The Secret World of Arrietty (BD/DVD)–Anime Review

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4.5 Stars
Arretty and hand
I reviewed Arrietty during its brief theatrical release in 2012 but I’ve finally gotten around to watching the Blu-Ray disc. It was well worth the money. The movie looks terrific–the world’s greatest animation studio at the top of its form.

  • Title
    The Secret World of Arrietty
  • Original Title
    Kari-gurashi no Arietti (Arrietty the Borrower)
  • Genres
    Fantasy, Adventure
  • Languages
    English, French, Japanese with subtitles
  • Contents
    95 minutes plus bonus material in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo set.
  • Director
    Hiromasa Yonebayashi
  • Screenplay
    Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa
  • Based on
    a novel by Mary Norton
  • Art Director
    Noboru Yoshida, Youji Takeshige
  • Character Design
    Akihiko Yamashita
  • Animation Director
    Akihiko Yamashita, Megumi Kagawa
  • Music
    Cécile Corbel
  • Producer
    Toshio Suzuki
  • Animation Studio
    Studio Ghibli
  • Released
  • North American Publisher
    Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Parental Advisory

This is not quite an all-ages film. Some scenes may be overly frightening for preschoolers but it should be fine for anyone old enough to read the subtitles. The high quality of the writing and animation should be enough to keep adults entertained.

Notes on the Translation

I harshly criticized Disney’s theatrical release for giving the human characters Anglo names. The movie is set in Japan and the human characters are Japanese. No honest translator would try to hide this and no reasonably literate viewer would be fooled since plenty of Japanese signs are visible. It is a dishonest thing to do and an insult to the audience to think we would be fooled.

(The movie is loosely based on an English book in which the human characters were presumably English. However the book didn’t give names for them so the Anglo names in the English dub are just fabrications by the translator.)

Fortunately the home video release gives you an alternative: select the excellent Japanese soundtrack and the English subtitles which provide a reasonably accurate translation. (There is an alternate subtitle track labeled “English for the Hearing Impaired” which exactly follows the English dub. I guess this is for people who are both deaf and a bit dim.)
Issho ni sagasou
I think the subtitle translation is acceptable but not great. There are no gratuitous alterations but sometimes it seems a bit too free

This is very much a judgement call. I would not want a translation to be too literal. The languages are so different that a literal translation would sound very unnatural. Still, to the extent that it can be done in a natural-sounding way, a translation should try to preserve the original meaning.


  • Original Japanese
    Issho ni sagasou.
  • Literal translation
    Let’s search together.
  • Natural translation
    Let’s look for her together.
  • Subtitle translation
    We’ll find her.
  • English dub
    We. Will. Find. Her.

The subtitle translation is close but not exactly right. In the context of this particular scene it seems subtly inappropriate–and this is the sort of subtlety that Japanese writers tend to be particularly sensitive to. The American voice actor seems to be be taking things in a completely different direction–but perhaps he was just thrown by the problem of lip-synching 4 syllables of English to 6 or 7 syllables of Japanese.

Premise and Characters

Shou in CarShou (Ryunosuke Kamiki) is a Japanese boy from an affluent family whose parents are much too busy to take care of him–especially now that he needs an operation for a heart condition. They send him to live with his Aunt Sadako (Keiko Takeshita).
ShouHis aunt lives in an old house in the countryside.
Cat and CrowThe house is owned by a grumpy old cat who is sometimes tormented by an obnoxious crow.
Haru Sayako and ShouThe housekeeper Haru (Kirin Kiki) also lives in the house. She is an opinionated busybody.
BorrowerLittle do they know that the house is also inhabited by a family of “Borrowers,” tiny people who live inside the walls and under the floors. Borrowers live by borrowing supplies from the humans without asking permission and not returning them. They are careful to take only small things that will not be noticed.
Arrietty with MotherThe actual main character of the story is Arrietty (Mirai Shida) a 15-year-old Borrower who lives with her parents in a reasonably comfortable home that they have built underneath the floorboards.
Homily and PodArrietty’s mother Homily (Shinobu Ootake) is nervous and easily frightened. Her father Pod (Tomokazu Miura) is stolid but very competent.
Borrowing ExpeditionArrietty is eager to accompany her father on one of his regular borrowing expeditions. Homily is terrified by the idea but Pod prevails on her to let Arrietty go with him. Arrietty needs to learn these skills.
Arietty Cat and Shou
Of course we know that Arrietty and Shou are bound to meet and get to know one another.
Spiller Homily and PodPod, Homily and Arrietty have often wondered if they are the only Borrowers left in the world. They find out the answer when Pod meets Spiller (Tatsuya Fujiwara), a young borrower about Arrietty’s age who lives in the forest. Spiller is even more laconic than Pod but he has his own set of skills.
Spiller with bow

Cultural Notes

Japanese finger counting (used by Spiller):