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Anime / Arrietty

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"Sometimes you have to fight for the things that are worth fighting for."

Arrietty (借りぐらしのアリエッティ — Kari-gurashi no AriettiThe Borrower Arrietty) 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 Mary Norton's book series The Borrowers, with elements of Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina thrown in for flavor.

Arrietty 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 (to them) humans. Their primary rule is to avoid ever being seen by these terrifying creatures. However, Arrietty 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.

Provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Niya the cat is at least partly a Canon Foreigner (there was a cat in the book, but it only appeared briefly), but the trope still counts with her as the book treats all cats as horrible threats that would kill and eat a Borrower given half a chance. Here, after being restrained by Sho for a while, Niya goes from trying to hunt Arietty as a small animal to seemingly regarding her as a tiny human and eventually even slow-blinks at her.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: The Clocks are sweeter and more loving, less inclined to bicker with each other than in the book.
  • 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.
  • Author Appeal: Flight is downplayed compared to most Ghibli movies, but Spiller does depart after his introduction by climbing up a wall and using his cape to paraglide away.
  • 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.
  • Balcony Escape: Sho escapes from his locked room by using the window to enter the next room.
  • 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: The dollhouse is a miniature version.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Three guesses who.
  • 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 Spiller seems to be taking the Clocks to other Borrowers. Sho never sees them again, but he's shaken his hopelessness about his operation and doesn't feel as doomed.
  • Bland-Name Product: We briefly see a bottle of "Ivori Soap".
  • 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 Arrietty, and parts friends with her.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The pin, which ends up being used by Arrietty to free her mother from a jar.
    • The dollhouse, though not in the most obvious way. The Clocks never move into it, but when Sho replaces their kitchen with the one from the dollhouse, his actions scare the family into moving out.
  • Convenient Cranny: Early on, Arrietty escapes Niya by slipping through the metal grid of the basement window which Niya cannot fit through.
  • Creepy Cockroach: Looms over Arrietty, who fends it off.
  • 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: Homily, Arrietty's mom. She constantly tends to go into a huge screaming fit when upset or frightened, so you'd better not be wearing headphones or have your volume up too high when it looks like she's about to freak out.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Though his life prior to The Secret World of Arrietty has yet be given too much detail, what we do know implies Sho's childhood was not a happy one. He was born with a palpitation and it can be assumed that his parents got so fed up with his condition that they decided to divorce and drown themselves in their work, all the while distancing themselves away from Sho as far as possible. For this, he has to live with his caring aunt and her paranoid housekeeper while preparing for a surgical operation that may or may not cost him his life. Need I go on?
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Haru sees the Borrowers as nothing more than thieves and will do anything to protect her employer's home.
  • Distracted by the Luxury: Homily has a weakness for nice things. When Sho gives the Clocks the dollhouse kitchen, her terror subsides to marvel at the beautiful stove and utensils.
  • Drama Queen: Homily is prone to hysterics when under stress, and her first instinct at any sign of trouble is to dramatically announce that they're all doomed.
  • Dramatic Wind: Comes up when Arrietty allows Sho to have a closer look at her at the meadow.
  • 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, possibly. 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.
  • Facial Markings: Spiller.
  • Fainting: A monster faint, of sorts, when Homily sees Shawn put the doll house kitchen in their home.
  • Forbidden Friendship/Odd Friendship: Between Arrietty and Sho.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Sho survives his operation in the dub, since in the introduction you realize the story is told in past tense
  • Friend to Bugs: It depends on the bugs, but the Borrowers don't seem to mind harmless bugs like crickets. Arrietty seems fond of the crickets and pillbugs that share the space under the floors with her family and sees ants, which are enormous to her, as not threatening or gross at all. Averted by Spiller, who hunts crickets as food.
  • 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.
  • Happily Married: Pod and Homily.
  • Hate Sink: Haru. She disparages the doll house that Sho's great grandfather intended for the Borrowers, locks Sho in his room, captures Homily and sees the Borrowers as nothing more than absolute thieves. Her overall plot is to either exterminate the Borrowers with the help of Squeaky Clean Services or reveal their existence to the world.
  • Healthy Country Air: Sho was sent to the rural setting of the story due to needing an operation on his heart. The trope ultimately proves to be true given that the setting allows him to meet the titular character as well as abandon his You Can't Fight Fate attitude concerning life.
  • Homemade Inventions: The Clocks' home, as well as the passages inside of the walls, is full of rope and pulley systems and homemade appliances so they can make use of siphoned gas and electricity. Pod carries the bulb of a nightlight that he uses on nighttime Borrowing excursions and in one scene is shown soldering something electronic.
  • Housewife: Homily is the only non-action one in the family, preferring to stay at home.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Sho and Arrietty are an extreme version. He's an average-sized human and she's a mythical being who can fit inside a dollhouse.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: Although Sho and his aunt respect the Borrowers, it's made clear that even well-intentioned meddling can cause destruction and panic among the small people. Several scenes show humans through Borrower's eyes as vast creatures who usually don't fit in a single frame, and when their faces are shown it's in extreme closeup. Arrietty riding on Sho's shoulder is rocked back and forth with his footsteps and feels the wind of his movement.
  • Important Hair Accessory: Arrietty and her little clothespin hairclip. She gives it to Sho/Shawn in the end.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Downplayed. When the escaped Sho meets Haru in the kitchen, she almost gives her scheme away as she shouts surprised: "But the lock..." His reaction: "Lock?"
  • Innocently Insensitive: Sho, upon meeting Arrietty on the lawn and them having their first real conversation together. He muses on the fact that the Borrowers might be a Dying Race, which understandably upsets Arrietty mightily. It's somewhat compensated for when he admits that he himself may be about to die due to a chronic heart condition for which he is about to have surgery, explaining why he seems so openly fatalistic.
  • It Was Here, I Swear!: Haru tries to show Sadako/Jessica the Borrowers' home.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Sho's kindness toward Niya is Arrietty's first real indication of his kindliness.
  • Large Ham: Haru, at least when she starts hunting the Borrowers. Being dubbed by Carol Burnett certainly helps.
  • 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.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Arrietty and Sho. She's athletic and bold while he's frail and cautious.
  • Memento MacGuffin: Before they go their separate ways in the ending, Arrietty gives Sho her clothespin hairclip.
  • Mouse World: The house, and (in an implied way) everywhere else the Borrowers once dwelt. Spiller on the other hand seems to live far from Beans, in the wild. He knows other Borrowers but where they live isn't shown.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Sho; the human boy who befriends Arrietty was simply 'the Boy' 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 move: 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.
  • Noble Savage: Spiller certainly looks the part. He's not utterly feral, but he lives alone in the wilderness.
  • Non-Action Guy: Sho, due to his heart condition. Even running for a short distance wore him out.
  • Nosy Neighbor: Haru.
  • One Head Taller: Pod and Homily.
  • Opposites Attract: Pod is a calm adventurer and Homily is a neurotic homemaker.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Arrietty is eager for adventure.
  • 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.
  • 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 noticeable ones are the addition of Spiller (who didn't show up until the second book about the Borrowers) and Nya the cat (who wasn't in the book at all, but seems partially based on the cat brought by the exterminator), and the fact Arrietty in the anime has a lot more freedom, being allowed to roam the huge crawl space under the house and sometimes venturing into the garden (even if her mother preferred she didn't go outside), whereas in the book she was kept confined to her home.
  • The Quiet One: On second viewing, you'll realize that all the male characters are quiet types.
  • Riddle for the Ages / Left Hanging: Sho either survives his operation or does not and the Borrowers either reach their new home or end up not getting there. It's purposefully up to interpretation. While the Japanese dub refuses to clarify the characters' ultimate fates, Sho's closing line in the English dub gives the characters a Happy Ending.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The pillbugs that Arrietty encounters early in the film. From her perspective they are similar in size to what a small lapdog would be for an average human, and completely harmless. Arrietty even pets one, then bounces it in her hands a couple of times when it rolls up into a ball before letting it go.
  • 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? A special shout out goes to the scene where she climbs up to the second floor and looks out over the garden.
  • Sewing Needle Sword: Arrietty finds a pin on her first "borrowing" and keeps it for self-defense.
  • Ship Tease: There are a few hints of attraction between Spiller and Arrietty, particularly at the end where he awkwardly holds out a berry to her without looking and then smiles and becomes cheerful when she takes it.
  • 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 teapot/boat has the same design as Kamaji's.
    • An untransformed raccoon dog appears.
    • The plot kicks off with a small but intelligent creature hiding from an aggressive cat inside of a bush in front of a rustic house, then explores the lives of more of these creatures as they make their way by taking supplies, gas, and electricity from the people who live there, and are ultimately forced to relocate their family home. Are we talking about this film, or The Secret of NIMH?
  • 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 Arrietty 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 an unspecified congenital heart problem, 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 Functional Toys: Justified because the borrower-sized dollhouse was made specifically for borrowers to inhabit.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Arrietty and her mother sew together at one point.
  • Timmy in a Well: Sho's/Shawn's cat leads him to Arrietty's departing family.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Arrietty and Homily are a mother-daughter example. Arrietty likes to go exploring while Homily would prefer to stay indoors.
  • 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.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Sho! He catches a glimpse of Arrietty trying to steal a single sheet of tissue paper and tries to talk to her. Pod is inclined to let that slide rather than immediately move the family somewhere else, but the ill and lonely human boy tries leaving Arrietty notes and a sugar cube, which makes her family nervous. It's worse when Sho finds where they live, tears off the ceiling, and replaces their kitchen wall with the kitchen module from the doll house. This terrifies the Borrowers and convinces them that they have to leave; worse, Haru sees the mess he's made and finds the Clocks' home herself.
  • 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."
  • You Dirty Rat!: Arrietty and Pod see a couple rats in the spaces between the walls. Arrietty brandishes her pin like a sword, saying she's not afraid, but Pod warns her that they're pretty dangerous. Seems to be roughly parallel to the relationship between humans and wolves.

Alternative Title(s): The Secret World Of Arrietty, The Borrower Arrietty