Friday, June 8, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: The Secret World of Arrietty

2010, Hiromasa Yonebayashi (artist and animator on other Ghibli projects) -- download

Studio Ghibli has produced some of the most memorable anime movies I have ever seen.  Howl's Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away are popular enough to have reached across the oceans and made impacts world wide.  Getting connected with Disney didn't help.  But it will always be stories such as My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies, so very very Japanese in their character, that will typify the studio for me.  This is by no means their only adaptation, as many of their stories come from other sources, but I think this is the first time they adapted a children's story from Europe. Also making this story stand out less is the lack of Hayao Miyazaki as director; to be frank, it was his presence on other stories that make them stand out so much more.

So, you probably got the hint that this one was not one of my favourites.  It's true, the story is wonderfully told, beautifully animated and just lovely to behold.  But it was lacking a sense of investment. The full original story is there in the key elements, of a lonely ill child discovering the existence of the borrowers, little people living in his house.  The conflict with one nosy adult is there.  And the isolation felt by young Arrietty is there as her family is the only group of borrowers she has ever seen.  The movie also does a lovely job of portraying the parts I love best, the creative interaction with the big world that these little people have, the mountain climbing around the kitchen, the use of dollhouse furniture and the scale sized items building Arrietty's home.  It is also so lovely to behold. But...

But there was something lacking, something I cannot quite put my thumb on.  I guess it was plot based in that the story never really got anywhere. I suspect that in their attempt to draw upon the main plot of the first Borrower book they forgot they had a standalone movie here.  The story is about introducing the borrowers and their world and the conflicts they deal with.  Things never really come to a conclusion, more a climax of this one episode.  But we want more than just this small revelation, we want to see the rest of the series. A series that does not exist.