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“The Borrowers” Feelings of Lingering Joy after Viewing

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

“Aaaah.what a sweet fragrance,” said the elegant lady of the estate as she took out the plant pot no bigger than a fingertip from the kitchen of the dollhouse, and there in the middle was a small mint leaf emitting a scent as if it had just been sprinkled with hot water. So a small smile came across the face of this lady, Sadako, great-aunt of the main character, Sho, as she felt certain that the little people lived on this estate as her father had told her many years ago.

So what will she do next? No. We viewers know she will do nothing. She won't try to rid the estate of the little people by calling a rat exterminator like the housemaid, Haru, and she won't try to appeal to the little people by actually talking to them like the sickly boy, Sho. She is just pleased to look at signs of the little people and doesn't even search for their actual existence. For some reason, that alone makes her extremely happy.

It is true that the film proceeds in this manner afterwards, but somehow, the viewers already know this in advance. This is because her feelings in saying “sweet fragrance” are similar to how I felt at the end of the film. The feeling of, “Aaaah.what a good film.” The end of this movie, where up until now the plot of war and love stories are forgotten immediately and I have never thought of looking up what happened to the main character afterwards (and justly so for a fiction movie), leaves a lingering taste, just like the refreshing scent of the herb tea left behind by the disappearing little people. The enjoyable time has passed. And that is why it is enjoyable.

The same is so for this animated film, “The Borrowers.” When watching an animation where little people hide in a mansion and borrow things such as sugar, biscuits and food scraps to live, we would certainly be surprised at seeing how humans lived from the viewpoint of the little people, excited by the death-defying adventures of moving walls and curtains, and have our hearts warmed by the gentle love story of a giant boy and tiny girl. But when we see Arietty and co. set of on their final journey to a new house, nobody watching is worried about their future. We just think, “Aaaah..what a good film,” looking at the end-credit title.

In the first place, stories of little people etc. are nothing more than a bunch of lies created in somebody's imagination. So, even if you take it as reality, like a child, it means nothing. But after the short-lived lie has moved your heart and you return to the real-world, people receive an unexpected feeling of happiness. You will feel like pieces of the dream you have just witnessed have surrounded you in a faint mist like the herb tea. In this way, “The Borrowers” leaves you with lingering memories of happiness after watching the film. It is a precious, elegant film for today.

“The Borrowers”(Hiromasa Yonebayashi, Director, 2010)

Masato Hase
Professor of School of Culture, Media and Society, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Graduated from School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I, Waseda University, and dropped out of Osaka University Graduate School of Human Sciences. Entered current position after working as an assistant professor at Chiba University.
Majors in visual culture and communication.
Major publications include “Cinema and Technological Experience”(seikyuusya), “Secrets and Pleasure of the Screen”(ibunsha), “Sociological Communication”(co-authored, Yuhikaku), and “It's TV! Everyone Gather Around”(co-authored, Seikyusha).