Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
The Secret World of Arrietty (which is known as The Borrower Arrietty in Japan) is an anime film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, and it is based on The Borrowers by Mary Norton. The film was released to Japanese theaters on July 17, 2010, and it became the highest grossing Japanese film at the Japanese box office for the year 2010. The Secret World of Arrietty also won the Animation of the Year Award at the 34th Japan Academy Prize award ceremony. Walt Disney Pictures produced a dub, which was released to North American theaters on February 17, 2012. The company released the film on Blu-ray and DVD on May 22, 2012, and this review will be focusing on the DVD release of the film.
At the beginning of the film, a boy named Sho sets the scene by narrating that he remembers a week one summer where he spent time at his mother's childhood home with his great aunt and her maid. Sho is spending time resting there before undergoing surgery for a heart condition. When he arrives, he notices a teenage girl (Arrietty, the title character of the film) who is one of the "little people" living underneath his great aunt's house; however, the girl doesn't realize that she has been seen.
That night, Arrietty's father takes her on her first "borrowing" mission in order to "borrow" some sugar and tissue. The tissue is in the room that Sho is staying in, and Arrietty sees that Sho is awake and sees her. Sho asks her to stay, but Arrietty and her father make a hasty retreat out of the room. It is made clear to Arrietty that if the humans detect their presence, that Arrietty and her family will have to move.
Arrietty sneaks out to try to talk to Sho without being seen, and asks Sho to leave her and her family alone. Unfortunately, a crow sees her by the window and tries to get her. Sho saves Arrietty, and he must now try to hide her existence from his great aunt and Haru (the maid). Haru believes that the little people do indeed live under the house, and she is determined to find them. Arrietty's parents realize that they have indeed been spotted, and they decide that they must move. The rest of the film follows what happens when Arrietty's family tries to move out before being detected by any other humans.
When I watched this film, it was with the Japanese audio with English subtitles, so I can only truly comment on the Japanese version of the film. Personally, I liked it. The animation was gorgeous; some of the backgrounds, such as the dollhouse, were very intricate and detailed. Also, I thought the storytelling was well-paced for a 95-minute film. With the type of story being told, there was the potential for it feel as if it was dragging, but it never did. Not only does the story appeal to children, but it has an appeal for adults. Very young children and preschoolers may not have the attention span for The Secret World of Arrietty, but I think school-age children should be able to enjoy the film without getting too squirmy or fidgety.
When it comes to the DVD release, there are three language options: English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, and Japanese 5.1 Dolby Digital Original Production Audio. For subtitles, there are English ESL, English SDH, and French.
The bonus features on the DVD for The Secret World of Arrietty were rather lacking. There are only two bonus features, and they both focus exclusively on Bridgit Mendler (Teddy Duncan on Good Luck Charlie), the English dub voice for the character of Arrietty. Personally, I can only truly recommend these bonus features to viewers who are fans of Bridgit Mendler. I was rather disappointed by this, because Disney's releases for the other Studio Ghibli films had featurettes that focused on more than one of the dub actors, as well as the original Japanese storyboards; some of the releases also included "The World of Ghibli." Unfortunately for The Secret World of Arrietty, it felt more like Disney was treating the film as a vehicle to promote Bridgit Mendler instead of actually believing in the film and promoting it as its own entity.
The first is the video for the song "Summertime," which is a song that Mendler wrote before being cast as Arrietty. The video tries to make it look like Bridgit Mendler is as small as one of the Borrowers, but unfortunately, the green screen effects were not very well done; the green screen effects are just too obvious and Mendler does not really seem to blend in with the background very convincingly. As for the song itself, it really has nothing to do with the film at all, and I'm sorry to say that it's not a well-written song. I didn't care for Mendler's voice when I heard her sing the theme song for Good Luck Charlie, and the song "Summertime" does nothing to improve my opinion of Mendler's singing abilities. Because the song is focusing on a summer relationship, the footage that's used from Arrietty in the video almost gives the impression that a romantic interest exists between Arrietty and Sho, when none actually exists in the film.
The second feature is a two-minute documentary about the making of the "Summertime" video, which also includes some clips from the English dub of the film. The clips focus on Sho, so I could hear some of David Henrie's performance. From what I heard, his delivery sounded flat, and he also sounds too old for the role.
However, if you acquire the Blu-ray/DVD combo release for The Secret World of Arrietty, there are additional bonus features that are not included on this DVD-only release.
I would highly recommend The Sercet World of Arrietty, but I'm disappointed in Disney's DVD release. If you want to add this film to your home video library, I would recommend going with the Blu-ray/DVD combo release.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that I checked out through the King County Library System.