In truth, the best kids movies are treated with as much seriousness and stylistic prowess as a live-action art flick for adults. Japan’s Studio Ghibli, well-known to critics, continues its legacy of sophisticated anime with The Secret World of Arrietty.Based on Mary Norton’s famous children’s novel, The Borrowers, the film focuses on a family of very tiny, very human-like people. Unfortunately for Arrietty, fraternizing with the housemate Shawn, a human of terrifyingly regular height, renders her living situation short-lived.Despite its roots in American literature, Arrietty eschews its western ties and disappears into the eastern tradition of Studio Ghibli’s gorgeous, pastoral-focused animation.
This is a film in awe of its environment.Better yet is the film’s maturity, its sincere and honest confrontation with dark themes, proof that a movie’s mass appeal does not rest with its targeted audience. Few figures in animation are as poignant and as victimized as Shawn, the sickly human boy who befriends the eponymous borrower.


Characterized by a rare fatalism, Shawn accepts the prospect of death if surgery fails to correct his heart condition. This separates Ghibli from other dumbed down, kid-friendly studios who avoid such pronounced pessimism.Despite plunging its audiences into a fantasy, Arrietty maintains enough humanism to reflect the nature of life, just as a proper fable should.
When they are discovered, they move away from the “bigger people” of the world in search of a better life.The film’s sound mixing reflects the movie’s technical skill and demands the audience’s attention. As the camera cuts between kitchen appliances, the audience hears her fear in the form of every noise that one associates with daytime kitchen use.
The sounds echo frighteningly throughout the night, but only in her head.For all its professionalism, The Secret World of Arrietty, like the borrowers themselves, is a scaled down version of Studio Ghibli epics such as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle.


It lacks the scope, the ambition, and the imagination of the studio’s bold earlier works, which defied logic and convention.
Arrietty is just all too familiar, barely above predictability.Nevertheless, Ghibli remains the Godzilla to our Pixar, making waves in our domestic animated film industry and doing it with class.



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