The Secret World of Arrietty (a J!-ENT Anime Blu-ray Disc Review)

May 13, 2012 by  

I was captivated by the beauty of “The Secret World of Arrietty” and also found the story to delightful, lighthearted and enjoyable.   A more accessible, non-complex family film that once again, Studio Ghibli delivers!

Image courtesy of © 2012 GNDHDDTW. 2012 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: The Secret World of Arrietty


DURATION: 95 Minutes

BLU-RAY INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 24-Bit), Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Original Production Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English ESL, SDH, French

COMPANY: Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment


Release Date: May 22, 2012

Originally created by Mary Norton

Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa

Storyboard by Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Unit Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Music by Cecile Corbel

Art Director: Noboru Yoshida, Youji Takeshige

Animation Director: Akihiko Yamashita, Megumi Kagawa

Sound Director: Hiroshi Kasamatsu

Producer: Toshio Suzuki

Production by Studio Ghibli

Featuring the following voice talent:

Mirai Shida/Bridgit Mendler as Arrietty

Ryunosuke Kamiki/David Henrie as Sho (Shawn)

Keiko Takeshita/Gracie Poletti as Sadako (Aunt Jessica)

Kirin Kiki/Carol Burnett as Haru (Hara)

Shinobu Ōtake/Amy Poehler as Homily (Arietty’s Mother)

Tomokazu Miura/Will Arnett as Pod (Arriety’s Father)

Tatsuya Fujiwara/Moises Arias as Spiller

Based on the acclaimed children’s book series “The Borrowers,” by Mary Norton, “The Secret World of Arrietty” is an imaginative tale of “little people” living furtively among us, and the unlikely friendship that forms when their hidden world is discovered. The heartwarming family adventure features beautiful, stylized animation and timeless themes of friendship, courage and determination.

In 2010, Studio Ghibli (the popular anime studio known for creating “Ponyo”, “Spirited Away”, “Princess Mononoke”, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, “Castle in the Sky”, “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Kiki’s Delivery Service” to name few) released the film “The Secret World of Arriety”, a film adaptation of the popular children’s fantasy novel “The Borrowers” (1952) by English author Mary Norton.

The film broke records in Japan, surpassing it’s previous film “Ponyo”, opening on 1,522 theaters (a record for a Studio Ghibli film) and earn over $145 million in the box office.  The film is the 4th biggest earning anime film in Japan of all time and won “Animation of the Year” in 2011 at the 34th Japan Academy Prize.

“The Secret of Arriety” is a Studio Ghibli film directed by Hiromasa Yonebashi (“Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade”, “Ponyo”, “Spirited Away”, “Spriggan”) and a screenplay by Hayao Miyazaki (“Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”, “Castle in the Sky”, “Howl’s Moving Castle”, “My Neighbor Totoro” to name a few) and Keiko Niwa (“Tales from the Earthsea”, “Ocean Waves”, “From Up on Poppy Hill”).

The US release would feature music and vocals by French singer and harper Cecile Corbel and would feature the voices of Disney Channel actress Bridgit Mendler (“Good Luck Charlie”, “Lemonade Mouth”), Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”, “Saturday Night Live”), Will Arnett (“30 Rock”, “Arrested Development”), Carol Burnett (“The Carol Burnett Show”), David Henrie (“Wizards of Waverly Place”, “How I Met Your Mother”) and Moises Arias (“Hannah Montana”, “Astro Boy”).

“The Secret World of Arrietty” begins with a 12-year-old boy named Shawn (voiced by David Henrie), who has temporarily moved to his aunt Jessica’s (voiced by Gracie Poletti) home as he rests and waits to have heart surgery.  Meanwhile, as he stays at the home, he will be taken care of by the caretaker, Hara.

When he steps onto the lawn, he sees the family cat named Nina looking at something.  When Shawn goes to check, he sees a small girl hiding from him.

The young girl happens to be Arrietty (voiced by Bridgit Mendler), a 14-year-old borrower who was retrieving a plant to bring home to her mother, Homily (voiced by Amy Poehler). When her father Pod (voiced by Will Arnett) arrives from home, he tells the family that a new “being” (human) has moved into the house and Arriety tells her family that she had seen the boy when she was out.  But the parents warn her that the rule of a Borrower is that they must never be seen by a human and if they do, they must move away as humans curiosity can lead to trouble for them.

Because Arrietty has reached an age where she can now go on borrowing adventures with her father, her first mission is to retrieve a sugar cube and tissue paper.

And as Arrietty and her father go on a mission to retrieve those items, she does quite well, but while she is trying to get the tissue paper, Shawn who is laying down on his bed, looks directly at her and starts talking to her.  Shocked by this, Arrietty fails in her mission and now because Arrietty was seen by a human, her father warns her to not have communication with him ever again.

But feeling bad that she was seen by a human, what shocks her even more is that Shawn has stopped by to bring her the sugar cube that she had dropped.  As she tells her parents, her father begins to become concerned that because Shawn knows of their whereabouts, they will need to move.

Upset that Shawn has brought the sugar cube, she climbs up to Shawn’s room and tells him that she needs no help in “borrowing” and also tells him that they must stop communication.  But as the two talk, a crow tries to attack Arriety and she is saved by Shawn.

Meanwhile, the caretaker of the home, Hara hears the noises from Shawn’s room and attacks the crow.  When she asks him what prompted the crow to go to his room, he tells her that it must be building a nest but Hara suspects that perhaps Shawn has had contact with the little people and Hara would do anything to capture them.


Magical, beautiful and everything that you can expect from Studio Ghibli. I was completely in awe when I watched “The Secret World of Arrietty”.  The painted backgrounds are so detailed, so beautiful to look at and of course, that Studio Ghibli style of character design.

In this day and age, we tend to put so much into CG animated films and whenever I watch a Studio Ghibli fan, I always find it amazing of how gorgeous their films are.  From the first animated film that I watched back in the early ’90s (which was “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”) to the latest release of “The Secret World of Arrietty”, Studio Ghibli continues to show this creative style through this film. The hand painted backgrounds are absolutely beautiful, the character design continues that Studio Ghibli look and style that they are famous for and I was hypnotized, captivated and loving every minute of the film.

Presented in 1080p High Definition, detail can be seen on the painted backgrounds. Vibrant during the day scenes, amazingly detailed to the little kitchenware used by the Borrowers, its one thing I expected from Studio Ghibli and nothing less and once again, they have delivered.

There are no compression artifacts, edge enhancement, aliasing, banding or any problems in picture quality for “The Secret World of Arietty” whatsoever. This film looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray!


“The Secret of World of Arrietty” is presented in English 5.1 DTS Master Audio (48 kHz/24-bit) and in Japanese and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.

First the good. As one can expect from the Japanese casting, the voice acting is fantastic and the English dub track is equally magnificent.

And you want an immersive soundscape? “The Secret World of Arrietty” delivers. From the ambiance of the home on top of the hills with nothing but nature, you can hear the birds chirping, the insects, Nina the cat growling, the breeze flowing through their, great use of directional sound.  Indoors, the same thing as the Borrowers, Arrietty and her father can hear the ticking of the clocks, the scurrying of the rats and its absolutely immersive.

While this film is not the type to use LFE, there are some moments that do use a bit of lower frequency sounds but for this animated film, dialogue and music is crystal clear and great use of the surround channels for ambiance.

The other positive is unlike “Ponyo” which Disney didn’t give the Japanese soundtrack a lossless audio soundtrack, with “The Secret World of Arrietty”, a Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is included.

As for the bad, there isn’t any.  Aside it not having as many action sequences compared to “Nausicaa”, “Spirited Away” and “Ponyo”, this is not one of those type of films.   But still, “The Secret World of Arrietty” sounds wonderful and fans should be pleased with the lossless soundtracks!

Subtitles are in English ESL, SDH and in French.


If there was only one downer of this Blu-ray release, it is that”The Secret World of Arrietty” has very little special features.  Included are:

  • Original Japanese Storyboards – Watch the entire film but this time with the video showcasing the original storyboards.
  • Cecile Corbel’s “Arrietty’s Song” Music Video – The Japanese version of Cecile Corbel’s “Arriety’s Song”
  • Bridgit Mendler’s “Summertime” Music Video – (3:01) Bridgit Mendler, voice actress of Arrietty in the US version, sings the film’s ending theme.
  • The Making of “Summertime” – (2:02) The making of Bridgit Mendler’s music video.
  • Trailers & TV Spots – The Japanese trailers and TV spots.


A DVD of “The Secret World of Arrietty” is included with this Blu-ray release. The DVD is in Widescreen (1:85:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions, English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, with subtitles in English ESL, SDH and French.  A slipcover is included.

“The Secret World of Arrietty” is an enjoyable, delightful and non-complex film that is visually captivating and looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray!

While one of the things that people will notice is that the film has the Studio Ghibli quality in look and also in character interaction, this is a Hiromasa Yonebashi directed film and a film written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa.  It’s a film that is not complex, not about the environment, nor is it polemic film that is driving to drive a message to the viewer.  And is more accessible for younger viewers, compared to the more serious Studio Ghibli films such as “Spirited Away”, “Princess Mononoke”, “Grave of the Fireflies” or even “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind”.

But “The Secret World of Arrietty” is lighthearted and is pretty much on scale with other Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki films such as “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Whispers of the Heart”.  Captivating and enjoyable films that is not entirely geared towards older viewers, a film that I can enjoy with my young son and other parents can watch with their families.  It’s essentially a family film and in some way, as a fan of Studio Ghibli films, I love the fact that the studio tends to change things up once in awhile.

I can understand if some people who prefer Studio Ghibli’s more epic storylines with a deeper message and I’m sure Studio Ghibli will continue to make those movies as they do with these lighthearted films, but with “The Secret World of Arrietty”, this is a film that I enjoyed because it’s touching, heartwarming and just overall delightful and no worries of complexity, it’s straight-forward and even my 9-year-old loved it!

And the Blu-ray is magnificent!  But not perfect.  Video and audio quality is fantastic, although this is not one of those action-intense films, the film makes up with its visual flair and ambiance.  The main low-point of this Blu-ray release is that there are not as many special features included.

Fortunately, this Blu-ray release comes with a DVD, so as summer vacation is around the corner, parents can use the DVD for those long commutes or something the children can watch during the summertime.

Overall, I was captivated by the beauty of “The Secret World of Arrietty” and also found the story to delightful, lighthearted and enjoyable.   A more accessible, non-complex family film that once again, Studio Ghibli delivers!

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