple was amazing and awe inspiring. Arriety finds herself in a world of monsters and demons, giant people and giant bugs. A cat chasing an insect is viewed as a vicious monster about tear our heroine limb from limb. A crow flying into a screen is as a Teradactyl swooping in to finish her off. A trickling stream is as a giant rushing river, taking her to a new land. Fans of Chibli films may find the scope of the film limiting; however, it is that simplicity and snapshot-in-time feel from where "The Secret World of Arriety" draws its charm. I have watched almost every Chibli film to date, and I have to say that this film left me with a smile that stretched from ear to ear for the entirety. It's a story that truly tugs on the heartstrings in all the right ways. Yonebayashi didn't create a film that panders to the U.S. audience; there were no silly characters to create humorous situations, or diabolical villains out to destroy the world. Instead, we have an uncomplicated story and realistic relationships. The drama, the humor, the tension all spawned from a place to which each and every one of us could relate and understand.

Rated G for general audiences

Video :5stars:

I don't give out perfect picture scores very often. In fact, I can't think of very many movies that I CAN'T find some sort of flaw in the transfer to at least knock it down to a 4.5 rating. In this case, "Arriety" deserves all the praise I can heap on it. Disney outdid themselves this time. The picture is crystal clear and as crisp as can be. Lines are detailed and smooth without any aliasing or halos whatsoever. I couldn't see a single artifact ANYWHERE. No color banding, no compression issues, no waving lines, nothing. This is by far the best animated film I've ever seen. For sure it isn't as sleek looking as a computer animated film but the hand drawn animation is a thing beauty. Every frame drawn with exquisite detail and colors. The backgrounds look like a beautiful watercolor in contrasts with the rounded softer animation done for the characters and close ups. I could continue raving for the next few pages, but I can only say so much before it just becomes me chanting over and over, "It's perfect. It's perfect."

Audio :4.5stars:

The Audio is almost as fantastic as its video counterpart. Voices are smooth and clean, dialogue is easily distinguished from the effects and background nose without needing any balancing. Background sounds such as doors closing and a persons's feet stomping across the floor are all clean and crisp. There really wasn't much bass present except in the musical score, but this being a dialogue driven film, that's to be expected. Directionality is absolutely fantastic; there were a plethora of panning effects that would shift from front to back and all around. My wife actually commented on how she felt immersed in the rainstorm happening on screen. Being that there is a Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD MA track as well as an English track of the same encoding, I had to do a little bit of A/B ing. Both tracks appear to almost equal in clarity and precision, so the only real distinguishing features that would rank one above the other is the voice acting. I can understand Japanese pretty well after about 12 years of watching anime and hanging around several Japanese friends so I have a decent grasp on their vocalizations and inflections as well as what they are saying in comparison to the subtitles. The Japanese voice actors did a very good job of bringing the characters to life in the film; dialogue and subtitles were very accurate to the characters actions on screen. The English track, on the other hand, suffered noticeably from voice actors who are brought in and just dub over a movie. Will Arnett totally missed the feel of Pod, and both Arriety and Sho's voices were obviously mismatched to their Japanese voice counterparts: Arriety sounded ditsy and verbose compared to the sweet girl portrayed by the Japanese actress, and Sho seemed incredibly lifeless for such a gentle, caring boy. It seemed that Disney just hired some people and tossed them a script without having the actors connect with their characters at all. In this case, I would easily give the nudge to the Japanese track as being the superior of the two.

Extras: :2stars:

• Original Japanese storyboards
• Music Video
• The Making of Summertime
• Trailers and Tv Spots

Overall: :4.5stars:

This is a film that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to people of all ages. There was a sense of maturity and sweetness to which adults can relate, and a sense of childlike wonder and frivolity that children will be able to watch without missing the story due to "adult" inside jokes. Many Chibli films I don't find appropriate for small children due to the scary images, e.g. films like "Princess Monnonoke" and "Spirited Away." However, "Arriety" is capable of being to shown to all age groups without fear. "Arriety" doesn't try to become more than what it is, but rather revels in its own simple storytelling. I would have to say that I went in with decent expectations and was very much blown away. "Arriety" is a 5 star flick in my opinion, and recommend that you go out and watch it as soon as possible. Whether it be for the children or for the children at heart, "Arriety" is a feel good movie for us all.

Recommendation: Buy It!


34 Posts
Nice review! I have this one ready to go this evening for me and the kids to watch.

Also - no artifacts anywhere? Very impressive. If I could only say the same about my aging projector ... :D

Premium Member
15,054 Posts
I enjoyed this movie, my kids understood what was going on as well and had entertainment value for me as well. Im not so sure that I would have given it 5 stars for video quality however thats only because its more traditional animation and not what we are used to these days.

2,072 Posts
I am a big fan of studio Ghibli and I have all their dvds. My kids also enjoy their movies.

This one is particular we saw a few weeks back and it is a good movie. Great animation and the story is very good.

However, with that being stated, I thought the movie could have been better. Other movies within the Studio Ghibli line up I thought were better written and had better animation but this one is a good movie to keep in the collection.

Thanks for the review as well.
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