The Borrower Arietty is a 2010 Studio Ghibli film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi and written by Hayao Miyazaki, in what marks the former's directorial debut. It's based on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "Thumbelina" and Mary Norton's book series The Borrowers.Arietty is a young member of a race known as the Borrowers. As one might suspect from that name, they make their living stealing items (borrowing, in their parlance) from the giant "human beans." Their primary rule is to avoid ever being seen by these terrifying creatures. However, Arietty meets a human boy who seems to be gentle and kind. Nonetheless, she is forbidden from seeing him.The film hit UK and Australian cinemas in June and September 2011 respectively under the shortened title Arrietty. Disney released their own dub in the United States as The Secret World of Arrietty in February 2012. It ended up making $145.6 million worldwide (with more than 75% of that coming from a $110 million gross in Japan), including $19.2 million in the U.S.
Bittersweet Ending: Arrietty and her family ultimately move away from the house, the Borrowers never ended up using the doll house like Sho's great-grandfather hoped, and Sho soon faces his operation. However, Arrietty and Sho tenderly part ways, exchanging tokens to each other, and it's implied that Arrietty and her family will live in a more hopeful and safe place. In the Disney dub, Sho's operation was a success. He was basically preparing to die beforehand, but the ending narration reveals that he's still alive a whole year later. In a tradeoff, though, he never sees them again.
In the Japanese version it's also implied Sho survives the surgery. The movie begins with Sho's voiceover saying "I'll never forget that summer", which would imply he's remembering something that happened to him some time ago, which would mean he survived the surgery.
Canon Foreigner: Niya the cat doesn't really have any book counterpart. While cats are mentioned several times (especially the one rumored to have taken Arrietty's cousin Eggletina), and the Borrowers are legitimately afraid of them, no cats actually appear on-page.
Cats Are Mean: Played straight at first—Sho's cat Niya is a mean predatory thing. Ultimately subverted when he makes his peace with the Borrowers, fetches Sho for Arietty, and parts friends with her.
Creepy Crows: A crow attempts to catch Arrietty, only to crash and get stuck in a window screen.
Cultural Translation: The books are set in Edwardian England; the anime version takes place in 2010 in Western Tokyo's neighborhood of Koganei (which is also where Studio Ghibli happens to be located). Unlike many Ghibli films in the past, some names were changed in the dub as well as flipping some scenes to make it seem like it's set in America, although the backgrounds make it clear where it is actually set.
Dub Name Change: Sho to Shawn, Sadako to Jessica, Haru to Hara, and Niya to Nina (though it's still "Niya" in the closed captions) in the Disney dub.
Dying Race: The Borrowers, at least allegedly. Borrowers live so far away from each other (in comparison to their size) that they have very little contact, so they can't be sure how many other Borrowers still exist in the world.
Gaslighting: Sho pulls a minor case of this on Haru, moving the dollhouse kitchen back to the dollhouse when she's not looking to convince her that she's imagining the Borrowers.
He also appears in front of her after she locks him in his room, visibly startling her.
Gentle Giant: Sho would be this from Arrietty's point of view.
Good Parents: Pod is a stern yet fair version. Homily may be a bit more easily hysterical and anxious when it comes to the safety of her family, but she cares very much for Arrietty and wants the best for her daughter.
Hair Decorations: Arrietty and her little clothespin hairclip. She gives it to Sho/Shaun in the end.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Sho's effort to do Arrietty and her family a kind turn by giving them the dollhouse kitchen not only traumatizes Homily and forces the family to prepare to move, but it also leads to Haru discovering their home and capturing Homily. Though Homily, as predicted, really likes that kitchen and is heartbroken to part from it.
To his credit, Sho later apologies; but by then it's too late.
Plucky Girl: Arrietty, of course, yet another Ghibli staple.
Pragmatic Adaptation: Sticks far closer to the original book than either of the twolive-action adaptations, but there are a lot of changes to both make the story more accessible and visually interesting. Aside from the shift in setting (Edwardian England to modern-day Western Tokyo), the most noticable ones are the addition of Spiller (who didn't show up until the second book about the Borrowers) and the cat (who wasn't in the books at all), and the fact Arrietty in the anime has a lot more freedom, being allowed to roam the garden whereas in the book she was kept confided to her home.
Scenery Porn: It's Studio Ghibli. Were you expecting anything else?
Ship Tease: There are a few hints dropped here and there that Spiller likes Arrietty.
Shout-Out: Spiller's costume and facial markings are very reminiscent of San's wardrobe and make-up from Princess Mononoke, and his bow has the same coloration as Ashitaka's did in the same movie.
In the photo of Sho's mother and aunt as children, they look similar to Satsuki and Mei from My Neighbor Totoro. In addition, their mother resembles the mother of Satsuki and Mei.
The title character is a young woman in her early teens belonging to a mythical race. She wears a mono-colored one-piece dress, has dark(-ish) colored hair, has a bow-like hair ornament, and she befriends a cat. Sound familiar?
The main characters are tiny and live in an old house in an idyllic part of the country. Two of them trespass into an old woman's kitchen to gather condiments: one is small but bold, the other is larger and much more cautious. The old woman tries to exterminate them; their home is destroyed and the family has to make a dangerous journey downriver. The tiny/bold character meets a sympathetic young man and they form a brunette/redhead pair in one of the most (if not the most) gorgeous movies the film company has produced. That movie had Food Porn in place of Scenery Porn. It's probably just a coincidence; then again the two companies are friends.
A rude, spotted fat cat who fights with a crow? That's new.
Spiller's golden teapot near the film's end seems to resemble Kamaji's.
Shown Their Work: The way the liquids behave on small-scale. They all have surface tension, so water beads from their teapot in droplets, and melted cheese forms big round balls, among other things.
The flora and fauna are animated in a rather realistic manner, right down to the dew that forms on top of them.
Niya's slow blink towards Arrietty is used by real cats as a gesture of affection.
Sho's movements display a sense of enormous ponderous mass when shown from the borrowers' perspective. It's most apparent when Arrietty is riding on his shoulder.
The crow attack, executed with the sort of intelligence that corvids actually possess. The crow spots Arrietty, caws, and looks away, so Arietty turns away as well, to talk to Sho. Several minutes later, the "harmless" crow suddenly attacks from her blind side. Only the cawing of another crow gives the attack away at the last second.