|The Japanese poster for Arrietty|
The Borrowers by Mary Norton was one of my favorite books growing up. I longed to shrink into their little world and drink tea from thimbles and eat off of buttons. I don't know why the world of itsy bitsy holds such pleasure for children (maybe our desire to be bigger than something else?), but I couldn't get enough of The Borrowers world and read every book in the series available at that time.
In 2010, Hiyao Miyazaki's animation studio, Studio Ghibli, released Arrietty The Borrower in Japan. Studio Ghibli's best known film in America is My Neighbor Totoro. We were still living in Nagoya at the time and visiting a wonderful park, Mori-koro Park. One of their halls had a Studio Ghibli exhibition with drawings and posters from all the Studio Ghibli films as well as three-dimensional mock-ups of Arrietty's film set. I was thrilled to see one of my childhood books made into a movie by an animation studio that I admire.
Now that it finally came to the U.S., I took my girls opening weekend hoping they would love Arrietty's world and want to read the book. They've watched several Studio Ghibli films, Totoro is a favorite as well as Kiki's Delivery Service (adorable) and Ponyo.
|Loving Totoro at Morikoro Park|
The movie started and the girls gasped, "Look! Arrietty lives in Japan!"
I hadn't counted on the Japanese background in watching the movie. The girls were taken with the everyday items of Japan more than the story of the Borrowers. Arrietty's house is under a futon closet. Her mother makes green tea. The sugar borrowed is cubed, not so unusual, but completely normal in a Japanese sugar pot. Signs are in Japanese. My kids even recognized the kind of car Shawn's grandmother drives. The crow in the movie is as much of a nuisance as crows are in real Japan.
As I watched, I realized the Japaneseness of Studio Ghibli's stories may be one of the things I most love about their films as well. It's nice to revisit places you love in films. Even when you're not expecting it.