The Secret World of Arrietty Blu-ray delivers stunningly beautiful video and superb audio in this excellent Blu-ray release
Centers on a family of people who are just a few inches tall who hide from the world and live by borrowing from normal-sized humans, until their existence is discovered by a young boy.
For more about The Secret World of Arrietty and the The Secret World of Arrietty Blu-ray release, see the The Secret World of Arrietty Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 11, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Rich and breathtaking as its animation is, wondrous and enchanting as its all-at-once intimately familiar world may be, director Hiromasa Yonebayashi and executive producer/co-writer Hayao Miyazaki's The Secret World of Arrietty isn't a profound or complicated film by any means. It just might be Studio Ghibli's simplest; it's certainly one of the renowned Japanese animation studio's most accessible. Far from a detriment, though, the magic and mystery Miyazaki and Yonebayashi draw out of the ordinary makes Arrietty a breath of refreshingly quaint, cool air. While other animation studios devote their considerable resources to bigger, louder and more intense adventures, Studio Ghibli is as comfortable telling a small tale as it is weaving more epic fantasies like Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle or even sweet little Ponyo. And there's something to be said for such confidence and ease. Miyazaki and his team aren't interested in pandering to American audiences, following in the footsteps of other animation houses, or doing anything other than what has inspired and moved them to greatness for decades. And while The Secret World of Arrietty isn't Ghibli's finest, it is nevertheless another great Ghibli film.
Based on author Mary Norton's 1952 children's fantasy book The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty opens as a sickly boy named Shō (RyŻnosuke Kamiki in the Japanese language version, David Henrie in the U.S. dub) discovers a family of "Borrowers" -- tiny people who, aside from their incredibly small stature, may as well be human -- living beneath the floorboards of his great aunt Sadako's house. He's particularly captivated by Arrietty (Mirai Shida, Bridgit Mendler), a young teenage Borrower who begins accompanying her father (Tomokazu Miura, Will Arnett) on his midnight borrowing runs; dangerous expeditions during which the devoted patriarch gathers sugar cubes, tissues, pins and other supplies for his wife Homily (Shinobu Ōtake, Amy Poehler). Arrietty, though, has trouble accepting the idea that Shō could ever be a threat to her family, and tries to convince her father that they needn't move to a new home. But as Shō tries to befriend the little people, he inadvertently alerts his housekeeper Haru (Kirin Kiki, Carol Burnett) to their presence, and she proves to be a threat that should be taken seriously.
Arrietty's adventure is full of wonders; everyday objects and events to us, yes, but wonders from the perspective of a four-inch tall girl. A crow becomes a monstrous beast battling a ferocious feline near a bed of tall flowers, which may as well be a forest to the diminutive Borrower hiding inside. A search for sugar cubes and tissues becomes a daring journey that requires Arrietty and her father to hop from nail to nail high above a basement floor, climb the towering studs and supports in Sadako's walls, traverse the countertops of a vast moonlit kitchen, cross a chasm that lies between two bedroom tables, and slink along a thin ledge where one slip would spell death. A dollhouse becomes a luxurious mansion. Hot tea drips out of a tiny pot as if it were molasses. A gigantic cat looms over a frightened Borrower. A pin becomes a valuable find and a deadly sword. Pulling a tissue from a box becomes a daunting task. Human footsteps shake the very ground. A glass jar becomes a prison. A kettle becomes a seaworthy ship, the stream it floats in a surging river. Along the way, the promise of friendship, however unlikely, slowly builds a bridge between disparate traditions and cultures, all at the risk of further discovery, death or, worse, extinction. The Secret World of Arrietty may be a small story about small people, but the consequences couldn't be bigger, the stakes couldn't be higher, and the dangers couldn't be more grave.
Miyazaki and Yonebayashi capture the scope and scale of Arrietty's world magnificently, fostering a real sense of the magical in the mundane, and the fluid, hand-drawn animation that brings it all to dazzling life is staggering. They not only uncover the extraordinary in anything and everything Shō and their audience might deem ordinary, they fill almost every frame with stirring visions of minuscule life, complete with a summery palette of spirited colors, expressive and endearing character designs, and a humbling array of wind-swept fields, miniature houses, sprawling hallways, and tiny people with big hearts. To their great credit, the depth and enormity of the environments are as much a part of the filmmakers' absorbing animated fantasy as the lovingly realized humans and Borrowers that inhabit each one. Yes, the story's scale will be much too small for some. Yes, the relative uneventfulness of Miyazaki and co-writer Keiko Niwa's script becomes more and more apparent with each viewing. And yes, young children might get bored waiting for something exciting to happen. But none of it undermines the warmth of Arrietty's bond with her family, the sweetness of Shō's efforts to make the Borrowers feel welcome in his aunt's home, or the excellent voicework, sweeping visuals and jaw-dropping animation that makes The Secret World of Arrietty a worthy entry in the Ghibli canon.
It seems Disney has outdone itself again. Arrietty's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer is perfect. It's that simple. Perfect. No compression issues, no wayward anomalies, no source flaws, no significant banding or artifacting, no aberrant noise, no problems whatsoever. Colors are lovely, with arresting reds, brilliant blues, stunning greens, gorgeous earthtones, and deep, inky blacks. Contrast, meanwhile, has been dialed in with the utmost care, clarity is impeccable, grain is intact (faint as it is), and there isn't a blade of grass, brushstroke, or detail out of place. Crisp, clean lines are in abundance (and completely free of aliasing and ringing), the animation remains smooth and fluid throughout, the painted backgrounds lend a wonderful sense of texture and depth to the image, and every last nuance, flick of the pen, and expression is presented exactly as the animators intended. Moreover, the image is absolutely pristine, the technical encode is immaculate, and there isn't a single distraction or eyesore to be found; certainly none that would detract from the impact of the presentation in any way. I could go on and on, but perfect is perfect, and no amount of explanation could make it any clearer. It just doesn't get better than this.
I spent a great deal of time alternating between Arrietty's English and Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks and, for the life of me, I can't decide which one sounds better. I have a preference, of course -- I always gravitate to a film's original language -- but it has nothing to do with technical quality, fidelity or any objective evaluation. For the purposes of this review, I've decided to treat the two as virtually identical and worthy of the same high praise. Dialogue is crystal clear from beginning to end, voices are nestled within the world (rather than floating above the rest of the soundscape), and the smallest sound effects are given ample opportunity to make a big impression. The rear speakers perform their due diligence as well, creating a subtle yet wholly immersive experience that envelops and involves the listener at every turn. The ceaseless summer-evening drone of insects and the chirping mid-afternoon chorus of birds reign over the soundfield with convincing fullness, a host of precise directional effects and transparent channel pans are as disarming as a cool, quiet breeze, and Cťcile Corbel's score rises and retreats with delicate finesse. LFE output isn't exactly what I'd call commanding, but it is assertive, particularly in the third act when Shō gives Homily the kitchen of her dreams and, soon after, the Borrowers have to contend with Haru. All in all, it isn't the most bombastic sonic experience, but The Secret World of Arrietty, be it the original Japanese language version or the English dub, couldn't sound much better than it does here.
Original Japanese Storyboards (HD): The full film, presented with its original Studio Ghibli storyboards. Granted, it isn't a Picture-in-Picture experience, which I would've preferred, but its inclusion is appreciated.
Music Videos (HD, 7 minutes): Cecile Corbel's "Arrietty's Song" and Bridgit Mendler's "Summertime."
The Making of "Summertime" (HD, 2 minutes): A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the music video.
Small and slight as it is, The Secret World of Arrietty delivers big. It doesn't overreach, it doesn't cut a wide swath, it just tells a simple story as simply as Miyazaki, Niwa and Yonebayashi can afford. The animation, though simple in its own right, is worth the price of admission alone, and helps elevate the film to greatness. Disney's Blu-ray release doesn't disappoint either, thanks to a perfect video presentation and an immersive pair of DTS-HD Master Audio tracks. The lack of extras is a letdown, but Studio Ghibli releases are traditionally slim, so it doesn't come as much of a surprise. Ultimately, animation aficionados and Ghibli fans would do well to add The Secret World of Arrietty to their collection.
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In May, Walt Disney Home Entertainment will bring the Studio Ghibli animated features Castle in the Sky, Whisper of the Heart, and The Secret World of Arrietty to Blu-ray. These highly imaginative fantasies span more than twenty years in the Studio Ghibli team's ...
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