The Secret World of Arrietty

The Secret World of Arrietty is a Japanese anime film that is loosely based on Mary Norton’s popular children’s book, The Borrowers. The screenplay was written by Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa. It was directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The credits list Miyazaki as a “developing planner” for the film. Not surprisingly it has a look and feel similar to his earlier works.

Sean is a sickly boy who is sent to stay with his great-aunt, Jessica, in the house his mother grew up in. He eventually learns that there is a family of little people, who are 10 cm tall, living under the floorboards of the house. They call themselves “Borrowers”, since they live by “borrowing” things from the humans (who they call “beings”) who live in the house. They believe themselves to be members of a dying race. The family consists of fourteen-year-old Arrietty, her father, Pod, and her mother, Homily. Sean sees Arrietty’s on a couple of occasions, and he eventually succeeds in communicating with her. When Pod learns of this, he tells the family they will have to leave, for it isn’t safe for Borrowers to remain in a house after “beings” have discovered them. They begin preparing to leave. Meanwhile, Sean tries to help them by giving them furniture from a doll’s house, but this only leads to the family servant, Hara, learning of the Borrowers’ existence. She begins plotting to capture them (although the film never makes clear what she plans to do with them). She captures Homily and puts her in a jar. Sean then helps Arrietty to rescue her mother.

The best thing about this film is the detailed and convincing fantasy world it creates. The insides of the walls of the house are a fantastic landscape through which the Borrowers travel, walking on enormous nails and using tiny ropes to haul themselves up. The house that the Borrowers live in is put together from scraps and odds and ends that they find, including postage stamps as wall decorations. And when they go outside the house, the lawn is like a jungle, where they< have to avoid deadly creatures, such as cats and crows

The Secret World of Arrietty lacks the haunting, dream-like quality of Spirited Away, but it is nonetheless an entertaining fantasy adventure.

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