Studio Ghibli originally released Arrietty in Japan 5 years ago today, on July 17th 2010. In light of this, I decided to grab STUDIOCANAL’s Blu-ray off of the shelf and finally give the British English dub a try, having experienced only the Japanese track in my previous viewings. Arrietty is somewhat special in terms of Studio Ghibli movies, in that it has two English dubs; STUDIOCANAL’s, produced for the UK, and Disney’s, produced for the US. Each dub is unique to that region’s releases, but both contain the Japanese track as well.
The film starts with Sho arrives at his mother’s childhood home to spend the week, alongside his great aunt and the housemaid. He, and us, as the audience, witness a cat attempting an attack on something in the bushes, eventually giving up. Sho spies glimpse of Arrietty, a young borrower returning to her home through a vent beneath the house. That night, Arrietty’s father, Pod, takes her with him to “borrow” for the first time; they need both sugar and tissue paper. After getting the sugar, they travel inside a wall to a bedroom, which they enter through a dollhouse. The dollhouse, for reasons unknown to them, has working electric lights and a kitchen. Sho spots Arrietty trying to take a tissue from his nightstand while he lies awake; she drops the sugar and leaves alongside her father as Sho attempts to comfort her. The following day, Sho leaves the sugar and a note beside the vent in which he first saw Arrietty. She is warned against taking it by her father as their existence is not to be known by human “beans”. Despite this, she sneaks out to visit him and tells him to leave them alone.
Arrietty is found by her father on her way home; her parents decide it is time to move when they realise they have been detected. Sho learns from his great aunt that the dollhouse had been commissioned by some of his ancestors upon noticing the borrowers. Despite this, they had not been seen since then. Pod is injured on a mission; Spiller, a borrower boy he met on the way helps him home. He lets them know that there are other places they could move to. During Pod’s recovery, Sho lifts up the floorboards concealing the home of the borrowers and replaces their kitchen with the one from the dollhouse in the hope that they will continue to live in the house. Unfortunately, this causes them to expedite their moving. After recovering, Pod explores new possibilities for homes. When Arrietty goes to Sho, to say her goodbyes, he tells her that borrowers are becoming extinct; she is insistent that they won’t give up as easily as that. During Sho’s apology for forcing them to move, he reveals that he will be having an operation for his heart condition soon; an operation with a low chance of succeeding. He is certain there is nothing that he can do, acknowledging that every living thing will die at some point.
While Sho’s great aunt is out, the maid notices the floorboards and unearths the borrowers’ home, capturing Arrietty’s mother. Arrietty goes to investigate her mother’s screams, leaving sho saddened; thus he returns to his room. The maid locks him in and calls a pest removal company to capture the borrowers. When Arrietty goes to Sho for help, they rescue her mother and destroy all traces of borrowers. Sho strolls through the garden during the night and is led, by the cat, to the river by where Arrietty’s family await Spiller. Sho tells her that the borrowers and their fight to go on have made him desire to live through the operation. He is gifted her hair clip to remember her by. The film ends with the family floating downstream in a teapot.
I feel it worth mentioning that the ending is perfect; the audience is left, alongside Sho, hoping that his operation is a success and that the borrowers are able to continue living their lives. It is all about hoping for a positive outcome despite adversity. There is nothing wrong with an ending like this, and I’m glad STUDIOCANAL kept it this way for the British English dub. The US English dub, instead, features a final monologue, in which Sho reveals that he returned to the house a year later, and never saw Arrietty again, but heard rumours of objects disappearing from neighbours. That level of Disneyfication localisation would have ruined the film for me; I don’t always want a happy ending, mystery is important. And even if those changes were made for the benefit of the younger audience, it is important not to overly shelter them.
As always, it’s a Studio Ghibli film so one is to expect amazing visuals, yet still be blown away by the presentation anyway. The video quality is literally perfect, having no anomalies, artefacts, or flaws throughout the movie. However, the grain, albeit faint, is retained entirely, adding texture to the image. Lines are always crisp, emphasising character placement in front of the painted backgrounds, and creating the perfect contrast, adding depth to the image. There are no discernable issues, in terms of video, with this release; the art itself is magical, presented in an excellent encode.
Both the English dub track and the original Japanese language track are included on this Blu-ray as 5.1 DTS-HD MA offerings, and as 2.0 PCM offerings. The PCM offerings are mislabelled within the menu as Dolby digital, a minor annoyance that doesn’t detract from the movie at all. Besides, selecting one of the 5.1 tracks is the only real option, anyway. The 5.1 track for both languages is used effectively, allowing you to immerse yourself in the world of the borrowers as you hear the environment around you, even if it is just rustling at times. The most noticeable difference between the English and Japanese track is that the music is higher in the mix for the English dub. Neither mix sounds lesser than the other, and you can hear the soothing orchestral score from Cécile Corbel perfectly in both. The Japanese VAs truly bring the characters to life with their voice work. The dub also, for the most part, features dubbing that actually makes the characters seem real. The biggest letdown is that the English VA for Sho doesn’t deliver lines as smoothly as the rest of the cast; it’s worth noting that this was his first non-stage role.
As per usual, we are treated to the original storyboards for the movie, once again as a picture-in-picture offering. I remain envious of Americans and their full-screen storyboard option on Disney released Studio Ghibli Blu-rays. Regardless, it shows the progression of the film, from drawings to what can only be described as a work of art. The original Japanese trailers, both theatrical and televised, are included in HD, alongside the promotional video for Arrietty’s Song. There is a selection of upscaled interviews, with the English dub cast, Hayao Miyazaki, and Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the director.
Arrietty, as a film, and this Blu-ray release is almost perfection. The only things keeping it from scoring higher is the mistake in the audio selection menu, and that it is lacking the Disney dub. That isn't to say there is anything wrong with the included dub; it is immensely enjoyable to hear a British dub of an anime for a change, especially from an iconic studio such as this. It just felt slightly "off" not hearing American voices, though, admittedly, it is likely only a mild form of Stockholm Syndrome causing these feelings, after years of being held captive by American anime dubs. As an added benefit, our dub is supposedly much truer to the original Japanese version than the American dub.
Inclusion of the Disney dub would have made this the complete package; as it stands, I will no doubt end up picking up the American blu-ray at some point to give their dub a try, even if just to see how much the American dub Disneyfies.