Arrietty is the best Studio Ghibli film since Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away). While the scope is smaller (a 50s children’s novel by Mary Norton, rather than an original depiction of Japanese folklore), the care and attention paid to the film make it a charming treat.
The characters have been translated into a Japanese setting: the boy is the familiar calm and gentle shounen of many manga and anime; the antagonist is a busybody elderly housekeeper. The 14-year-old Borrower Arrietty is Ghibli’s strong-willed, capable girl protagonist who is coming of age. I found the wide-eyed expressions of surprise and the shy, awkward proto-courtships quite touching.
The antics of the animals and google-eyed bugs are comic relief but don’t become distraction; the music and scenery are absolutely beautiful. I especially enjoyed the sound effects – the kitchen at night, the rain, a kettle in a stream, and so on find aural depictions of notable excellence. The animation is very detailed, taking care to present the viscosity and surface-tension of fluids seen close up (tiny tea pots disgorge blobs of tea at a time) and lifelike motions of animals and critters.
Arrietty is suitable for family viewing, and I’d recommend it to anyone.