Monday, 3 January 2011

Movie: Karigurashi no Arietti (借りぐらしのアリエッティ)

The Borrower Arrietty in English, or Karigurashi no Arietti (借りぐらしのアリエッティ) in Japanese, is definitely one of the must-watch movies this Winter, whether you are a Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿) fan or not. It is worth every cent to watch, not only for it is the debut animation directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi (米林 宏昌), the youngest director for Studio Ghibli, who set an all-time record in Japan for a movie with a first time director with 7.5 million people saw the film in theaters[1], not for the amount of artwork and time spent planning and producing this movie since July 2008[1] but also for the important messages that this movie is trying to send out to the world, which makes it a great movie for children to watch.

I first heard of this movie when I was visiting Tokyo's Ghibli Museum in summer 2010. As you may know that there is usually a very lengthy delay in the release date of Japanese movies in Hong Kong, most people can easily download Japanese movies from the internet long before the movies actually come to the local cinemas. I didn't do that for any animations produced by Studio Ghibli, because that will terribly ruin the big surprises that Miyazaki wants to bring to the audience as well as the chance to watch the movies on the big cinema screen and to be a part of his fantasy, his dream world.

Image from chibisimo
Image from
At that time, I could already see some of his hand-sketch of this movie in the museum, though I didn't know what the little girl's name was, I knew it was definitely a movie worth anticipating for. The museum taught me how immensely difficult it is to create an animation and how many thousands of hours' work is needed to produce it -- an absolute product of passion, manpower, sweat, teamwork, perseverance and sleepless hard work. The depth of research on the natural environment, machinery, physics of motions and facial expressions was already enough to stun any visitors, let alone the creative breakthroughs the team has to make every single animation they produce.

Image from Wikipedia
Adopting from English children book author Mary Norton's The Borrowers seriesKarigurashi no Arietti sets stage in 2010 in Western Tokyo's neighborhood of Koganei, where Studio Ghibli actually locates in real life[1]. 14-year-old Arrietty lives secretly in the human world with her miniature Borrower  parents under a human family's house, sustaining their living through "borrowing" food and other things from human while keeping their existence unknown to them. During herb picking, she is discovered by a sick human boy named Sho who later raises suspicions of his Aunt Sadoko that the Borrowers do exist. Sho's friends-making with Arrietty has caused troubles and even danger to the Borrowers family as he accidentally leaves traces for Aunt Sadoko to investigate, leaving the Borrowers with no choice but to leave. The original novel by Mary Norton was quite a sad ending, as the Boy (who is Sho in the movie) never got to see Arrietty before she left, while Miyazaki and team changed this ending.

How is the ending changed? You will need to see for yourself. After watching the movie, you are suggested to read this lengthy review by Studio Ghibli team themselves. But I definitely want to talk about the messages the movie conveys.

In the part which Sho finally gets to meet Arrietty face-to-face for the first time, Sho talks about the situation that the Borrowers are facing. He says that the Borrowers is an endangered species of this planet, and just like many other minority species, he only gets to read about them in books, many of which only exist in books by the time they are discovered as they are already extinct, which is due to the fact that human beings have grown to such a big number and they destroy their environment. Having heard that, Arrietty fights back and says that even though they are facing extinction, they will continue to bravely strive for survival.

Up to this point, what is in your mind?

Image from
Immediately, I was reminded of the Pteroptyx firefly that first appears in Nam Sang Wai, Hong Kong. They are unique to Hong Kong and is the first type of such firefly ever recorded in China. Yet the land they live in is privately owned by the famous "Uncle 4' Dr. Lee Shau Kee of Henderson Land Development, who has the rights to build golf courses and 2,500 housing units[2]. No matter how many people protested in Nam Sang Wai [3], how many people want to save the wetland, how WWF tries its best to protect the habitats [4], Nam Sang Wai's fireflies and many other minority living species could not escape from numerous forest fires that broke out continuously on the same piece of land coincidentally in 2 consecutive days [5]. Well, the air is so DRY that the same piece of WET-land was burnt to ashes, no doubt about that! Poor fireflies, the Nam San Wai's Borrowers......

If we don't conserve and protect, who will?

Here I round up with the Japanese theme song of the movie sung by  French-Brettone singer and celtic harpist Cécile Corbel, which you should be hearing once you come visiting this page. Although I don't know the meaning of the song, but her voice is just miraculously smooth and only someone who is an expert in the Japanese language and produce that mellow yet jumpy singing with controlled twitches at perfect places. Listening to this song, makes me want to protect everything on this planet and to love everything.

Grave of the Fireflies
Image from
Hope you do too!

coincidentally -- (adv) happened by chance
miraculously -- (adv) very effective or surprising or difficult to believe
mellow -- (adj) smooth, soft or developed; not too sharp, bright, new or rough
twitch -- (n)   [Ca sudden small, usually unintentional, movement of a part of the body
harpist -- (n)  [Ca person who plays the harp, the musical instrument Cécile Corbel in playing in the above MTV

Hiromasa Yonebayashi @ Wikipedia

Hayao Miyazaki @ Wikipedia

Studio Ghibli

Ghibli Museum

Mary Norton @ Wikipedia

The Borrowers by Mary Norton @ Wikipedia

Koganei @ Wikipedia

Borrower Arrietty Trailer

Kari-gurashi no Arietti @ IMDb

Anime News Network


Hong Kong Biodiversity @ Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department Newsletter

[2] Hong Kong Planners Deny Henderson Land Delay on Site, RTHK Says @ Bloomberg

[5] No eyes in skies as hillfires rage @ The Standard

Nam Sang Wai @ Wikipedia

Nam Sang Wai @ Hong Kong Wetland Park

Arrietty's Song / Cecile Corbel ( セシル・コルベル )