Movie Review: The Secret World of Arrietty

Ashley Bu, Science and Technology Editor

Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and screenwriters Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa from the beloved Studio Ghibli released the movie The Secret World of Arrietty in theaters 11 years ago on February 17 2012. It is one of the only Studio Ghibli movies released during the winter season, aiming to help viewers feel excited for springtime. 

The Secret World of Arrietty first opens with a vivid depiction of the suburban landscape. In the background, a vibrant melody plays as each detail in the scenery is being shown. A boy and his family chatter away in a car as it drives through the town.

The American English version of the film featured Bridgit Mendler voice acting for the protagonist, Arrietty Clock. Arrietty comes from a special species known as the “borrowers” who are little people that are as small as bugs. In order to survive, they must retrieve comparably small items that a human would not notice are missing. Arrietty, her mother Homily, and her father Pod all live in the crevices of the house of a twelve year old boy named Shawn. 

David Henrie played the main supporting role of Shawn. Shawn expresses curiosity to the borrowers after catching a glimpse of Arrietty in the grass. However, the family housekeeper Hara was very adverse to the idea of living with the borrower species. Much to her dismay, Shawn began to see if he could communicate with Arrietty and her family.  

Although Arrietty seems reluctant to interact with Shawn due to his human species, throughout the movie, Shawn and Arrietty begin to talk to each other more, forming a close friendship. With the help of other characters, they work together in order to combat Hara’s attempts of displacing Arrietty’s family.

The plot is balanced by including a mix of both calm moments and intense conflicts. Long stretches of idyllic scenes make time for viewers to either analyze any problems that have previously occurred or to simply take in the film without any worry. The film also had a decent amount of well developed and static characters. Arrietty’s development was very significant to the plot, as it was critical for protecting her family. Some characters like Hara continuously stayed the same throughout in order to act as an obstacle to Arrietty and Shawn’s plans.

Beneath the storyline, The Secret World of Arrietty’s main message pertains to being compassionate for others regardless of their identities. Even though Shawn could have easily obeyed Hara’s wishes to rid their house of the borrowers, he decided to help them after learning about their similarities with his own life as a human. Such messages are important in modern day society where people may need to cooperate with each other regardless of their background or beliefs.

The movie experimented with various animation techniques, such as making detailed changes in perspective. This increased depth was something that was not incorporated in some of the earlier Studio Ghibli movies. WIth the addition of this, it gave more perspective to the life of the tiny Arrietty.

Despite some minor changes in character and setting animation, the movie’s art style still resembled those of other Studio Ghibli films. The simple but elegant design of the characters meshed well with the semi-realistic portrayal of the scenery. 

Studio Ghibli’s incorporation of music enhanced the movie significantly. The music was very dynamic throughout the film: in times of conflict, the calm background noise would tense up to mimic the situation that Arrietty was facing. Even when no conflict was occurring, the songs were quite relaxing to listen to.

At times, certain lines did not flow well, which could be a result of minor translation errors between the Japanese and English language. However, each of the voice actors were able to use tones that properly conveyed each character’s emotions during each situation. 

Regardless of some very minor caveats, The Secret World of Arrietty is a great film. From its important theme to the phenomenal scenery to the emotional voice acting, this film has cemented itself as a Studio Ghibli classic. For a more immersive experience, it can be best enjoyed with friends and family.