Copyright 2012Based on the award-winning book by Mary Norton, The Borrowers, this Disney adventure focuses on the friendship between a full-sized boy and a girl from a family of Borrowers, tiny people who live beneath the floorboards in the boy's home.
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The next morning Sho leaves the sugar cube at the entrance to the Borrower’s lair entrance with a note. 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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