The Secret World of Arrietty

Alt title: Karigurashi no Arrietty



frankstleBilly's avatar By on Feb 16, 2015

I may not have seen many Ghibli films, but I like what I've seen. I'm a huge fan of My Neighbour Totoro and I loved Spirited Away, and the only reason I watched this film was because I saw it at Cex (electronic trading store) for a low enough price and seeing that it was a Ghibli film, I bought it. Can't hurt to add to the collection, right?

Arrietty (known as The Secret World of Arrietty in the Americas) is loosely based on The Borrowers, a novel by Mary Norton. I never read the book and probably never will, but whether or not I'm familiar with the source material is irrelevant. The real question is, how does the film itself fare?

The film takes place in one house. Yes, that's right; one house. A pint-sized girl named Arrietty (no shit) lives with her mother and father beneath the house in order to avoid human detection. The family constantly aquires food and goods from the humans living in the house: they are known as Borrowers. During a scavenging trip with her father, Arrietty is noticed by a sickly boy named Sho (or Shawn in the US dub, the Japanese name is still the same in the UK dub) and, despite escaping, is placed into a state of fear when the housemaid begins to actively hunt for the Borrowers while Sho attempts to help the girl as much as possible.

One of the things I liked about this film was the scale: even though it's set in a single house, viewing the building from the perspective of a tiny person made everything seem huge. Nails became platforms, an insignificant drop of water became a huge blob of liquid, a grassy plain became a forest. The fact that the protagonist was as big as a pinky finger really helped to maximise the size of everything, it makes something as mundane as a pile of rocks seem like an adventure.

Also, the film contains some very threatening scenes on occasion, especially any scene involving the housemaid and Arrietty's mother. The dramatic expressions of the maid combined with the frightened expressions of the mother make their moments on screen very tense and almost scary. You know what? I really like that! I mean, Totoro is still terrific, but even I'll admit that it seems a bit too upbeat and unintimidating. This may not be a horrifying film, but it manages to legitimately freak me out at points unlike any of the other Ghibli films that I've seen to date.

The production values are Ghibli all around, it manages to keep the distinctive studios art style as fresh as ever and it all looks beautiful. Smooth motions, gorgeous backgrounds, fantastic effects (like I said, every rock is an adventure in this film) and delightful imagery flood every goddamned frame of this film, just like Ghibli should do. By far though, the music is the best thing about the picture. It manages to keep each scene atmospheric, heartwarming, heartbreaking and creepy when it needs to. The voice acting could be a little more lively at points but it still earns good marks for the most part. And the sound effects are basic but work well enough. This is certainly one of the best looking and sounding anime movies I've seen to date.

The friendship between Arrietty and Sho is done perfectly. At the start, it's more or less Sho looking at Arrietty with mezmerised awe while she looks at him with frightened awe. As the film progresses (and this is done especially well in the final third) they form a genuine bond that rivals that of Chihiro and Haku from Spirited Away. The best thing about their friendship is that it isn't a romantic relationship because it doesn't need to be. I know a romance between a boy and a girl who is about as tall as his foot would be very difficult to work around, and seeing that the two protagonists ARE a girl and a boy it would have been very easy to place them as a couple. But they manage to restrain themselves and keep them as close friends, right down to the final teardrop in their last moments together.

This is one of the Ghibli films that doesn't get an awful lot of attention for whatever reason, and I honestly couldn't tell you why. It's a magnificent film with outstanding production values and a fully believable friendship that will remain a Ghibli classic for years to come. It doesn't treat its viewers like children, it treats them as mature kids with a thirst for adventure as opposed to slapstick comedy. And if it can do that while maintaining high scores on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, then it has to be doing an awful lot right.

8/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
8/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
PhdInCartoons's avatar By on Apr 17, 2013


This serves as a meer snapshot into the lives of the Borrowers and Sho at this pparticular instance. Some people will not enjoy the openness of the ending and there are some parts which drag a little but I think it serves a a very believable insight into how these people, both big and small, go about their lives.


As is to be expected this is amazing. There is fantastic amount of detail in the Borrowers world. So much care has been put in to showing how peole this size would cope and interact with the world making it a pleasure to watch. 


There is a little depart from what is normal here, with more of a European feel to the soundtrack. This matches the feel of the setting and is perhaps a nod at the English author. The voicing was good and well matched into the characters.


The characters are good, but not quite up to the same standard. There is a strong heroine, as usual, but for a change we do have some characters playing gender-stereotyped roles. Also I felt that both Sho and Homily could have benefited form more development.


Having watched quite a few of the Borrowers adaptations I can say that this one is my personal favorite. A little more depth to the characters and some closure and this would have definitely had a higher score

8/10 story
9/10 animation
9/10 sound
8/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
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Jsrf38's avatar By on Sep 23, 2012

I finally got around to watching Studio Ghibli's Secret World of Arrietty. What a master piece.. The art and animation were superb, like any film by the world's finest: Hayao Miyazaki. The soundtrack is incredible. Never does Studio Ghibli fail to impress me with their music and sound. The story-line they thought up was brilliant; a heart touching adventure into the world of the borrowers. Survival of the fittest is all that is relevant to the poor creatures, and some people ruin it for others. There are always the people that disapprove when they are being supported, and the other way around as well. The characters were alright. The only thing that did not impress me on par with the other elements was just that. Yes, I enjoyed the characters and their personalities, however, it didn't fit it to 'a tea' as I would expect it to. Overall with the characters, I didn't have any problems with them, but they weren't quite what I would have expected. Still yet, I really loved and empathized with the characters. They were cute, bold, and deep all in their own ways. In general, the movie was fantastic! It deserves a high 9/10, and is relatively higher than most of the other films.

10/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
7/10 characters
9/10 overall
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roriconfan's avatar By on Jul 15, 2012

The Borrower Arrietty is yet another mediocre Ghibli film, which was adored by thousands of people only because they were completely disappointed with their previous works, Tales From Earthsea and Ponyo in the Cliff. It is indeed not a complete travesty like those two, only because the supposed-retired super awesome director Hayao Miyazaki ran back to supervise most of whatever they were doing. Thank goodness he realized that making quality family movies is not something everybody can do. It takes talent and attention; something of which his successors (his own son included) have no idea of.

I happened to have seen the cartoon series from the 80’s when I was a kid, as well as the live action movie they made some years back, both of which were based on the same book. Well sorry to say this but those earlier versions were better because the older, the better… Err, I meant those had more plot. And seriously, of all the myriads of things they could have shown from the civilization of the little people, they only focused on a single family living in the middle of nowhere, while it has two big people (our kind that is) coming for a visit in the house they are living in for years. And that is pretty much all you get from the plot, as most of it is about the human boy Shou becoming a friend with Borrower girl Arrietty. By the time their background is established, the movie is almost over.

It’s not like there is nothing going on in the story but it sure as hell is not exciting. There is a battle scene of sorts with a crow, and some annoying cat running around, and some granny capturing some little people for awhile. All that mean nothing in the longrun since the most core themes of the movie are left hanging to dry. What about Shou’s illness? What about the Borrowers moving away to safety? What about that granny capturing them for unknown reasons? What about an entire new civilization in the brink of extinction being suddenly revealed to the world? What about their hostile relationships? None of those cool things happen and the most exciting part was seeing a frail sick boy trying to unstuck a crow from a window for over ten minutes.

In case you are wondering why would I expect all that from a family movie, just head back in the older Ghibli films to find out why. Hayao used to make world-shaking events, full of action and suspense, people dying by the millions, civilizations crumbling, and vengeful spirits or beasts huge as skyscrapers turning everything to rubble. And now you get a frail boy trying to save a tiny person from a dollhouse, guarded by a senile granny. That’s it… Maybe if the house was demolished, that crow had eaten some Borrower, the rats had bitten Shuu, Arrietty was falling in love with him, that other savage Borrower was feeling threatened and planned some sort of backstabbing, maybe if we would see the other Borrowers living away being invaded by ants or something, then the movie would be great. Those are lots of maybies and eventually all you get is less than a typical kid film. What I am trying to say here is that they could have done a thousand things with the premise and offered practically nothing.

If you are in for the production values, you are going to like it of course; Ghibli don’t hold back in making everything look splendid. The Borrower microcosmos looks awesome and you are made to think that crossing a simple rabbit hole is an adventure on its own. Voice acting is good, BGM is good, stuff move around nicely instead of watching frozen caricatures with a flapping mouth. They still look rather generic in a Ghibli sense but whatever, they are fine. Superficially you get a wonderful looking setting and well established characters. The problem is they are not doing much with all that and remain on a completely simple level; simplistic character interactions and scratching of the threat humans are to Borrowers. Shou is the perfect good-hearted boy and Arrietty is the perfect risky girl that is ready to go against the rules in order to get what she wants. It was way too easy for them to get friends and cooperate against the dreaded dangers of… fetching sugar… or getting out of a doll house… or getting on a tiny boat and strolling down a calm river… GAH this is so boring! Where is the conflict, the development, the insecurity, the violent struggle with the status quo? They are so basic, they might as well don’t exist at all.

Down to it the movie is not that good. It will appeal to all ghiblitards just for the sake of being Ghibli and it will only be remembered as the film which doesn’t suck like the earlier ones. For those who want something far more cool and similar, I recommend the amazing Le Planet Sauvage.

Scores in a hurry

Analysis: General Artwork 2/2, Character Figures 1/2, Backgrounds 2/2, Animation 2/2, Visual Effects 2/2

Analysis: Voice Acting 3/3, Music Themes 4/4, Sound Effects 3/3

Analysis: Premise 2/2, Pacing 1/2, Complexity 1/2, Plausibility 1/2, Conclusion 1/2

Analysis: Presence 1/2, Personality 1/2, Backdrop 1/2, Development 0/2, Catharsis 1/2

Analysis: Historical Value 1/3, Rewatchability 1/3, Memorability 2/4



6/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
4/10 characters
6/10 overall
CaseyJewels's avatar By on May 12, 2012

The trailer almost made this movie seem as if it was a journey to find Arrietty's mother when it's really not, so I had some false expectations going into it, but once I got over that, I fell in love with this movie.

The story is rather simple, but that's not always a bad thing, and it allowed for more focus to be placed on the characters and the world around them. I fell in love with the two main characters right away, and enjoyed being able to see the world through their eyes.

And the world... Wow! They did such an amazing job at making everday normal objects look so beautiful and interesting, really showing us how the Borrowers see the world around us. The attention to sounds was excellent as well, with more emphaiss on in it when the Borrowers were around.

Overall, simple story, but the characters will stick with me, and it's one that I want to watch over and over again.

7/10 story
9/10 animation
9/10 sound
10/10 characters
9/10 overall
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