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Arrietty Special Edition – Anime Film Review


Arrietty Special Edition - Anime Film Review 1Title: Arrietty
Published by: Madman Entertainment (Australia / New Zealand)
Directed By: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Produced By: Toshio Suzuki
Screenplay By: Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa
Studio: Studio Ghibli
Based on: Based on Mary Norton’s novel “The Borrowers”
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Audio: English (UK) Dub, English (US) Dub and Japanese Dub
Subtitles: English (For Japanese Dub version)
Runtime: 94 minutes
Classification: This title has been classified as G  for General Exhibition
Special Thanks: Madman Entertainment for providing me with a copy of this release to review!

In this whimsical adventure, tiny 14-year old Arrietty lives under the floorboards of a sprawling mansion set in a magical, overgrown garden with her father and mother. Arrietty and her family live by “borrowing”. Everything they have they borrow or make from things they have borrowed from the old lady who lives in the mansion.

Their peaceful life is dramatically changed when the ever-curious Arrietty accidently allows herself to be seen by Sho, a lonely 12 year old human boy. The two begin to confide in each other and, before long a friendship begins to blossom…

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Since its original relatively wide-spread theatrical release across Australia in January 2012, Arrietty has received a couple of physical media releases. Having reviewed the original theatrical release I chose not to review the May DVD/Blu-ray release as much of the content in my earlier review remained the same – but last month Madman Entertainment released the special edition of the film and given the inclusion of the US English dub I decided to give it another review. As with my two earlier “Hanabee Edition” reviews, as much of the content in my earlier review remains true the review will only be altered in aspects which have been introduced or omitted from this release.

Without further ado on to the review!

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This is a story about the little people known as Borrowers, who make their living hiding out in the areas of resided homes that you mightn’t always or ever look and having over the years built quite a nice living for themselves. They are known as Borrowers because while they shan’t be seen during the day, at night they make use of the quiet and dark house to borrow items one would never ever miss – a cube of sugar, a drawing pin to use a weapon or a tissue to use as cloth. While they live a peaceful life for many a decade without ever being caught, they have a rule that if they are ever seen and it poses a threat to their livelihood, they would have to pack up and leave which none of them want to do.

This all changes one day when  a young sickly boy named Sho goes to stay at the house which is owned by his great aunt in order to rest up before going for an operation… in this house lives three of these Borrowers with the youngest being Arrietty who on her first ever borrowing is spotted by Sho…. and so begins the tale of Arrietty.

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Without a doubt the biggest aspect to this plot is the relationship between Arrietty and Sho, both of who have their curiosities and problems. While Sho who heard of these people from his mother wants to learn more about them does so with a pure heart and inquisitive mind while Arrietty out of youthful curiosity wants to learn more about the humans as well, they are constantly drawn back at every turn by the forceful and stern word of Arrietty’s father who has over the years become even more distrusting of humans. There are several incidents that bring them together through the plot and it instilled that extra bit of innocent charm that I have not seen in a Ghibli film since the original 2001 release of Spirited Away.

There are also other subplots such as the existence of other Borrowers and another hint of romance between Arrietty and a fourth “little person” by the name of Spiller however neither of these amounted to much and were not concluded or really built upon during the course of the movie. Depending on your preference of film, you may find the original half an hour to first half of the movie considerably slow as they attempt to introduce the unique lifestyle of the Borrowers and the characters themselves, but to me I found it enjoyable from start to finish.

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With any Studio Ghibli title, design is one of those aspects you cannot pass up discussing as every release proves to get better and better, evidently with the budget and resources to work on delivering only the best they can offer while not taking away from the intended setting. The house they live in resembles that of a stereotypical British house in the country (At least in my opinion) filled with an endless variety of flowers, a modern yet slightly rustic interior design and filled with wildlife and the nooks and crannys that allow the Borrowers to go about their nightly business. I might even go as far as suggesting they have tried much harder than any previous release in showcasing the detailed environment, taking several opportunities to showcase the landscape – as if the environment is screaming “Look at me! I am beautiful!”. The house that the Borrowers live in is even more creative than anything else in the film. Given that they cannot just simply ask the humans to build them a home, they have spent years borrowing items and built themselves an adorable house underneath the floorboards which you will need to really see to appreciate.

Animation on the other hand is also top notch and is nothing less than what I would have expected from the studio, with the environment moving in a realistic manner, their frequent attempts at showcasing the means that the Borrowers navigate the big world outside of their home and the impressive attention to detail for the little things when it came to animating. Character designs retained what you could call the normal Ghibli style but considering what this style is, it is nothing to be concerned about with all the characters perhaps not being as detailed as other animated series – but also providing some great facial expressions (Spiller is now the official Human Totoro character in my opinion) and good designs as a whole. Overall, this is one of the nicest looking Ghibli films you would have seen to date even if it doesn’t try to toe the line between the natural and supernatural like many of their films have done before (Eg. Spirited Away with spirits and Howl’s Moving Castle with witches, wizards and a moving castle).

I am reviewing the Blu-ray edition of the film, and much of the quality that was shown in the theatrical release has been retained in this release. There were no quality issues noted during my (numerous) watches of the film.

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Music and Voice Acting

Arrietty comes equipped with a good sized soundtrack for an hour and a half, and considering that I found the series was not so heavily reliant on dialogue as other Ghibli works, it worked well with all other aspects to effectively set the mood intended to be given by the series. The score mostly consisted of classical tracks along with a few lyrical tracks performed in both English and Japanese, with one track in particular I believe is simply titled “Sho’s Song” standing out to me and setting a bit of a suspenseful mood in the occasion it was used. The lyrical tracks were able to effectively represent the tone of the film, with the English song used in the intro instilling a sense of beauty in the world they were previewing while the lyrical song used during the ending being a song that gave a greater sense of emotion to heighten the ending scenes. Musician and composer Cecile Corbel did a great job overall.

The special edition of Arrietty by Madman Entertainment comes with both the UK dub which was included in the Australian theatrical release as well as the US dub from Disney which was included in North American theatrical releases. The UK dub proved to be very enjoyable, suiting the setting and emotions portrayed throughout the film.  Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones) was the voice actress for Arrietty and Tom Holland (Billy Elliot the Musical) was responsible for the voice of Sho and while I took a while to ease into their voice roles, by the end I have to admit they were both perfect for their roles. Other cast members include Olivia Colman as Arrietty’s mother, Mark Strong as Arrietty’s father and Geraldine McEwan as Haru, and while looking at their filmographies none of them really have an extensive experience in providing dub roles – I think they were enjoyable enough to listen to.

The US dub was also a good, but I don’t feel it met the same standards as the UK one. While the storyline remains mostly the same with this dub there were a few edits and additions which I think could have been left alone – for example the renaming of Sho to Shawn and including an extra few lines just before the credits hinting at events occuring after the film which were otherwise left open-ended. Bridgit Mendler and David Henrie play Arrietty and Shawn respectively and while I am not personally familiar with them I think they did a solid job – just not as strong as their counterparts in my opinion. But in the end, this all comes down to personal preference and it is nice that in this edition you are afforded the selection of either English dubs and the Japanese dub.

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Asides from the inclusion of the US English dub for Arrietty, very little else differs between the extras in this release and Madman’s original release. However, as with most of their Studio Ghibli titles they have included a wealth of bonus content including:

  • Storyboards for the entire movie which is always a great inclusion and provides some incite on how the series was translated from drawings to animation.
  • Music Video for Cecile Corbel’s “Arrietty’s Song”
  • Interviews with Hayao Miyazaki, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Tom Holland, Geraldine McEwan, Saoirse Ronan, Mark Strong and Olivia Colman. There were no additions included from the US release in terms of voice actor/actress interviews.
  • Original Japanese Theatrical Trailers
  • English Language Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots
  • Studio Ghibli Collection Trailers

It is a nice assortment of bonus goodies to watch after the film and even the interviews are of considerable length (Including a 41 minute interview with Hiromasa Yonebayashi and 24 minute interview with Hayao Miyazaki).

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The Final Word

While I am not going to claim this series will take the title of favourite Ghibli film away from “The Cat Returns” which I found to be a delightful all-ages friendly spin-off of Whisper of the Hearts mascot character “The Baron”, it has definitely come close and shows how much the studio has improved in terms of both design and plot without sacrificing anything else in order to ensure both of these elements are good. Over one and a half hours… I was taken to a world full of beauty and wonder and provided with a heartwarming story… It was a world very few studios and teams would be able to provide in such a way and I am very glad I had the chance to watch it.

Final Score
Storyline / Character Development: B+
Design: A
Music: A-
Voice Acting (UK): 
Voice Acting (US): B
Extras: A
Personal Preference: A
Overall Score: A

“One of the few animated films since Studio Ghibli’s ‘Spirited Away’ to successfully capture that youthful sense of innocence, curiosity and trust between two characters” 


Founder of The Otaku's Study. I have been exploring this labyrinth of fandom these last fifteen years, and still nowhere close to the exit yet. Probably searching for a long time to come.

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