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Karigurashi Arietty August 1, 2011

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film.
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Ghibli’s latest is an entertaining, if not entirely captivating, tale. Many have said the same thing, but it does say something about Ghibli’s calibre that a film that is merely ‘solid’ seems something of a disappointment.

SPOILER WARNING

Adapting a classic English children’s novel, Arietty has some wonderful moments. Other reviews have highlighted the quality of the sound, particularly in bringing out the monstrous echoes of everyday sounds as heard by the Borrowers. The animation is solid and I love the little details of the Borrower house and their use of objects like fly-paper and fish hooks for hard-core ‘mountaineering’.

This isn’t an epic tale on the scale of a Miyazaki. There’s nothing like the flood in the last Ghibli, Ponyo, or even a mini-disaster like at the end of Kiki’s Delivery Service. In keeping with the Borrowers small size is the relative scale of the ‘tragedy’ setting up the final act. Yet, in many ways, it’s one that the audience should relate to more than any of the fantastical Ghibli films – moving home. We’ve all had to move on at some point, and that means letting go of things we really don’t want to.

Heart is not what lets this film down. It’s characterisation and tension that do. We’re not given any real reason to root for the characters or the bonds they form with each other. Aside from Sho being ‘sick’ and Arietty being ‘small and vulnerable’ what is there that would form this strong friendship/affection between the two? They really only meet a handful of times and even then it seems like they went at an uncomfortable pace, without the little gestures or steps that might have made it seem more natural. Though Sho does eventually help to save Arietty’s mother, his whole risk-taking, and the two’s tearful parting, would be more emotional if we had more of a reason to care.

The support characters, I felt, suffered pretty badly too. I would’ve liked to have heard more about Arietty’s parents – perhaps the hardships they went through to build this home – and explored more of the world that Spiller (who also gets a raw deal) represents. It’s the same for the humans – Sho is a rather two-dimensional sick kid and even the ‘villain’ Haru is little more than an irritating, small-town maid (compared to, say, the Witch of the Waste in Howl’s Moving Castle – an imperfect film, sure, but one with a villain who comes full circle). And while I’m being mean about it, I hated the English-language theme song too :P

Yet, as I say, maybe this is just in keeping with the theme of ‘smaller’, ‘less ambitious’ that the Borrowers represent. And it just feels wrong to criticise a Ghibli film too much, especially when the film is still enjoyable and head and shoulders above most of today’s animated films.

This isn’t classic Ghibli, for sure – nowhere near any of the Miyazaki’s, not even at the ‘charming’ level of The Cat Returns. But it’s not as bad as Tales of Earthsea and probably somewhere around Pom Poko. And, to be honest, you’ll probably like it more if your expectations are a little lower.

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1. Terracotta Film Festival 2012 « Canned Memory - April 22, 2012

[…] of course, top of the agenda for me. I have to be honest though, having been less than impressed by Arietty and found Goro Miyazaki’s debut, Earthsea, decidedly wanting, my expectations weren’t […]


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