The world can be a very scary place when you’re small. For Arrietty, though, the only real fear in life is in missing out on a big adventure. 14-year-old Arrietty and her parents live in the small spaces of a human garden. They are what some might call “borrowers”; they take items from the human world to eke out a living amidst the shadows.
Their existence goes mostly undiscovered until the arrival of 12-year-old Shou. When Shou begins to noticesmall things going missing, he becomes suspicious. He soon meets Arrietty and strikes up a friendship that neither of them could have seen coming. However, this is a friendship fraught with danger due to the obvious risk of Arrietty and her family’s discovery, something that could send the borrowers right into the hands of those that would do them harm. In Karigurashi no Arrietty, Studio Ghibli presents audiences with a beautiful look at the human world... from a much smaller perspective.
Karigurashi no Arrietty is Studio Ghibli’s re-imagining of Mary Norton’s 1952 novel, “The Borrowers.” The film won 5 Tokyo Anime Awards in 2011 for the following categories: Animation of the Year, Best Art Direction, Best Director, Best Music, and Notable Entry.
Studio Ghibli is quite renowned for it’s rather large portfolio of acclaimed family movies, and you could definitely add Karigurashi no Arrietty to that list. Ghibli usually makes two types of movies, either fantasy movies that focus on themes that are rather critical of problems in society (Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke and Nausicca come to mind), whereas in more recent times we’ve seen more slice-of-life fantasy adventure movies. Arrietty fits more into the latter, with it’s setting being modern day society with a small little twist; there are tiny, tiny people living under the house, and they borrow from humans to survive. Tiny as in maybe
5-8 centimeters tall.
One of the charming aspects to this movie is, without a doubt, the amount of attention paid to the little details that makes the presence of little people so believable. The creative, yet simple, ways in which Arrietty and her family are portrayed are captivating, such as the little toolsets Arrietty’s family made in order to explore the “human” house. They use everyday items like fishing hooks, double-sided scotch tape, and spools of thread to create their own little sets of backpacks filled with tools they use to make their lives a little easier, and make the characters fascinatingly believable. The creativity and thought put into the tiny details are awesome, from the fishing hooks and scotch tape, to the little neat cubes of sugar that fits like a well-sized package in the hands of Arrietty.
What I really enjoyed about this movie is how it is told from the point of view of little Arrietty as opposed to the perspective of us “regular humans”. Simple things that you could find in your everyday backyard, from Arrietty’s perspective, all of a sudden have a grandiose feeling to them. Things such as a simple vine you could find creeping across the wall of any old house transforms into an intricate ladder of leaves and stems to the rooftops, or a field of grass and flowers becomes a vast forest. This movie takes your everyday backyard, and turns it into a vast new world to explore. It doesn’t hurt that the scenery and artwork was vibrant and lush with color.
The soundtrack is especially fitting for this movie. The absense of Joe Hisashi’s music in this Ghibli film is instantly noticable, and while some of the pieces here may lack a slight bit of the grandeur of Hisashi’s works, the soundtrack is still well done. What is a bit unusual here is how the soundtrack was actually done by Cécile Corbel, a French singer and Celtic harpist, who was a huge fan of Ghibli works and sent samples of her work to the studio. The Celtic influence in the soundtrack is immediately noticeable, but it was definitely an excellent choice on Ghibli’s part.
Characterization of the actual characters wasn’t exactly anything mindblowingly original or exotic, but the main cast was rather believable for the most part, and had their own charms to them. I found the innocently curious, yet straightforward and resolute attitude of Arrietty quite likable. Her rather odd relationship with Sho, as well as how Sho perceived her, turned out to be quite fascinating and, in a sense, admirable. The subtle tension between the elusive tiny people, and the gigantic humans, are played upon quite well here, which adds quite a few tense moments between Arrietty and Sho. I’d say characterization was quite tastefully handled here for the most part.
And now, for the biggest weakness for this movie. The plot progression and characterization were all fine and all, but the conflict and villain were practically a joke in terms of setup. Seriously, what grudge did old lady Haru have against the little guys? They didn’t explain in detail why she was hunting out the little people, giving only a flimsy excuse that they’re “theives” in a degrogatory tone. The villain just felt very underwhelming, and just doesn’t fit in with this movie’s atmosphere at all. The conflict was kind of discredited in my eyes because of the poorly integrated main antagonist, and there is certainly room for improvement here. Plot progression, while fine and all, was also rather slow at times. While I personally didn’t mind the slow pacing (it lets things sink in more), there were definitely plenty of slowly-paced scenes in this movie.
What makes Arrietty a great watch is the tremendous attention to the details of it’s setting, the beautiful art and music, and the wonderful direction for it’s characters. The plot is admittingly lacking (especially the major conflict, oh boy could it have used some more work), but as a premier film for a new director, this film turned out to be an pleasant surprise. The ending does feel very open ended, though, with a lot of loose ends that feel as if they have yet to be tied up. While the likelihood of a sequel for a Ghibli movie is very slim, I would be totally fine with a sequel for this particular movie.
Overall Enjoyment: 8.5/10 (Rounded up to a 9 on MAL)
This movie started very similar to Spirited Away by Studio Ghibli 2001. Driving in a car to somewhere introducing us to the 'main' character. AUDI in Spirited Away, Mercedes in Arrietty. With a similar opening theme 11 years later they must have found it effective. Hayao Miyazaki writer and Director of Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle(2004), and planning and Screenplay for The Secret World of Arrietty. The storyline is based on 'The Borrowers' by Mary Norton and the music, which incorporated many celtic themes especially enhanced by the harp, was by Cécile Corbel.
The story could have been so much more thrilling. I enjoyed the character development and appreciated the situation of Arrietty and her family however, it took too long to grip my interest. I was expecting an adventure to occur as the family is trudging through the woods right at the end of the movie. From 14 year old Arrietty figuring out how she fits in with her family, what her role is and who she is, to 'borrowing' her first item(a pin) from the humans, Arrietty is curious. She decides to talk to the human Sho, who is physically sick but had heard from his mother that there were small people in the house. He sees Arrietty and desires friendship and so tries to help them out by replacing first the dropped sugar, then kitchen from a dolls house to 'help' Arrietty's family.
This brings about unwanted interest from Haru the house maid and brings what little humour there is to light when she captures Arrietty's mom and calls the Exterminators/'Capturers' to deal with the small people. Arrietty's family decide to move because they were seen, Arrietty feels responsible for this because she was seen, and so they leave to find a new house. Sho feels his connection with Arrietty weakening and for some reason follows the house cat and finds Arrietty and says farewell. I needed something more. The elements were there but were not taken advantage of to capture the interest of it's viewers hence the '6'.
The animation was fantastic looking and transitioned very smoothly from scene to scene. There were minor CG sections that enhanced the overall calming effect I received. There were a few scenes of Sho standing infront of the house where he looked quite static however.
The music was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed the celtic twist and jig rhythms that were interspersed throughout the film. The harp at the beginning of the movie was simple yet magical with clear ringing tones that unexpectedly melded with theme of the movie. (Interestingly Morestsu Uchuu Kaizoku (2012) emotes this theme as well) One thing I noticed was when Arrietty 'sheathed' her pin through her dress a metal-on-metal sound was played that was not for any affect I could relate to.
Arrietty's character was developed the most in the film, which is to be expected as the main character however I felt her qualities and traits only scratched the surface. This movie wasn't about her character as much as the progression of her over the journey. There was not much reflection until the very end where she apologised to her parents and then cried at bidding farewell to Sho. The show focused more on her world than her and if that was what was desired then they did a good job.
I enjoyed the film as I did not know what to expect but my expectations were apparently too high as I left feeling like there could have been much more conflict for Arriettys character. I would have loved to have followed the family down the river to where a new adventure may await. That is where the story could have taken hold for me.
I think this anime is kind of unique, with mini sized human live as theme, makes me very interested to watch it and leave a deep feeling of it. The shades of fantasy is so strong but not exaggerate.
Story: It a simple one, with fine pace, without any boring scene. Ending is almost perfect.
Art & Sound are so-so, I like the background art of it, I don't really have any comment except that.
Characters: the design was fine, either with their personality, seiyu voice are suited well.
Enjoyment: I think Karigurashi no Arrietty will be enjoyable by anyone, although they're not an anime fan. As I mentioned
it before, it leave a deep feeling for me, so for me it feels like there's not enough if watch it just one time, makes me want to rewatch it again.
The level of detail in this incredible hand drawn animation is breath-taking, and can only be attributed to the studio that's worthy of its name. By now we are probably all familiar with the surreal magic Studio Ghibli casts on their art, the settings and environments are so vibrant and well... indescribable. But our high expectations of Ghibli's work does not dampen our amazement every time we begin one of their films, this time I was completely blown away by how much creativity was poured into the daily functions of the 'Borrowers', how and what they use to operate, what they call
their humble abode, we see unparalleled amounts of resourcefulness.
Watching this movie was like being zapped with a shrink ray until you are nothing but a few inches tall, and then being thrown into somebody's home that's not actually too far away from your own. What we discard as unused little objects, items with as much value as one cube of sugar or a single sheet of napkin, the 'Borrowers' risk their lives in the form of adventure to procure.
The plot and characters of the film loosely relates to the novel 'The Borrowers' by Mary Norton, however Sho/Shawn's character (David Henrie) was given a complete overhaul, while Arrietty (Bridget Mendler) showed some areas of consistency with her book-ly counterpart.
Let's talk about Arrietty's parents for a minute, their characters are quite fundamental in striking realism into the film. While Arrietty seems like the curious, adventure driven girl and Sho being the soft spoken, kind boy that he is, the majority of the audience (children, but not subject to) look for elements of themselves in our two main characters. But the deal breaker that really makes the film speak to us is the portrayal of Homily (Amy Poehler) and Pod (Will Arnett), Homily being the over worrying mother and Pod the stoic but protective father involves us into a situation where we honestly relate to the entirely different yet, at the same time unusually familiar world of 'Borrowers'.
Like many Ghibli films, the protagonist embarks on a journey experiencing new things, but ends up learning the most about themselves through self discovery (Spirited Away and Howl's come to mind). The actual plot of Arrietty in terms of a 'sequence of events', seem like the happenings of everyday life, quite mundane and nothing spectacular IF you were a typical human being. However, we are not given the perspective of a typical human being, we've been minimized to pocket size and that's the beauty of it, suddenly birds become the size of dragons, and your local pest control can be something straight out of a nightmare.
Sho/Shawn's character seemed to contain a lot more potential than was presented, and personally I was somewhat puzzled that nothing else was made of him after the ending. That beautiful doll house did seem like the perfect end game for Arrietty's family but would have made the film too predictable. A bittersweet farewell between our main characters was the ending that evokes more thought as well as sadness and not just for the children of the audience.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn't slightly disappointed, my interest was piqued but before I was prescribed enough information about Arrietty, about the 'Borrowers' and about Sho, the movie had abruptly finished. The entire movie was an ordeal that ended just as mysteriously as it began, where did the 'Borrowers' come from? Where did Arrietty and her family go? What happens to Sho?
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