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Studio Ghibli, the Disney of the East, has crafted another heartwarming fantastical animated journey in The Secret World of Arrietty (aka The Borrower Arrietty, ????????????, Kari-gurashi no Arietti). A story of adventure and friendship set in the sunny summertime, Arrietty tells the tale of a group of tiny people known as “borrowers” who live in secrecy beneath the floorboards of a house. One summer, when the sickly Sho arrives at his aunt’s house to spend the summer, he spots the rambunctious young borrower Arrietty in the garden as she is foraging for fresh herbs. Beautifully crafted and colorful animation pairs with the typically bittersweet and pie-eyed writing of Miyazaki in this story of young friendship, a theme well explored in many Ghibli films.
The Westernized, English dub features Disney Channel stars Bridgit Mendler and David Henrie as well as Carol Burnett, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Moises Arias. I always prefer to watch my anime with the original Japanese language track, even if these Studio Ghibli releases do employ some rather big name Hollywood stars for their English-dubs.
It should also be pointed out that selecting the English dub also results in a few differences in the film itself.
Charming and beautifully animated, The Secret World of Arrietty is a definite must for families.
A girl who belongs to a race of tiny people risks her family’s well being to develop a friendship with a human boy. The release of a new Studio Ghibli film will always arouse the interest of the Japanese studio’s fan base, particularly when Hayao Miyazaki is directing. Ghibli’s film was called Arietty in many jurisdictions, but was retitled The Secret World Of Arrietty for the American market, along with Canada. The borrowing mission goes somewhat awry, and Arrietty is again spotted by Sho, who begins to establish a dialog with her. Arrietty was very successful at the box office in Japan, and did well enough in the United States to be the biggest Ghibli success to date, even if its $19M gross seems modest compared to larger blockbusters.
I was so unimpressed with that first experience, in fact, that I was initially reluctant to take on this review; but I’m glad now that I did. So, in the future, I will enjoy revisiting Arrietty again, though I shall do so only when I’m in the proper mood— the mood to be engrossed in a simple tale, well told.
The Blu-ray’s Sneak Peeks include looks at Disney Studio All Access (coming soon!), Brave, and the Cinderella: Diamond Edition.
That old Ghibli standard, the Complete Japanese Storyboards (not sure why they specify Japanese?) appears here, and can be watched with either Japanese of English 2.0 sound, and English or French subtitles are available here. Then there are two Music Videos, one with Cecile Corbel doing the English version of Arrietty’s Song (3:40).
Sadly, the hour’s worth of interviews that appeared on the UK Blu-ray do not show up here, leaving Region A buyers with a pretty slim package of extras. The standard-sized Blu-ray case has a disc on each side of the interior, with a Disney Movie rewards insert in-between.
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and written by Hayao Miyazaki from the Mary Norton novel The Borrowers, the film will at once be visually recognizable to anyone familiar with the works of Studio Ghibli, such as Spirited Away, or Laputa: Castle in the Sky.
Living off of the humans around them for the things they need, they go on little expeditions through the home to “borrow” little things they need to survive that people might not miss – a sugar cube here, a sheet of tissue paper there. This is a flawless image with perfect detail, beautifully vivid colors, detailed line art and no sign of any artifacts whatsoever.
The lossless 5.1 soundtracks here are both good, with clean, intelligible dialogue and good voice acting.
English text replaces Japanese on some notes in certain frames and some other minor differences. The storyboard version of the film is cool for people who like to see the production side of films, but everything else is rather promotional. It’s fit for all ages with little to intimidate, scare, or stir controversy, yet it avoids being bland.
I do not believe them to be literal Japanese translations as, apart from the names (Sho, rather than Shawn, for example) they seem to line up almost identically to what is being said in English, but, truthfully, I only checked the English subtitles against brief snippets of the English Audio track, so I don’t want to say for sure. Just so you know, Whisper of the Heart, which I reviewed here, has the literal Japanese translation subtitles, but, as you already commented above, Castle in the Sky, I also confirmed, does not. The Borrowers books by Mary Norton have seen a number of television and film adaptations over the past twenty years, though admittedly these were live action ones.
Arrietty was directed by first-time director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who became the youngest director to helm a Ghibli theatrical release.


Despite her father’s warnings, and with no small amount of her own uncertainty, Arrietty slowly encourages the friendship, gradually working over the next few days towards speaking face-to-face with Sho.
With my expectations properly set, I watched the movie again as it was intended— and I don’t just mean that I watched the Japanese version on Blu-ray, though I did that too. Even my daughter, who loves Ghibli films, couldn’t be bothered to watch it with me a second time. Funny that there’s no cross-promotion for other Ghibli titles, considering two more were just re-released on Blu-ray. As usual, I skimmed through the storyboards, but can’t see spending a whole hour and a half watching the entire film that way. Then, Disney teen Bridgit Mendler performs Summertime (3:01), which is actually a nice little song that reflects the film’s themes well.
Selecting either option will give you the credits in that language, and there is at least one instance where the appropriate language is seen on on-screen text. Boring on first viewing, I had a better appreciation for it the second time, allowing myself to accept the slower pace and simple story.
There isn’t much activity in the surrounds much of the time, apart from a couple of moments where a rainstorm fills up the room, and lows are mild until the musical soundtrack kicks in and then it pumps up a bit for extended, but tight, weightiness.
There is a trailer for the forthcoming Diamond Edition of Cinderella on the disc as well as the Pixar film Brave, for those interested. Of course, these may not have been heavily seen in the Japanese market, as they were primarily British efforts or American-British co-productions.
In accordance to Miyazaki’s intentions (he was also the film’s production planner), he delivered a quiet, largely peaceful and leisurely paced film that may serve as a gateway for kids into the Studio Ghibli world, just as My Neighbor Totoro did a generation ago. Pod is stoic, patient, and kind; but Homily, while also a good person, is also shrill and overly emotional when it comes to worrying or reacting to danger. She knows that Sho is no danger to her family, but what she fails to realize is that not all humans are like Sho. No, this time I knew what to expect: a film made to be experienced in a quiet state of mind, willing to let the narrative unfold without any tricks of editing to make you excited, sad, or worried.
And, if you hasven’t had enough of Miss Bridgit yet, you can watch The Making Of Summertime (2:03).
The slipcover has two stickers on it, promoting the Combo Pack nature of the release, and the Rotten Tomatoes “Fresh” rating.
Every effort is made to transport the viewer into the big world of the little people, with amplified effects for rustling grass, plunging raindrops, and skittering bugs. The pleasure lies in the details, with beautiful animation and well-thought out physics of living in a miniature world. Please make the message constructive, you are fully responsible for the legality of anything you contribute.
The two parents’ personalities come into full focus when Arrietty is about to go with her father on her first borrowing expedition. In fact, the housekeeper Haru (Hara in the US) is very suspicious of what is happening, and she knows of the family legends about a race of little people living on the grounds. Nearly 14 minutes of Trailer And TV Spots are on the Blu-ray, too, though many of the TV spots are practically the same.
Feel free to roll your eyes are Bridgit talks about her song being in a “Disney film,” but she does redeem herself later when she talks about Studio Ghibli. This is one of the more colourful Studio Ghibli films I’ve seen (some look washed out, at least on DVD), and the brighter colors make a good show on Blu-ray.
It’s a quite active sound mix, helping to keep the viewer’s interest even when the scene is moving slowly. And, though the story is quite straight-forward, it is effective in developing the friendship between two young people who have a profound effect on one another.
I get the feeling I'll like more the second time around, now that I know what to expect of it.
The book series, begun in 1952, concerns itself with the lives of a family of tiny people and their acquaintances. Unbeknownst to either parent, however, Arrietty has already been seen by a boy who has just moved into the house where the Borrower family stays. Now, I was certainly tired for some reason, but the slow pace did not help my energy level any.


I’m tempted to call it an “art house” film, but Arrietty is more mainstream than that term implies. It’s a wonder that Arrietty hasn’t run away from home to get away from her mother’s histrionics. They are called Borrowers, since they “borrow” items from humans that they don’t think would be missed (most people would still call this stealing, since they don’t return the “borrowed” items, but I digress). Young Sho (or Shawn in the US version) is the nephew of the lady of the house, and is staying with her while his own mother is away. Her actions eventually lead to a kidnapping and a rescue, followed by a flight for survival. The Blu-ray certainly has perfect picture and sound, even if the supplements package is a bit disappointing, especially for the price.
And in the midst of it all, there is the deepening trust between Arrietty and Sho, who each learn important life truths from one another. The story was too simple, there was no real “B” plot to go with the main narrative, and the characters simply did not interest me. The ending is bittersweet, but what is important is that Arrietty and Sho have changed each other forever. However, I was very impressed with the storytelling and the animation, which made the miniature world of Arrietta’s family so convincing, particularly the depiction of how water behaves at that scale. On the one hand, her near-hatred of the Borrowers seems practically psychotic, and yet… she’s right. The next morning Sho leaves the sugar cube at the entrance to the Borrower’s lair entrance with a note. Contrary to Pod’s assertions, the things they’ve stolen have been missed, so it’s hard to feel sympathetic to the little people. There are also excuses to include cute critters inherit in the material, which is a consistent Miyazaki trademark at this point. Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi has been a mainstay around Studio Ghibli for years in various capacities (including assistant director on Goro Miyazaki’s lack-luster Tales of Earth Sea), but Arrietty marks his first shot at the top position of director. Yonebayashi certainly has the Ghibli house style down, calmly welcoming his all ages audience into this magical world, where they can explore every inch of the frame without overwhelming them with editing techniques. The general lack of comedy hurts a bit too, though once we’re over the hump of the semi-stale second act the melancholic tones feel more genuinely earned. The action Yonebayashi does supply is uniquely Ghibli-esque, however, and cleverly contrasts the sheer danger action poses to the Borrowers with the relatively mundane, almost funny way the same action effects the humans. As far as the technical aspects are concerned, this traditionally Ghibli look is a bit strange following Miyazaki’s more blobby and experimental approach with Ponyo, but the animation itself is never anything short of gorgeous, and the painted backgrounds are mind-boggling in their intricacy, leading to moments where I was briefly drawn out of the film and forced to realize that with practically every cut artist were required to create glorious paintings, any of which would be considered an artistic achievement alone. The intricately painted backgrounds are awesome, creating vast complexities in every frame the included DVD copy cannot touch, and this being an animated film, there’s rarely decrease in frequency due to shallow focus. Colours are vibrant, clean, and cut well against each other regardless of complexity and diversity. I was going to complain about what I thought was minor compression noise in some of the warm and solid cells, but I realized this was usually just the paint texture of the cells themselves. Despite the rather massive difference between the detail levels of the backgrounds and foreground cells, the two elements blend quite effectively, and there are only rare instances where the disc’s high level of clarity breaks the illusion. The black pen outlines of the cell elements occasionally feature fine, white haloes, but outside of these digital artefacts aren’t really an issue. The Japanese track is a bit louder and features a more consistent volume level overall, while the English track features a slightly better blend of directional elements, likely due to Rydstrom’s influence. The stereo and surround channels are best utilized when aurally describing the scale of the human environments around the Borrowers.
Early in the film Arrietty and her father make a nighttime run for supplies, and as they step into the kitchen she is overwhelmed by the creaks and moans of the room. The channels buzz with directional effects, and the LFE lightly throbs to signify general danger.
When things are presented from a Borrower's point of view humans speak in a booming, occasionally multi-channel manner, and when things are presented from a human point of view Borrows speak in a definitively quieter tone.



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