On Sept. 29-30, Studio Ghibli Fest will screen one of the final three films in its lineup for the year. The sixth film in the nine-part cinematic event is The Secret World of Arrietty, which is one of my favorite Ghibli films.
Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa adapted The Secret World of Arrietty, or The Borrower Arrietty in Japan, as a screenplay based on Mary Norton’s The Borrowers. The film, praised for its animation and music, was also the directorial debut for Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Yonebayashi left Studio Ghibli in 2014 and established Studio Ponoc in 2015.
View the trailer
The film centers on a young girl named Arrietty Clock. She has been living in isolation with her family, under the floorboards of a house on the outskirts of Tokyo. Arrietty and her family are Borrowers, tiny people that “borrow” small items from normal humans in order to survive. Arrietty dreams of going on daily missions to gather necessities with father, Pod Clock. As Arrietty nears her 14th birthday, her father agrees to take her on her first adventure to get tissue paper and sugar for Arietty’s mother. All seems to be going well. Until she is spotted by Sho, a sick boy who is staying in the home before he has a heart operation.
Sho only wants to befriend Arrietty and protect her family. But his knowledge of their existence scares her father and her anxiety-ridden mother, Homily. Despite her family’s many warnings, Arrietty is intrigued by Sho. She observes him and eventually befriends him, which leads many issues for Arrietty’s family. Attempting to help the borrowers, Sho accidentally reveals their location to the cruel housekeeper, Haru, who wants to rid the house of the family. Ultimately, Arrietty’s father decides it is best for their safety to flee their long-time home. This cuts short the new found relationship between Arrietty and Sho.
Studio Ghibli really knows how to develop characters. They have the ability to make you feel what the character feels, they are relatable, and you want what is best for them every step of the way. At first, our main character, Arrietty, is seemingly over-confident and slightly arrogant, but we watch her learn that she is not in control of her world like she originally thought. She develops a sense of urgency and starts to take responsibility for the carelessness of her actions, making you hope she is successful in her endeavors to help her family. She learns how to live with her mistake that forever changes her relationship with her mother, father, and our other main character, Sho.
Unlike Arrietty, Sho is a fragile, sick boy that you can’t help but feel sorry for. He has been abandoned by his busy family, he is in poor health, and seems to be stuck in an apathetic and depressed state of mind. Despite his poor health, Sho does everything he can to protect Arrietty and grow their relationship. Ghibli makes you question Sho’s fate as the film goes on. He is a tragic character that we truly hope pulled through in the very end.
Animation and Music
As you would expect from a Studio Ghibli film, Arrietty is beautifully animated with a great soundtrack. Critics praised the film for its beautiful imagery and whimsical music that made you truly feel that you were part of Arrietty’s world. Every detail and choice in this film had a purpose, whether it was to show off it’s brilliant animation or invoke your love for nature and your surroundings. Arrietty ended up being the highest grossing film in Japan in 2010. The film won many awards for best animation at award shows like The Japan Academy Prize. Composer Cecile Corbel produced the score. He uses this captivating soundtrack to immerse the audience in the truly unique world that Arrietty lives in.
Though I feel as though people underappreciate Arrietty, the film grossed over $145 million dollars worldwide. First-time director Hormasa Yonebayashi gave us a film that was nothing short of what we would expect from a Studio Ghibli film. Arrietty offered us other-worldly animation and detail, in-depth storytelling, and unforgettable characters that fit perfectly under the Ghibli umbrella.
Be sure to experience The Secret World of Arrietty. You can watch the English dub on Sept. 29 and the subtitled on Sept. 30. Check Studio Ghibli Fest to see which local theaters near you will screen The Secret World of Arrietty!
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Featured image credit: Studio Ghibli