ARRIETTY is the latest film from Studio Ghibli, and it’s a good one — I haven’t seen TALES FROM EARTHSEA yet but found HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE and PONYO ON THE CLIFF BY THE SEA excellent yet not as excellent as I’ve been used to from Miyazaki. Here, Hayao M provides script and producing services, and as with HOWL’S the source is a British children’s classic, The Borrowers. Borrowing the idea but not the exact story, Miyazaki and his director Hiromasi Yonibayashi serve up a typically gentle, beautiful world — cel animation proves to be an ideal medium to evoke the separate-but-overlapping worlds of the jumbo humans and the micro-folks, with terrifically expressive sound design eloquently creating the particular perspectives of the differently-scaled characters.
There’s also tactile, sensory detail to the use of objects which makes you truly feel the weight of a pin wielded like a rapier, and four wads of double-sided sticky tape used as climbing gear (folded around the hands and feet) which have convincing heft and stiffness. Water droplets the size of basketballs are carried to and fro, and Arrietty the classic Miyazaki early teenage heroine can dry off after a soaking just by brushing a few snow-globe-sized water domes from her dress.
True, one dialogue scene does foreground a rather obvious eco-message, and the song is arguably overused (when you get to the end of a Miyazaki movie, always say “This’ll be the song, then.”) but the open ending is a brave touch, and along the way there’s excitement, humour, grace and charm, and the most sustained sequence of crow-bashing since ANTICHRIST.