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The Secret World of Arrietty

Updated on February 24, 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Writers: Mary Norton, Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa

U.S. Voice Cast: Bridgit Mendler, Will Arnett, David Henrie, Amy Poehler, Moises Arias, Carol Burnett, Peter Jason, Frank Marshall, Karey Kirkpatrick, Gracle Poletti, Dale Sison, Steve Alpert

UK Voice Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong, Olivia Colman, Geraldine McEwan, Phyllida Law, Tom Holland, Luke Allen-Gale, Ray Gillon

Japanese Voice Cast: Mirai Shida, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ry√Ľnosuke Kamiki, Tomokazu Miura, Kirin Kiki, Shinobu Ohtake, Keiko Takeshita, Shin'ichi Hatori

Synopsis: The Clock family are four-inch-tall people who live anonymously in another family's residence, borrowing simple items to make their home. Life changes for the Clocks when their daughter, Arrietty, is discovered.

MPAA Rating: G

Hayao Miyazaki does it again

You know, there's something to be said about the lost art of 2-D animation. Sure, with the rise of CGI animated movies, it seems like old fashioned drawn animation is starting to become extinct in this day and age. Sure, CGI animation can impress us sometimes with it's stunning realism like we saw in last year's "Adventures of Tintin", or fascinate us with it's display of surrealistic characters like we saw in such films like "Kung Fu Panda 2." As impressive as those films were, the sad reality is that none of them hold the magic, or mystique, that a hand drawn animated film can capture; hence it's kind of sad if you ask me. However, it only makes films like "Secret World of Arrietty" that much more of a visual treat to watch.

Not only is every scenery and animation in this movie beautifully well done, but at times, I almost felt taken away by it's impressive artistry. Although CGI can do so much in terms of animation, it still fails to capture the soul and creativity that one could easily find in a hand drawn animated film. Unlike CGI animated features that can range anywhere from cheap to impressive, 2-D animation is impressive regardless of it's simplicity or complexity.

For example, "Secret of Kells" didn't feature complex character designs, nor overly complex backgrounds, by any means. However, if you were to look at the animation closely like the color schemes and such, then you'll quickly find that it still manages to portray the world it tries to convey so beautifully through it's simplicity. However, that's not to say that overly complex hand drawn character designs aren't impressive as well (i.e. "Ghost in the Shell" for instance).

Unfortunately, CGI animation is only as impressive as the level detail that's applied to it by the animators. Meaning that even if you have a movie with surrealistic characters, then you still need to have it focused on the details of the character in order for it work, like "Toy Story 3" or "Puss in Boots" for instance. However, when there's not much detail put into the character designs, when it comes to CGI cartoons, then you get movies that feature generically cheap animation like you see in "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" or "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius." Therefore, no matter how popular CGI cartoons will become, they will never replace the art or beauty of a hand drawn animated film, as Hayao Miyazaki really knows how to capture the beauty in almost any anime he partakes in.

However, what makes "The Secret World of Arrietty" very fascinating is that he takes modern day things that we're used to seeing everyday, but he manages to portray them in a different way through the eyes of the borrowers. To the borrowers, our world is one full of dangers, and presents a world somehow larger than life itself. Sure, from our eyes, the things we see everyday like a cat, bugs, and etc may seem like normal things we take for granted. But to them, it's almost amazing witness these things through their eyes. It's almost impossible to really explain, but lets just say that the artwork of this movie alone is a masterpiece in animation.

As for the for the story of this movie, we'll get into that now. The film is said to be based on the novel, "The Borrowers", by Mary Norton. The Clock family are a group of borrowers that have been residing beneath a secluded house up on the hills for quite sometime, while remaining undetected by the humans that have lived there. Sure, a few might have seen them before, but it's never been confirmed.

The Clock family lives off borrowing items from the humans that they wouldn't miss like a cube of sugar, a piece of tissue paper, and etc. As it would seem, the Clock family live a fairly simple, yet happy life together. Unfortunately, everything changes when their fourteen year old daughter, Arrietty, is discovered by a sickly twelve year old boy named Shou (Shawn in the U.S. version or Sho in the UK version). At first, the family assumes the worst, and prepares for the possibility of moving away to another home, to avoid detection by the humans. However, as it turns out, Shou has no intention of hurting or exposing the borrowers. No, he merely wants to get to know them, and he somehow becomes drawn to Arrietty, to where he wishes to protect her.

Shou's family is hardly ever around for him, as his mother is always busy working, and his father left after the divorce. To make matters worse, Shou suffers from a lot of heart problems, and he'll be needing surgery for it soon. According to him, the chances of his survival aren't that great, so he doesn't really have much of a social life; hence he can't help but feel drawn to Arrietty. During the course of the movie, they form an unlikely friendship together, but soon come to realize that the closer they become that it puts her entire family in danger of being discovered.

Although I wouldn't dare say this Hayao Miyazaki's best work, as that honor still arguably belongs to both "Spirited Away" and "Princess Mononoke." However, it's definitely one of the better anime films that I've seen in a good while, as it meshes beautiful hand drawn animation with a well orchestrated story. The script is amazingly well done to slowly pull us into the borrowers world, to suspend our disbelieves; while featuring great direction from Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who does a wonderful job orchestrating the overall tone of the movie itself.

As for the voice acting, I thought all the voice cast played their parts rather well. Granted, it's not the greatest voice acting that I've ever heard in a movie before, but it's still genuine enough to where you can buy into their performances. Overall, if you're a huge fan of animation, or specifically anime, then I'd definitely recommend this movie at a rating of three out of four.


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    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago

      Well it's definitely not Miyazaki's best work if you want my honest opinion, as I still think "Spirited Away" and "Princess Mononoke" are by far the best.

      However, I thought it was pretty good story. I don't know if I'd go as far as to say it's as kidified as "Ponyo", but it's definitely good enough to where I think most audiences can enjoy it.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by again Rob, as it's always an honor seeing you. :)

    • Robwrite profile image


      7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Hi Steven; I'm really looking forward to seeing this film. I love studio Ghibli. even though the great Miyazaki doesn't actually direct this one, he did write and produce it, and its got the great Ghibli animation. This looks more like the traditional Ghibli animation that i missed in "Ponyo on the cliff" which was a touch too kidified.

      Thanks for the review,


    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago

      Thanks DIYmyOmy. I'm glad you liked the review, and I hope you like the movie, as I'm glad I could help. Anyway, thanks again for stopping by, and for the compliments. :)

    • DIYmyOmy profile image


      7 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      I grew up with The Borrowers--my dad used to read me a bit every night at bedtime. And as an artist I appreciate good, old school 2D animation. I've therefore been interested in this film, and your great review makes me want to see it ASAP! Thanks, voted it up and interesting.

    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago

      lol. Fair enough. Well, I hope you like the movie whenever you get a chance to see it, and thanks for stopping by. :)

    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      I want to see that too. And yes, there is something I like more about hand-drawn 2-D animation. And not just because I know how to do it a lot better, lol.

    • Stevennix2001 profile imageAUTHOR

      Steven Escareno 

      7 years ago

      That's cool. I can't say I've seen Laputa and Totoro before, but I've been wanting to for a while. As for Kiki, I've seen that one a while back, but it's been a long time though, so i'll probably have to watch it again to remember it. lol.

      As for the bath scene in totoro, i can't comment, since i've never seen the movie, but it does sound interesting that a scene in a miyazaki film would be controversial. lol.

      Anyway, I appreciate you stopping by to share your thoughts with us. :)

    • emimemo profile image


      7 years ago from USA

      My kid's favorite Miyazaki's movie is, KiKi and Laputa.

      Totoro is great except the bath scene with dad. That part is not acceptable in USA.


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