Arrietty

Review by Adam Woodward @AWLies

Directed by

Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Starring

Mark Strong Saoirse Ronan Tom Holland

Anticipation.

Will Ghibli’s latest suffer without the magic of Miyazaki?

Enjoyment.

Not an inch. Arrietty is a soft and sunny anime treat.

In Retrospect.

An assured if sanitised debut effort from an emerging voice.

A pure, wonderfully animated story of friendship against the odds from an emerging anime voice.

Based on Mary Norton’s fantasy novel series ‘The Borrowers’, Arrietty is a Euro-flavoured tale that follows a family of diminutive but industrious foragers living in apparent anonymity in a suburban Tokyo home. While her father braves contact with the Clock family’s inadvertent landlords in order to put crumbs on the table, Arrietty (Saoirse Ronan) dreams of what the world might be like above the floorboards. Being the feisty, wide-eyed lass that she is Arrietty convinces her stereotyped rents (solem but totally cool pop and excitable chore-happy mum) to let her head out on her first ‘borrowing’.

After blowing her cover on said sugar cube recon mission, she’s given a taste of life outside her cosy shoebox abode when Shō (Tom Holland), a well-mannered boy who’s been sent to live with his great aunt to rest up ahead of a major operation, extends a few neighbourly advances.

Despite its familiar texture and tone, Arrietty is something of an anomaly within the Ghibli canon. Without the hyper kineticism of Ponyo, the mystique of Spirited Away or the unadulterated whimsy of My Neighbour Totoro, it is the most understated, tangible ode to the curios of youth to have been born on the studio’s ink-spattered desks in many years.

But while its aspect is more grown up than we’ve come to expect, in striving to appeal to as broad a demographic as possible any hint of threat or conflict has been removed. There’s no man versus wild environmentalism, no hero’s plight against some all-consuming evil. Just a pure, wonderfully animated story of friendship against the odds told faithfully and triumphantly by Hayao Miyazaki’s protégé Hiroma Yonebayashi, the youngest director to have graduated from Ghibli’s cell animation school.

It may only have a thimble-full of the charm of the very best Ghibli offerings, but Arrietty still puts every other hasty summer sequel and flashy 3D dribble in the shade.

Published 28 Jul 2011

Tags: Japanese cinema Studio Ghibli

Anticipation.

Will Ghibli’s latest suffer without the magic of Miyazaki?

Enjoyment.

Not an inch. Arrietty is a soft and sunny anime treat.

In Retrospect.

An assured if sanitised debut effort from an emerging voice.

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