The Secret World of Arrietty Review


Otherwise known as Karigurashi no Arrietty to Japanese audiences, The Secret World of Arrietty opened to American theaters. Sadly I’m not from America and I didn’t have the chance to watch it in english dub. I bought the DVD though. The story is about Arrietty, a tiny but tenacious 14-year-old, lives with her parents in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper. Like all little people, Arrietty remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to “borrow” scrap supplies like sugar cubes from her human hosts. But when 12-year-old Shou, a human boy who comes to stay in the home, discovers his mysterious housemate one evening, a secret friendship blossoms. If discovered, their relationship could drive Arrietty’s family from the home and straight into danger.

The story is adapted from the English novel “The Borrowers” by Mary Norton and is put in the hands of legendary Studio Ghibli.  For anyone who does not know, Studio Ghibli is often referred to as “the Japanese Disney,” with co-founder and director Hayao Miyazaki paralleled to American Walt Disney. This company is also responsible for beautiful fantasy films such as Spirited Away (which can also be easily found in english). Studio Ghibli is highly revered world-wide for not only whimsical story-telling, but also stunningly rich attention to artistic detail and overall aesthetic beauty. The Secret World of Arrietty easily lives up to every expectation.



The animation, as expected, is gorgeous. Yonebayashi provides many quietly inventive set-ups, most notably a beautiful shot of Arrietty being lifted to the top of an end table. He succeeds in creating a huge world in a film which never leaves the house or its immediate surroundings. One of the prettiest movies I’ve ever seen. Since Arrietty is only four inches tall, and we see the movie through her eyes, every detail is magnified. Every dewdrop, every footstep, sounds and details. And their passageways in the walls, and their little house under the floor. The scenes of nature are particularly lush with vibrant shades of green, yellow and blue. The basic character designs are just that, basic, but it’s a welcome brake from 3D digital animation that shuns the beauty that 2D animation can convey.



Lovable! I love how Arrietty completely captured a 14 year old girl. And her parents were both great in different ways. Shou/Shawn was so nice, too. And I love how he and Arrietty were total opposites and they kind of learned from each other. The character that I like the most would be Spiller. Spiller was a fantastic source of that coming-of-age story comedy, and because he wasn’t very conversant the animation really showed his character and communication well through expression and such.



Along with terrific animation comes a fantastic score (which I intend to buy), but this time it was not composed by the Studio’s favorite and well accomplished Joe Hiashi. In fact, it came from a fan, a French one no less named Cécile Corbel. Her music is beautiful. At times hints of celtic influence slip in, quite naturally I might add. The scores convey and strengthen the emotional state the film is trying to produce. Glad I saw it in the glorious original Japanese dub or not I’ll have to hear the crappy end song that everyone is hearing thanks to Disney. Disney needs to butt out of Studio Ghibli.



The plot and characters are classic. To some, this means its a cheesy, forgettable film. I couldn’t disagree more. Just because the film is somewhat innocent, and not wholly original does not mean it isn’t a great one. In fact, it is a relief from a wholly cynical world that has, at many times given up on classic, hopeful plots about courage, friendship and discovery. Those very elements are what makes Arrietty so enjoyable  and touching. The ending may not be what you expect, but it is a fitting one. My heart couldn’t help but swell up with emotion.


Overall the movie was great. The strong visual that they had to offer is really something. The story was good, the characters is great and of course the best part of the movie is the environment. I thought is was a really sweet, funny and sometimes sad in the movie and fun for both kids and parents. Although I think the kids will like it more. It’s going on my list of favorite Studio Ghibli movies. Howl’s Moving Castle is still my favorite of all, but this one is definitely in my top five. Your mission, should you choose to accept it.. The Secret World of Arrietty. At the theater. As soon as possible.



  1. I must watch this movie! I’d love to see it in theater, but like you said I’d rather watch it Japanese dubbed – the way it is meant to be seen. I will prob watch it twice in that case.

    Expect nothing less from a Ghibli movie 😀

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