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The Secret World of Arrietty

Beautiful in its simplicity, gorgeously animated and co-created by the great animator Hayao Miyazaki. I avoided the American dub in theaters and waited anxiously for the North American DVD release, so I could watch in the original Japanese with English subtitles(note: I always avoid the English language dub of everything. You should too, and most DVD releases have multiple language and subtitle options). Known as either “Arrietty” or “The Borrower Arrietty” abroad, it has grossed about 145 million dollars since first opening in 2010. It was Japan’s highest grossing Japanese film of that year, and it garnered high critical praise and another 19 plus million when Walt Disney Pictures first brought it to U.S. screens this past February. I will not forget this one at year’s end when compiling my Best of 2012 list…at the very least it will be among my honorable mention.               Arrietty is a tiny person who lives with her parents under the floorboards of a typical human home. As our tale opens, she heads out with her father(Pod)for her very first “borrowing” adventure—to take, among other things, a simple cube of sugar. Walking across nail heads, avoiding insects, cats and birds and rappelling down the sides of tables and scaling cabinets are among the obvious dangers that press Arrietty’s mother(Homily)to wonder aloud if her daughter is ready for such an undertaking. The danger is exacerbated by the probability that Arrietty has already been spotted by a young boy named Sho, who is staying at his aunt’s home for a summer week while his parents are busy working. Sho arrives at the home with remembrances of tales from his mother of her seeing “little people” at the house when she was a child. Sho views Arrietty emerging from some shrubbery on his first day at the property, and then surprises her later that night when she is “borrowing” the sugar. Startled into dropping the cube, Arrietty and Pod retreat empty-handed back under the floorboards. Pod explains the perils in discovery by the humans, and that they will most likely now have to move to a new home. But Arrietty defies her father and makes contact with Sho to ask him to leave her family alone. She learns at that meeting not only that Sho is suffering from a heart ailment and will soon have surgery, but also that he may just be completely trustworthy in his ability to keep his discovery secret. However, accidental detection by the other humans in the home may lead to an entirely different story.               Studio Ghibli scores a major winner with this latest anime release. While not as intricate in plot or design as previous smashes “Spirited Away”(still the only Best Animated Feature Oscar winner not originally filmed in English)and “Howl’s Moving Castle”, it casts the same magic spell as that pair of earlier releases. And though not officially directed by Miyazaki(he co-wrote the script as well as planned and oversaw the production while Hiromasa Yonebayashi was given first-time directing duties), it is similar enough in tone and style to serve as the next best thing. The tale is enchanting and the drawings are superb. It is also supplied with a beautiful and nostalgia-inducing score by French singer/harpist Cecile Corbel. A tightly edited 94 minutes, it’s based on the beloved children’s books “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton. You really can’t go wrong here as viewing for the entire family. “The Secret World of Arrietty” is, so far, the best film I’ve seen that was released in the U.S. in 2012.     Grade:  A

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2 comments on “The Secret World of Arrietty

  1. A great movie! One of my favourite Studio Ghlibli films!

  2. It doesn’t attain the level of “Spirited Away”, but I do think it is an improvement upon “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Ponyo”. I was utterly charmed by it…glad that you loved it as well! And thanks for commenting! ML

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