Review: The Secret World of Arrietty (2012)

Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Starring: Bridgit Mendler, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett

In light of my not being a conoisseur of Studio Ghibli’s nearly flawless canon of beloved animated features, it’s apparent that their and especially Miyazaki’s track record is nothing short of flawless. With a penchant for lighthearted storytelling infused with an appreciable amount of human emotion, Studio Ghibli’s feature-length films are as well-rounded and accessible as they are unabashed visual feasts. With The Secret World of Arrietty, the studio in question has done it again in taking Mary Norton’s beloved novel “The Borrowers” and putting their own fantastic creative spin on a st0ry that’s been tackled countless times before.

For those of you not familiar with the source material, “The Borrowers” themselves are essentially little people living amongst us humans, borrowing what they need in order to maintain a healthy, moreover secretive lifestyle. When young Arrietty is discovered by a boy familiar with the lore surrounding her family’s existence, their lives are essentially turned upside down as Arrietty and her parents struggle to coexist with the increasingly suspicious grandmother and housekeeper residing with the boy inside their countryside estate. As light and straightforward the narrative is in terms of substance, therein lies an inherent sense of whimsy that coincides wonderfully with Studio Ghibli’s characteristically lush color palettes and wholly unique animation style, of which are easily the film’s strongest suits.

Animation aside, Arrietty also remains engaging by way of allowing us to simply observe the family go about their daily routine, turning something as simple as gathering a lump of sugar into a literal death-defying adventure. The friendship that blossoms between the sickly young Shawn and Arrietty herself is often touching despite the seriousness of the latter’s ongoing predicament dealing with her family’s well-being and eventual relocation, and the requisite amount of suspense brought about by these events is suitably appreciable and implemented well enough.

At the end of the day, The Secret World of Arrietty is what it is: a creative spin on its widely lauded source material that carries with it everything characteristic of the now legendary Japanese animation studio, from nearly flawless, eye-popping visuals to a purely unique vision that’s relatively unparalleled in the realm of animated cinema as a whole. The tale itself is engaging, the interaction between characters heartfelt to a noticeable degree and the conclusion itself immensely gratifying, providing you sport an interest in the aforementioned story as a whole and Studio Ghibli’s penchant for lightheartedness in relation to Mr. Miyazaki’s screenplay.

Rating: 7/10


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