In today's world of sleek picture perfect computer animation - the kind of Pixar/Dreamworks kind of stuff that is nearly flawless in its look but utterly cold and antiseptic in its feel - it is always a welcome respite to be able to peer upon the classic cel animation style of Japan's Studio Ghibli. It may not live up to the near impossible standards of today's aforementioned picture perfection - nor to that younger generation of why nots that crave the smooth shiny coating to the chewy yummy center of things - but its charming visual cadence and soft, watercolour like appearance, give the studio that brought us the brilliant Spirited Away, the succulent My Neighbor Totoro, the haunting Grave of the Fireflies and the adorable child's tale of Ponyo, the most elegant and painterly of looks - and to this old school animation guy, that is the best thing one could hope for.
The latest lovely piece from Studio Ghibli is The Secret World of Arrietty, or as it was originally known in its native Japan, The Borrower Arrietty. Written by Japanese anime master Hayao Miyazaki (director of three of the aforementioned studio works), along with Keiko Niwa, and based on Mary Norton's classic children's book The Borrowers, the Secret World of Arrietty, directed by first time director and Miyazaki protege (and, at just 38, the youngest director in Studio Ghibli history) Hiromasa Yonebayashi, is the story of the most charismatic of Miss Norton's Borrowers, a young and most curious girl by the name of Arietty. For those not in the know, Borrowers are little people (small enough to stretch out in a human's hand) who live in the nooks and crannies of houses and live on items they borrow, but that will not be missed, such as sugar cubes and tea leaves. In our story, little Arietty is seen by a human boy, and it is with this much taboo event that the Borrowers lives erupt in very unwanted excitement and danger.
First released in Japan back in 2010, the film finally winds its way to the States in, as is par the course for Studio Ghibli films, a Walt Disney distributed English dubbed version. Sadly though, unlike earlier releases of films like Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, where the films were released in both Japanese and English versions in the US (the Japanese tending of course to play in the more art house kind of venues) it would seem that Arrietty is being released in an English only rendition this time around. Now granted, the English version is not a bad film - hearing real life husband and wife Amy Poehler and Will Arnett as Arrietty's parents is somewhat odd but still quite fun - but to hear a film in its native tongue is always the preferred way. But alas, as far as theatrical release goes, Disney's English language dubbing is what we get (the UK also has their own version, with Saoirse Ronan as the titular little person), so I suppose it is what we must live with it - unless of course you were able to seek out the original Japanese version which incidentally is available on DVD, and as I have already stated, is the preferred way to watch said film. But either way, the tender yet vivid animation on the film is quite stunning and the story, though perhaps a bit more slight than some other Studio Ghibli works, is nonetheless quite enthralling.