The Secret World of Arrietty is a Studio Ghibli take on the English novel The Borrowers, by Mary Norton. Set in modern Japan, Arrietty tells the story of a young miniature person or “borrower” named Arrietty and the struggles her family endures to survive by “borrowing” small items from regular people or “beings.” Arrietty and her family reside in a tiny house, hidden within a large house inhabited by humans. Meanwhile, a sick young being named Shawn moves to the house in order to get some rest. Arrietty and Shawn’s encounters leads to drastic changes in their lives.
Studio Ghibli really does an amazing job of presenting the setting from the perspectives of the borrowers and beings. The depictions of insects, water, pins and various other mundane items from the perspective of a borrower are really amazing. The exploration of the house by the borrowers could easily be a satisfying video game. Arrietty’s pin is more akin to a sword in her hands. The music is decent, but some of the vocals are really lacking. The voice acting is on point for almost all of the characters, except for Shawn, who sounds like he is simply bored rather than ill.
I don’t want to get into too many details over the story, but the plot overall is enjoyable and easy to follow. The major conflict in the movie feels a little rushed, but at least Arrietty’s mother always has some clever and sometimes morbid things to say to keep things interesting.
A major criticism I have is with the adapting of character names. I feel that Studio Ghibli films allow for Westerners to have the opportunity to be exposed to Japanese culture, especially with their wide appeal. Although this story is a retelling of a English tale, The Secret World of Arrietty is set in Japan. Yet, the English translation changed the names of some of the characters such as Sho to Shawn, which was pretty unnecessary. Shame on you Disney, give kids in America a chance to learn of the existence of names from other countries.
Overall I really enjoyed this film. It’s not in my top 3 of Studio Ghibli films, but is definitely worth watching. Random trivia: the word ari (蟻) is Japanese for ant, a nice unintentional pun.
The Secret World of Arrietty – Official Trailer