How Catholic and Protestant Reviewers Scored The Secret World of Arrietty

The Secret World of Arrietty

Anime movies in U.S. theaters are typically released on so few screens that most major movie critics don’t review them.  However, Studio Ghibli films, released by Disney and bolstered by Hayao Miyazaki’s 2002 Oscar win for Spirited Away, buck that trend.  With a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the Ghibli film, The Secret World of Arrietty, has been held in higher regard than even a number of movies nominated for “Best Picture” at next week’s Academy Awards.  On that note, I’m going to say it here – I believe Arrietty will receive a nomination for “Best Animated Picture” at next year’s Oscar’s.

With major reviewers having to sit up and notice Arrietty, an interesting subset of movie reviewers has likewise done the same: Christian/Catholic film critics.  Not only do these critics focus on the quality of movies, many also discuss the moral implications of films – in fact, some emphasize the latter over the earlier.  Last Friday, when Arrietty was released, I wrote a post on how Christianity Today gave the film a very positive rating, not something entirely expected.  Don of Zoopraxiscope offered links to a few other reviews and with these in hand, I decided to select five major “Christian” review outlets and three “Catholic” ones, to see how they scored The Secret World of Arrietty.

Catholic News Service | Rating: Positive | Review

…this kid-friendly feature can be wholeheartedly recommended for all but easily terrified tots…

Christian Spotlight on Entertainment | Rating: Positive | Review

Visually rich and with moving depth, “…Arrietty” is a film for everyone.

Christianity Today | Rating: Positive | Review

But overall, it’s hard to find many family films so authentic, so earnest, so supportive of family, and so honest about life’s joys and hardships.

Crosswalk | Rating: Positive | Review

Give it a chance and it will enhance your sense of wonder. It might even make you feel like a kid again.

John C. Wright’s Journal | Rating: Positive | Review

I think every man should, upon reading these words, go get married, father a fourteen year old daughter, and take her to see this film.

Movieguide | Rating: Positive | Review

THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTY is a visually engaging movie with a compelling story of friendship, family and the importance of human life.

National Catholic Register | Rating: Positive | Review

Watch The Secret World of Arrietty with your eyes open, and witness the secret world in which we all live revealed.

Plugged In (Focus on the Family) | Rating: Positive | Review

Through their whimsical meeting, these friends teach us that life can be difficult and filled with disappointment. But it’s also rich with friendship, adventure, family love and unexpected beauty.

Note that as with the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, “positive” in these instances can range from “ecstatic” to “barely recommended.”  Still, I’m happy to see these Christian/Catholic sites review an anime film without immediately casting judgment.  For instance, I assumed Movieguide, a very conservative site, would’ve given the film a negative review (though they did caution against the movie’s environmental message).

Even further, these reviews were generally as favorable or more so than those of typical, secular review sites.  Though only a small sample, 100% of these reviewers recommended the film.  And I think that when it comes to how Christians feel about anime, these reviews, along with the box office success of the film (it’s Ghibli’s biggest opening in the U.S. so far), only spell good news in terms of the openness in which the Christian community will approach future releases.


19 thoughts on “How Catholic and Protestant Reviewers Scored The Secret World of Arrietty

  1. I’m interested in why you wrote Protestant/Catholic in the title but then wrote Christian/Catholic throughout the post. Is Christian and Protestant interchangeable? Is this usage prevalent in Protestant circles?

    I know there are Calvinists who believe that if you don’t subscribe to Calvinist theology you’re not properly Christian (so not even Lutherans, Pentecostals and Methodists make the cut). I guess they would talk about Christians vs Pentecostals etc.

    Since I grew up in an unchurched environment I’m interested in these things 😀

    1. You weren’t supposed to notice that. -_-‘

      I’m actually trying to be exclusive, yet note the differences between the two churches. In my mind, Catholics and Protestants are “Christians” (as are Orthodox Christians). However, Protestants usually use the term “Christian” to refer to themselves and “Catholic” to refer to Catholics. I’ve noticed that some Catholics find this offensive and I can understand.

      So what I tried to do was avoid “Christian” in the title and use “Christian/Catholic” to kind of say “Christian and Catholic” and “Christian or Catholic” in the body of the article.

  2. Hmm. When I was younger, one of my Catholic relatives, who knew I was into theology and stuff, asked me once: “What’s the difference between Catholics and Christians?” I stared at him in shock. “What do you mean, don’t Catholics believe in Christ?” He said “Of course”. “Then aren’t you Christian?” “Yeah. I meant Evangelicals…”

    So the usage has evidently caught on even among some Catholics..

    1. Hehe.

      What’s ironic is that “catholic” means body – the “catholic church” (little “c”) is the body of believers. “Believers” are all catholics, but apparently we’re not all Christians. -_-‘

      1. As a Classicist, I must comment here: catholic is from catholicus, which means “universal.” It has been applied to the Church since 110 A.D. and was later used to signify orthodox Christians as opposed to heretics like Arians, Gnostics, Donatists, etc.

        In modern times, a capital C Catholic is one who recognizes the Pope as the head of the Church, while lowercase c catholic can apply to some protestants. For example, a Protestant who believes in the articles of the Athanasian creed: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this.” From which point, the creed declares that the catholic faith means that one believes in the Trinity, that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, Christ suffered for our salvation and rose from the dead, and that there will be a final judgment.

        So, Catholics, Orthodox, and most Protestants are catholics, and groups like the Unitarians/modern Arians cannot be considered catholic.

  3. Catholics refer to those who are not Catholics as Protestants. Catholics do believe in Jesus Christ but not in the way Protestants do. The Catholic Bible is also different than the various translations and versions that most Protestants use (Baptists, Methodists, Orthodox Christians). It’s all very interesting to say the least.

    1. I’m interesting in looking more into the books of bible which differ between Catholics and Protestants. For instance, the Book of Judith is terribly interesting – I wrote a review of an excellent OEL manga on this site which was based on that book.

      1. I just ordered this, actually:

        If you look at the Pdf samples, you’ll see the Gothic font is totally gorgeous. Sadly, they took Judith and the other apocrypha out (more or less those books the Catholics accept but Protestants don’t) which was in the original KJV, for reasons of size (and because most Protestants wouldn’t read them anyway). It’s a pity, but I understand the editorial decision.

        1. Nice! I like me a cool Bible (and that distributor often has good deals on them). While lacking the aesthetic quality of yours, my favorite is an archeological study bible my wife bought me for Christmas several years ago. This reminds me that I need to dust that particular bible off and study or again.

    2. I believe that what you say is true of the majority of Catholics, definitely. I was truly shocked to hear a Catholic refer to Protestants as “the Christians”. It’s like surrendering the PR war!!

  4. It’s good to see the positive reviews! I want to see this so badly, but sadly, I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch it before it becomes available for rentals.
    I have hopes that it will be better than the book-I remember reading it as a child, and though I was fascinated with the idea of the borrowers, I didn’t find the story too interesting.(Although who knows-I was younger then)

    1. Studio Ghibli is that rare company where one EXPECTS the new version to surpass the original material. For instance, while I haven’t read Whisper of the Heart, I have read the one shot following it, and while it’s charming, it doesn’t quite reach the levels of the Ghibli film.

      Of course, even Ghibli can’t get the adaptation right 100% of the time (see Tales from Earthsea).

  5. Interestingly enough TWWK, what would your view be if they a large part of Christian reviewers had given it a negative rating? Its always interesting to see the reaction of christian anime lovers to the potential negative reaction of the rest of the body.

    Its great when the reviews are positive, but how do you handle material which is arguably quite questionable? The amount of times I’ve seen fellow congregates attack others for no other reason than this. I guess it isn’t really something you can blame them for as I would agree there is a whole host of (NSFC) “not-safe-for-church” anime which I would watch but at the same time, I don’t feel inclined to be swayed by such nay sayers. Mainly because I avoid anything too risque but also because if I watch something, I watch it for a reason, as opposed to the potentially “inappropriate” thrills.

    I’m interested in your view of this.

    1. My immediate gut reaction would be, “they don’t like it because of moral objections, not because of quality.” But that would be undermining these reviewers.

      The truth of the matter is this – most of the reviewers I mentioned above are fair about their reviews (I was only familiar with three outlets before reading these Arrietty reviews), in light of their Christian faith. Their faith tells them that they absolutely cannot separate it from their work, but they can find beauty and other signs of God in films that are not about God at all.

      Even a very conservative site, like Movie Guide, which really gets on my craw, is willing to say a film is artistically a masterpiece, even if they find the morals in the film “abhorrent.”

      So knowing this, I’d probably look more deeply into the reviews and see what specifically the reviewers disliked. It’d be interesting to see what kind of results would have come from that.

      1. Yea I think that is how I see it. But at the same time, some people argue that the moral objections are enough alone to justify not seeing such shows. But at the same time, I can’t help but acknowledge the shear breadth of media and really I don’t think anyone can claim they watch something completely free of content not in line with their direct beliefs.

        I don’t really understand how someone can find something a masterpiece yet still, abhorrent, so I agree with your sympathies about Movie Guide.

        It would definitely be interesting. Thanks for the reply though, just a passing thought.

        Hope you feel better soon.

    1. Thanks for sharing the links! I did NOT read Mr. Greydanus’ review in detail, because I’m religious about avoiding spoilers, but I really enjoyed his approach to the film. I always enjoy going back and reading reviews after watching movies and I’ll certainly do that for his.

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