Ponyo and The Secret World Of Arrietty

The two latest works to come from the minds of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli are Ponyo and The Secret World of Arrietty.  I had always intended to write about Ponyo, on the assumption that it would be worth writing about – but it wasn’t.

Really. Nothing to talk about at all.

Arrietty, then provides a dilemma. Am I intrigued by it simply because it is not Ponyo?

Ponyo was rambling and incoherent – but lavishly so. Fault cannot be found in the animation or attention to detail. But, several months after the initial viewing, all I can truly remember is listening to a goldfish-girl shout “Ponyo!” over and over…

 …and over.


Arrietty however, is different.

While attention to detail and flawless animation are still present, we have very different story and character components. Instead of a loosely-defined world on a massive scope, with loudmouthed title characters, we get the secret – and quiet – world of Arrietty – a memorable and serious, yet believable little Borrower.

Arrietty being serious and memorable.

This is a world of vast differences – not a new concept to the creators. Just about every film they’ve crafted pits two worlds against each other (humans v. nature, our world vs. spirit world, the sea vs. the land…  etc.) – the world with which we are familiar, and the vastly shifted perspective of the Borrowers.

Set against the digestible dichotomy is a simply story of friendship, healthily portioned with the importance of family and coming of age themes:

At the tender age of fourteen, Arrietty is ready to go ‘borrowing’ from the big people with her father. Accidentally seen by a young boy who is visiting the big house, a tentative friendship sparks. The boy yearns for company before his risky heart surgery; Arrietty is desperate for adventure and contact with the outside world.

Although their connection endangers Arrietty’s family, in the end, their mutual trust and understanding allows them to save Arrietty’s mother from the slightly bonkers house keeper, and both of them come away from this summer encounter a little stronger. The boy, previously resigned to death, is now determined to fight and win, while Arrietty has gained experience and more than a little wisdom regarding the wide world that awaits her.

A Borrower’s view.

 Perhaps it is too simple, but after the convolution and irrelevance of Ponyo – its inability to establish suspension of disbelief – Arrietty is a welcome change.

Neither massive in scope, nor sprawling in story, it’s not meant to be the next Princess Monoke or Spirited Away. Its down-to-earth (sic) setting prevents it from being Howl’s Moving Castle. Instead, its solid characters, simplistic story, and graspable setting seem designed for one thing: to be as unlike Ponyo as possible.

If you analyze this picture carefully, you will notice it is the exact opposite of Arrietty

If my like for Arrietty is simply a knee-jerk reaction to Ponyo, I assert it is because Arrietty is itself a reaction to Ponyo.

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