AICN Anime is pleased to be able to shared reader Dustin Kramer's review of Studio Ghibli's Arrietty: The Borrower. Though Ghibli's internationally renowned cofounder Hayao Miyazaki is seldom quoted talking up the studio's films, he has been for Arrietty; telling his staff it moved him to tears and calling movie helmer Hiromasa Yonebayashi "the first director born and raised at Studio Ghibli." Producer/Ghibli CEO Toshio Suzuki has said "Arrietty is the character whom the present age needs like Nausicaa [the almost messianic heroine of Miyazaki's Nausicaa: of the Valley of the Wind] who saved the earth which was damaged by natural destruction."
This is my first submission to AICN. If you'd like to use it, you are welcome to use my real name, Dustin Kramer. Here is my review for KARIGURASHI NO ARIETTY: I'm a huge fan of Japanese cinema. In the stressful task of relocating to Japan a little over a month ago, one of the things I was looking forward to the most was getting to see the newest Japanese movies in theaters, completely bypassing that pesky localization process for western releases. Although the past month has been hectic with settling down and whatnot, I made it out to my local theater and caught an afternoon screening of KARIGURASHI NO ARIETTY, the most recent outing from Studio Ghibli. To those unfamiliar with the source material, ARIETTY is based on the Mary Norton novel "The Borrowers," a story about the Clock family, three tiny people who live under the floor of a house. Every so often, they brave an excursion into the human world to "borrow" things for their survival. The house is inhabited by three humans, a boy named Sho, his grandmother, and their housekeeper. The film is relatively faithful to the book, with a change of location to the Japanese countryside. The character development in ARIETTY is outstanding, at least on the side of the Borrowers. If I have one complaint about the film, it's that we never really relate to the human boy, Sho, or his grandmother. Both of these characters show nary an emotion or reaction and almost act as though they have an otherworldly wisdom about, well, nothing in particular. The old housekeeper is quite a bit of fun but nowhere near as compelling as the Clock family. What stands out specifically is the particularly slow development of a relationship between Arietty and Sho. Although Sho catches two brief glimpses of the small girl, she doesn't willingly allow herself to be seen by the boy until over half-way through the runtime. Once we understand that Sho is the first male that Arietty has ever seen (other than her father), another layer of complexity forms. The filmmakers know what this movie is about, and there's a reason it's not called ARIETTY AND SHO. This is little Ms. Clock's story, one hundred percent. As with most Ghibli films, a hint of environmentalism runs through ARIETTY, showcasing the artists' lush backgrounds and meticulously detailed cels. These images mesh nicely with the prevalent idea of harmonious coexistence of all living things, big and small, and complete the central theme quite beautifully. Although helmed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, a first time director, ARIETTY has Miyazaki all over it, likely due to his script. The Ghibli animators never fail to impress. ARIETTY exhibits some of the greatest animated physics that have ever come from the studio. Everything from how slow and heavy the humans appear (from the borrowers' perspectives) to how tea poured from a Borrower's kettle comes out as giant droplets shows how attentive the filmmakers are to the intricacies of this world. Just a moment here to praise the sound design of this picture. Not since THE DARK KNIGHT have I been this pleased with a film's sound. The foley is unbelievable, specifically in the way everyday sounds are adapted to the borrowers' experience. In a particularly innovative scene, Arietty accompanies her father for the first time on a borrowing mission. In the moment she steps into the kitchen and looks around the expansive space, she begins to piece together the various giant appliances with the mysterious noises she has grown accustom to throughout her life. The audio sells this whole movie and was worth the 1,800 yen admission fee alone. When you see the film, please take note during the scene where Arietty is speaking to Sho for the first time through the window. The scene takes an intense turn and presents the audience with a particularly visceral experience, ninety percent of which audio is responsible for. I feel like I could ramble on for days about this movie. It's the first time since the U.S. release of SPIRITED AWAY that I've seen a Ghibli film in theaters. If you've had the good fortune of seeing one on the big screen, you should understand the experience. Another home run from our friends at Studio Ghibli.Ain't It Cool News Animation RSS Feed