I am a huge fan of good anime movies, especially anything that comes from Studio Ghibli. Those of you who don't know Studio Ghibli, they released My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle and The Cat Returns; all exceptionally imaginative and meaningful films catering for all ages.
Arrietty is more aimed towards the younger demographic (and their parents). It follows the story of Arrietty, a tiny person only 3 inches tall, and her parents who all live in a little cardboard abode under the floorboards of a human house. One of the occupants of the house is Sho, a sick young boy, who witnesses Arrietty and manages to befriend her, despite her parents' discouragement. As a little person or "borrower" as they refer to themselves as, life is a bit more challenging for wee Arrietty. What with killer crows diving from above or cats pouncing from behind flower pots or malevolent maids trying to catch them in jars; everyday life is wrought with danger.
Arrietty is based on the children's book, The Borrowers, written by British author Mary Norton. Upon reading a brief synopsis of the book, the film follows it sincerely. As some may know, there was a Hollywood movie adaptation released in 1997 that bares in my opinion little resemblance to the book. However, the book is the first part in a series so maybe the Hollywood movie is loosely based on the series. Anyway, I think the anime captured the universe of the borrowers marvellously. I loved how their house was decorated with postage stamps and flowers the size of their heads. The ingenuity in their world was fascinating; using pegs as hairclips, earrings as grappling hooks, a pin as a sword, double sided sticky tape to climb up a table leg, nails to create ladders. Everyday objects took on completely new meanings and uses.
Animation-wise, it was sumptuously executed. The detail in every environment was exquisite. I also liked how liquid looked different to them than a regular human. A drop of water is enough to fill a whole cup in their proportions, so when Arrietty's mother is pouring tea, it came out in one giant, juicy drop.
Another way the film created the point-of-view of the borrowers was the use of sound design; the fact that everything was much bigger was highlighted by sound. When the Arrietty first visits the kitchen, a deep ambience is heard to create the sense of enormity of the room. Also, when the cat is chasing her in the garden, the noise it makes whilst in the chase is terrifyingly loud and menacing. I watched the English dub (UK version) of the film, which was good, but I always feel like I'm missing certain jokes and expressions that would only be perceived in Japanese. I do find it difficult to watch anime, which is so visual, and constantly having to read subtitles, especially on first watch.
The only aspect of the film that let me down was the story and the ending. It wasn't a complex plot as it was probably very true to the children's book. The ending was very weak and lacked conclusion, again this may well be due to the book and of course its younger target audience.
In comparison to other Studio Ghibli films I have seen, Arrietty was not as fantastical and inventive, but still very cute and captivating. Although the story was fairly simple, the animation quality made up for it threefold. Arriety was a pleasurable, light watch and I definitely recommend it to younger viewers. I'd give it a 6 out of 10.