Not the Ghibli We Know – Arriety Review.
Title: Arriety (a.k.a Kari-gurashi no Arrieti)
A year on from its Japanese release, and we are finally being gifted a chance to view Arriety (or Kari-gurashi no Arietti, if you like) on the big screen. 12 months is a long time, and my initial excitement ebbed and waned torturously until the fateful day in which I could see the much anticipated “new Ghibli film”, that was guaranteed to draw anime fans of all varieties and see them herald it as a fantastic movie, like all their formers. I took my seat in the half-filled independent cinema’s screen and braced myself, with now middling expectations, to be overawed or disappointed.
The film started quickly in setting the scene, within 5 minutes we’d met practically all the major and minor characters, the sickly young Sho who’d come to stay with his Great Aunt Sadoko for some rest, the eccentric maid Haru, and of course the Borrowers: Arriety, Pod (her dad), and Homily (her mum). There’s even time to briefly introduce the family’s cat. I was preparing for something special from the highest grossing Japanese film of 2010…
The story hinges around the boy, Sho, spotting Arriety in the garden at the start, and again whilst “borrowing” from the house later that night. The result leaves Sho desperately trying to communicate with the “little people”, leaving messages and gifts until he is confronted by Arriety herself. With the imminent danger of humans, the remaining hour or so of the film becomes a glorified feature about the Borrowers moving house.
As can be expected from the giants of the Anime Industry, the animation is impeccable, though it feels like Ghibi have made more steps towards the digital processes advocated by other directors such as Makoto Shinkai, and whilst this may take away some of the charm and intrigue of the earlier films, it provides some stunning scenery and beautifully detailed backgrounds. The celtic soundtrack, composed by French artist Cécile Corbel, itself fits seamlessly within the film, the mixture of harp and strings providing a wonderfully enchanting atmosphere for Arriety’s explorations.
However, for a film of one and a half hours, Arriety fails to accomplish anything special. There’s no real depth in its storyline, only a mild sense of danger and peril, and very little of the Ghibli flair that makes even a lot of their blandest films somewhat captivating. It doesn’t appear to have the magic or the tension of many of its forebears, in fact the only parallel would be the strong female lead character, and this was all very alien to me. I’d come expecting what Ghibli do best, and was thrown into something completely different, it was strange, uncomfortable at first, I didn’t know how to react. But there is a reason why Ghibli continue to dominate Japanese cinema: they know how to make films; their only real flop being “The Tales of Earthsea”, and Arriety is a good head and shoulders above that. So it isn’t a fantastical epic, but Arriety is a good film (particularly for younger audiences) if you don’t demand that it conform to its predecessors.
So head on down to your local Odeon, Cineworld, other multiplex or independant cinema, and you may be able to catch Arriety on its limited release. You won’t be in for a tension filled rollercoaster like Princess Mononoke, or an emotional storm like Grave of the Fireflies, you won’t see any of the magic of Totoro, or the childish charm of Ponyo, but Arriety has its own feel. It isn’t typically Ghibli, but it is quaint and curious in its own way.
Have you seen Arriety? Did you find this review useful? Share your thoughts by commenting below!
This review was also featured as a guest review on WellReadUndead.
Studio Ghibli have recently released a film titled: “Kokuriko-zaka kara” (“From Up on Poppy Hill”) in Japan, and have made cryptic announcements about their next feature.