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Book Review: Four Books to Accompany The Secret World of Arrietty, by Hayao Miyazaki, Keiko Niwa, and Hiromasa Yonebayashi

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To coincide with the release of the new animated film The Secret World of Arrietty, Studio Ghibli Library and Viz Media have released a series of wonderful companion volumes.

Arrietty is a 14-year-old girl, a Borrower, who lives under the floors of a house with her mother Homily and father Pod. The family “borrows” things that they need from the humans who live in the house above. Shawn, a 12-year-old boy with a weak heart, comes to live in the house with his aunt Jessica, and spies Arietty on her first official borrowing expedition.

To be seen by humans is a no-no — Borrowers need to stay secret to be safe. But Arrietty and Shawn soon become friends. Also living at the house is Nina, a large cat, who is reminiscent of another Studio Ghibli cat, Muta (Whisper of the Heart and The Cat Returns.) Arrietty’s family decides they must move on and leave their beloved home if they are going to survive. Nina, who at first appears dangerous, becomes an ally and helps Arietty when the true danger, the housekeeper Hara, tries to capture the Borrowers.

The Art of The Secret World of Arrietty is a large, paperback coffee-table book that includes sketches, art, backgrounds, and film stills from Studio Ghibli’s latest animated film release, which was the highest grossing Japanese film in 2010. Key art is by Hayao Miyazaki. The concept art and character sketches are by the film’s director Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Additional art by art directors Yoji Takeshige and Noboru Yoshida is also included. Character design is by Ai Kagawa and Akihiko Yamashita.

The beautiful watercolor sketches are interspersed with actual stills and background art from the film, with essays by the artists explaining the concepts behind storyboarding and the script. The Secret World of Arrietty is based on the popular novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton. The book also includes the complete voice-over script of the film, as well as the lyrics to three songs that appear in the film, “The Neglected Garden,” “Our House Below,” and “Arrietty’s Song,” all written and performed in the film by French musician Cécile Corbel.

The Art of The Secret World of Arrietty is a treasure for adult fans of Studio Ghibli films and Hayao Miyazaki, but also available is a picture book that will delight children, The Secret World of Arrietty Picture Book. Planned by Hayao Miyazaki and using much of the shooting script as its text, this delightful book incorporates stills from the film as its illustrations. Its large-scale font is easy to read, and the many images keep the pages turning and young minds involved in the story.

A smaller-sized graphic novel has also been produced, in two parts,  The Secret World of Arrietty 1 and 2. 

Laid out in the traditional Japanese right to left format, both volumes are in full color and reproduce the film utilizing the script and still images. The story is divided into four chapters over the film comic’s two books.

All four publications are wonderful companions to the animated film, and also a great introduction to the art of Studio Ghibli. The Studio Ghibli Library and Viz Media have produced similar volumes to accompany Miyazaki’s films  Howl’s Moving CastleMy Neighbor Totoro, and many more.

Any new film by Hayao Miyazaki and his counterparts is always cause for celebration. It’s especially nice to have these books, geared to all ages, to enrich the film viewing experience and to have available to enjoy again and again.

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