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Anime: Arrietty
aka: The Borrower Arrietty
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.


This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Arrietty, natch.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The North American dub adds "Summertime" by Bridgit Mendler after a shortened English version of "Arrietty's Song".
  • Animation Bump: Apparent with the close-ups and Scenery Porn sweeping shots, especially with the flora and fauna, which move rather realistically with the wind.
  • Audible Sharpness: Arrietty's pin/sword.
  • Badass Adorable: Arrietty. Spiller when he's trying to show off for Arrietty
  • Badass Cape: Spiller has a fur cape that doubles nicely as a hang glider.
  • Bamboo Technology
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: All of the good characters are drawn to be normal and decent-looking. Haru, on the other hand, looks rather toad-like half of the time.
    • Especially apparent considering that Haru herself looks rather normal at first, and only starts looking like a toad after she demonstrates evil tendencies.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Any bugs when drawn in comparison to the borrowers. Ants are the size of rats to them, and crickets are as big as dogs.
  • Big Fancy House
  • 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.
  • Bland-Name Product: We briefly see a bottle of "Ivori Soap".
  • Boy Meets Girl
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The pin.
    • Averted with the dollhouse. The Clocks never move into it, and although Sho replaces their kitchen with the one from the dollhouse, his actions scare the family into moving out.
    • "Don't look down."
  • Creepy Cockroach: Arrietty tries to fight one to show off her bravery.
  • 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.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Arriety's mom.
  • 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.
  • Expressive Hair: A Ghibli staple.
  • Expy: Nearly every major human character has a counterpart in the original books. Sho/Shawn is The Boy, and Aunt Sadako/Jessica is basically Great Aunt Sophy.
  • Facial Markings: Spiller.
  • Fainting: A monster faint, of sorts, when Homily sees Shawn put the doll house kitchen in their home.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Sho survives his operation, since in the introduction you realize the story is told in past tense
  • Forbidden Friendship/Odd Friendship: Between Arrietty and Sho.
  • 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.
  • Happily Married: Pod and Homily.
  • Hate Sink: Haru
  • Housewife: Homily is the only non-action one in the family, preferring to stay at home.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Although Sho and his aunt respect the Borrowers.
  • Ill Boy: Sho, who was always a weak boy and will be getting an operation on his heart.
  • It Was Here, I Swear: Haru tries to show Sadako/Jessica the Borrowers' home.
  • Last of His Kind: Arrietty's mother references this, fearing that she and her family were the last Borrowers. Later proven not to be the case.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Arrietty only let her hair down in the privacy of her own home. When she gives her hairclip to Shawn at the end, it is the only time he sees her with her hair down.
  • Lilliputians: The Borrowers.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Before they go their separate ways in the ending, Arrietty gives Sho her clothespin hairclip.
  • Mouse World: Well, more like a single dwelling.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Sho; the human boy who befriends Arrietty was not named in the book.
  • 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.
  • Noble Savage: Spiller certainly looks the part.
  • Non-Action Guy: Sho, due to his heart condition. Even running for a short distance wore him out.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sho's parents are divorced; he rarely sees his father and his mother is often working.
  • Parents in Distress: Arrietty and Sho team up to rescue Arrietty's mother Homily from Haru.
  • People Jars: Or rather, a Borrower jar.
  • Playing Against Type: Comedic actor Will Arnett voicing the Harrison Ford-esque Pod.
  • Plucky Girl: Arrietty, of course, yet another Ghibli staple.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Sticks far closer to the original book than either of the two live-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.
  • The Quiet One: Pod and Spiller.
    • Sho isn't very talkative either.
  • Scavenged Punk: This being a version of The Borrowers, it goes without saying. This being Studio Ghibli, Scavenged Punk looks more beautiful than ever before.
  • 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.
  • Sleep Mask: Arrietty's mother wears one in bed.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Sho has had a non-descriptive heart condition ever since he was a child, and his operation is due soon.
  • Staring Down Cthulhu: Arrietty, at the end, stares down Niya the cat. Niya blinks and shows her affection to the little being she used to chase.
  • The Stoic: Pod. Sho/Shawn may also count to a lesser extent, since he never really shows any extreme emotions (in spite of being about to undergo very risky surgery).
  • Surprisingly Good English: Inverted with Cecile Corbel and the Japanese version of Arrietty's Song, which she sings herself. It works.
  • Timmy in a Well: Sho's/Shawn's cat leads him to Arrietty's departing family.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The U.S. trailer reveals the Clocks in the teapot on the river, Arrietty befriending the cat, Arrietty and Sho/Shawn saying goodbye, and Arrietty rescuing Homily.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Haru, when she finds that all the evidence of the Borrowers has disappeared.
  • Wham Line: When Shawn and Arrietty first have a conversation: "I'm sorry for upsetting you. I'm actually the one who's going to die."

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alternative title(s): The Secret World Of Arrietty; The Secret World Of Arrietty; The Borrower Arrietty
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