r#83 – the secret world of arrietty

Time for another award winner movie to be reviewed! This time, we will be looking to the Studio Ghibli’s re-imagining film which directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, from the novel titled The Borrowers which written by Mary Norton and has been released in 1952. When it comes to the anime, the story then becomes famous with the title of Karigurashi no Arrietty aka The Secret World of Arrietty. Later on, the film won five Tokyo Anime Awards in 2011 for the Animation of the Year, Best Art Direction, Best Director, Best Music, and also won for the Notable Entry. It is good, the movie touches you, but you know what? The truth is, The Secret World of Arrietty never stayed on the top 10 yet of the most popular movies from Ghibli studio.

“Why?” you may ask. Well, read on! Maybe with that, you’ll know the reason why.


Alright, let’s start with the synopsis.

The movie tells about a 14 years old girl named Arrietty, who lives with her parents named Pod and Homily. They live in a small space under the house of an elderly woman named Sadako Maki. The movie is not just about the interaction of they with their landlord though, the twist is they actually live there in secret because of their differences. Arrietty’s family later known as the “little people,” which every one of them only has a height about four inches. Because of that, they shouldn’t be seen by ordinary people by the reason of their nature to survive. Let’s face it; too much human is cruel and will afraid of everything they don’t understand.

But even though the world could be a very scary place when you’re only as small as an insect, the only thing that Arrietty afraid of is missing out a big adventure. They call themselves as the Borrowers, which they take everyday necessities from Sadako’s kitchen to eke out a living amidst the shadows, with of course stay unknown by the owner of the house. But one day, their existence discovered by a nephew of Sadako named Shou who visits the house in order to find a calm atmosphere before his heart operation, and he sees Arrietty. Shou soon attracted Arrietty and their meet soon strikes up a friendship that neither of them could have ever seen coming. However, their friendship is fraught with danger due to the obvious risk of their both families knowing that they’re friends, especially Shou’s family; people that could send the little people right into the hands of those that would do them harm.

From the big picture, Sadako’s own family actually believe that there are little people who live in the garden under their house, and she never means any harm for them, Shou’s grandmother even made a dollhouse which intended as a gift for them. But in the other side, there also a housemaid old lady named Haru, who believe that little people are thieves, and seeing Shou talking to them makes her very excited to prove the existence of them.

story and its settings.

Hiromasa Yonebayashi played a huge role in the production of this movie, he was directing, the one who made the storyboard, holding the key animation, and more; which is a good thing, remembering that he also fill a role in the making of Spirited Away. But bigger than him, the legendary Hayao Miyazaki also played some role in the production of this, he was the one who controls the screenplay, scripted everything, and planned everything. And like a typical Japanese animated film made by Ghibli, The Secret World of Arrietty presents a delicate blend of colours and aided by a very detailed visual, to give your eyes a very pampered 94 minutes of screen time.

As I said before, the story itself is lifted from the novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton from 1952. But although it’s based on a novel, Hayao Miyazaki has managed to keep no stories left behind, creating a story that doesn’t forget the detail to the smallest though; stories that are interconnected with each other, from the pin that Arrietty discovered of her first borrowing adventure, to the liver disease that caused Shou not to run too fast, giving the movie a very powerful, non-confusing, and beautiful piece of art.

The movie has a unique idea, the visualization is very beautiful and detailed, some kids even will think that little people were really alive after watching this, there under their bedstead. For my experience, I happily have presented with sights and detailed colour of the grooved storyline, slowly but surely. The problem is that probably the story is too simple, their distress is too narrow, and their less complication has made the story not as strong as I have imagined. If only they add a little bit more intriguing moments, add a little bit more romance between them, or add some more snags besides just a curious housemaid old lady … only then I would be ended the movie by thinking “wow!” instead “well, that’s just okay for a movie from Studio Ghibli.” And just you know, that comedy is rarely seen in this movie as well.


Of course, the dominant are probably the two main characters; Arrietty and Shou, but in addition to both, one character who managed to made this movie remain cheerful is Arrietty’s mother Homily. She has been pointed out since the beginning, as the only one in the family who always uneasy if faced with trouble, seeing her way of injecting humour with hysterical style is very interesting to watch throughout the movie, at least for me. Her character design, especially her face portrays a skinny old witch, but somehow her role and facial expression have transformed it into something that’s so funny to watch.

The movie itself built based on the number of characters that are not nearly as much as in the other Ghibli movies, and I think I could value this movie as long as it succeeds in giving each character a life. But that’s not the case, the amount of character development is —again— not as strong as I have imagined, and I’m very disappointed because of that. For example, I never get the real explanation who Sadako is, or what kind of relationship she made with Shou, at least not until I ask in the Wikipedia and found out that Shou is actually Sadako’s nephew. And for Shou himself, I don’t know anything about him except that he’s ill, physically weak, and kind … nothing more.

I can accept the less development of Arrietty’s parents or even Spiller that only came near the end of the movie, it’s because they all only present as the support characters. But still, I fell that Shou is still needing more development than this. For Arrietty though, her character is stand out since the beginning. So much expression has been poured through her character, and I enjoyed watching every decision she makes, every challenge she faces. When she realize first time that Shou is watching her, I even felt the pressure and if I can, I would scream straight away at that very moment.

visual and arts.

I could say that the world where Arrietty lives in is a beautiful world with so much clean and detailed little objects. It’s a Ghibli movie anyway, and Hayao Miyazaki directed it directly, so there is no reason to doubt their decision in visual and animation. The backgrounds in particular, it’s just gorgeous! But what feels unique about the movie is how they succeeded in showing the difference between the small and tiny, the large and the big. Because as we know, in anime sometimes we can’t differentiate a small animal that is as small as tiny Pokémon, yet it looks like a tall building on the screen. In this case, we will be reminded continuously of how small our lead character is. I even see the different of movements between the normal and the small people; as when the movie shows us how the interaction between them from Arrietty’s perspective, everything become slower and we could hear detailed sound surround them … because that’s what happens if we’re small people.

The soundtrack … I was so disappointed because no one talks about this, not even IGN, because I think it was so damn good! Throughout the movie I feel like I’m watching an adventure, it’s like I’m watching someone playing an RPG game, and it all because the soundtrack that plays in the background. But what I praise here are those which instrumental, those soundtracks which playing subtly in the background every time Arrietty went outside of her little house, those are amazing. But two of the music theme titled The Neglected Garden and the Arrietty’s song, which are English songs that sang by Japanese; those two are still average to me and not really leave me amazed.

By the way, this is a little trivia; do you know who voiced Spiller? The voice actor actually Tatsuya Fujiwara, which is the one who played Light Yagami in the first live-action movies of Death Note. So that’s a pretty unique fact, at least for me. 😎

closing – nesha’s final verdict.

Overall, The Secret World of Arrietty is a very satisfying and beautifully rendered animated film, that for some people —including myself— may seems too simple to tell. But even though it’s not a very old anime movie, the story itself is very classic and old. People wouldn’t be confused because of it, but I think it will lead them to experience it as something different. Everything is so subtle, up to the point where the movie wouldn’t force you to feel anything. But at least the movie is beautiful, the story is beautiful, and at least one of the lead characters is good enough in delivering her feelings.

Some people said that watching this is a waste of time. But please, it’s a movie from Ghibli, so it would never be a waste of time. The story of The Secret World of Arrietty has its charm besides just its beautiful visuals and animation. My biggest wish is that we could watch all the characters which had more story to tell. The story isn’t strong, it’s simple but still interesting to watch, and the soundtrack is awesome to support all of that. It’s definitely still worth to watch.

additional pieces of information.

*material resources: http://karigurashi.jp/AllcinemaWiki (en), .lainAnison, and MAL

As usual, don’t forget to follow #moe404 to receive a notification every time I posted a new anime perspective, you can also visit the anime index to read all the previous anime perspectives we have cover. Anyway, thank you for reading this —I hope my review of this movie has been a wonderful post for you to read. Keep watching anime, and I’ll see you next time. Bai-bai~