A culture of borrowing: Iconography, ideology and idiom in Kari-gurashi no Arietti/The Secret World of Arrietty | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2051-7084
  • E-ISSN: 2051-7092



Japanese director and producer of animated film, Miyazaki Hayao had long wanted to make an adaptation of the Mary Norton novel, The Borrowers (1952). The film Kari-gurashi no Arietti/The Secret World of Arrietty (Yonebayashi, 2010) at first look strikes one as a suitable fit for Studio Ghibli both culturally and ideologically, with its history of setting stories in imagined European landscapes and its established style of blending fantastic and realist narrative with imagistic elements, and indeed, Japan is itself not without legends of miniature people or Chibi Kobito. The film, however, manifests myriad ambivalences, many of which are derived from the limitations and contradictions inherent in adapting a geographically, historically and culturally ‘foreign’ text. Using Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2000) and their writings on globalization in their work Empire, this paper uses their concept of post-Fordian globalization: an era characterized by global awareness and cultural sensitivity, as a framework from which to analyse the film’s many ambivalences. This article examines cultural, aesthetic and ideological liminality inherent in the Studio Ghibli animated film adaptation of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers, a film which reflects its twenty-first-century production and at the same time, inevitably is pervaded by the cultural context of its nineteenth and twentieth-century antecedents.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): animation; cultural identity; gender; ideology; Japan
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