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Studio Ghibli Challenge #18: Arrietty (2010) Anime Movie Review

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

Arrietty movie poster

Arrietty, or Arrietty the Borrower in Japan, or The Secret World of Arrietty in North America. No matter what the title is it's still talking about the same thing.

If you are a fan of fictional stories or you just happen to like them because it stirs you away from reality, more often times than not you might encounter a certain tale about little people living amongst normal humans. It's not really that uncommon to stumble upon one. Studio Ghibli attempted to create a somewhat similar tale as the others with just a different take.

The movie begins when a young teenager named Sho recalls his experience during the summer when he moved into his mother's home in the rural countryside. He lives with his aunt Sadako and their housemaid Haru. In their home, there are little people called borrowers living alongside them. Their task is to get small provisions so they can live their life normally in just one condition, they must never be seen. Arrietty alongside her parents were the ones that live there.

Arrietty and her family

During the night, Arrietty's father takes her along on her first borrowing mission, to get sugar and tissue paper. They were successful in obtaining the sugar cube but when Arrietty tries to get the tissue paper from Sho's room she was discovered by him and dropped the cube. Even though he has no ill intentions both Arrietty and her father decided to leave.

The next day, Sho leaves the sugar cube in the air vent where the borrowers enter and leave with a note beside it. Arrietty's father does not want to take it because their existence must be hidden from humans. Disregarding his orders she went to see Sho in his bedroom and warned him to leave her family alone. Their conversation was interrupted by a crow that attacked Arrietty but he was able to save her. She returns home and along the way she met her father and decided that since they were discovered they need to move out. Sho, then learns from his aunt that the presence of Borrowers is something that has happened before and was encountered by their ancestors. The dollhouse that they created was for them.

Arrietty was discovered by Sho

Arrietty's father returned home during a borrowing mission injured. He was helped by Spiller, another borrower, and a survivalist. Sho then replaces their home with the dollhouse but the borrowers didn't like it and instead got scared. All of them hurriedly pack their things in order to move out quickly. Sho apologizes to Arrietty and revealed to her that he has a heart condition and will have an operation in the next few days. Even though the operation has little chance of success he already accepted that all living beings die.

Arrietty talks to Sho

Haru, the housekeeper, notices the floorboards were not arranged properly. When she opens it up she discovers Arrietty's mother and captures her and placed her inside a jar. She then stored the jar in a storage room locked away from everybody. Arrietty notices her mother gone and decided to look for her. Haru then locked Sho in his bedroom and called the pest control company to help her capture the other borrowers. Arrietty asks for the help of Sho and they both rescue her mother. He also destroyed all the evidence that may link to the borrowers' presence.

During the night, when Arrietty and her family leave, they were discovered by Sho's cat. He arrives and gives her a sugar cube and he tells her that he got inspired by their perseverance and he himself would like to live through the operation. In return, Arrietty gives him her hairclip. The borrowers leave in a teapot and sailed through the river.

The dollhouse

This film might have been one of the weakest films from the studio but since it is a legend already, it is still good as it is. I personally liked the film. It still has a very moving and simple plot that sometimes captivates my heart. I like that the story didn't overachieve itself. It is very simple and straightforward and it just takes you for a nice ride.

I like the chemistry between Sho and Arrietty. He may have been a sickly teenager who almost lost his will to live but deep inside he finds strength through his curiosity. Meanwhile, Arrietty is like a person who loves to go to on adventures yet she always finds herself in trouble. The villain figure, Haru is quite an imposing character as well. But my problem with her is that she is only shown briefly in the movie. Maybe if at the beginning she already imposes her personality I might like her more as a villain.

Then again what really sold this film for me is the worldbuilding. It's nice to see 2 different yet interacting perspectives both from the Borrowers and the humans. From Arrietty and her family's perspective, a simple sugar cube may be enough to make a few cups of tea but to Sho and the humans, it is something so simple that can be given away at any time. I like how the animation and the design magnified the perspectives of the Borrowers, it kinda felt like you are one of them. Maybe that's the lesson this movie brings. It doesn't matter if there are people who view things differently just as long as we are kind to each other there will be no problem.

Arrietty says goodbye to Sho

The movie has a pretty short runtime of just 95 minutes. Maybe if it just expanded a little bit more like some sort of history or backstory of the Borrowers it might add a little more depth. Sometimes I like movies that have some sort of in-between narratives just to add some explanation to them.

The Secret World of Arrietty is definitely a film for all ages. It is once again a popcorn movie that can easily be watched on a Saturday night with your kids. Everyone can literally appreciate this film from its design, animation, characters, and story.

I will give this movie a typical 3 out of 5 stars.

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