In Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s anime, Kari-Gurashi no Arrietty (The Borrower Arrietty) illustrates a world where “little people” exist and live by “borrowing” small things from human beings, such as cookies, cubes of sugar, etc. Dwelling beneath the floor of a human house, Clock family manages to stay hidden until Arrietty Clock unintentionally made a contact with a sick human boy, Sho. The unfortunate event forces the family to search for a new home. However, Yonebayashi successfully creates a narrative of Arrietty’s transition of behavior through a tiny cube of sugar. The sugar also eventually becomes able to communicate an eternal friendship between the two characters and appreciation of life behind the tragic event.
In early scene of the movie, Sho places a cube of sugar that Arrietty drops the night before near the drain of his house. Forbidden to touch it by his father, Arrietty hesitates whether to pick it or not as shown in this scene. The reflection of Arrietty’s leg on the small pond of water represents her shying away from her true self. The rusty bars behind Arrietty also symbolize her confined feelings due to the fear of putting her family into more danger. The white sugar which represents the pure intention of friendship from Sho is slowly taken by the ants, symbolizing its corruption. Yonebayashi tries to associate this scene with the young audiences’ experience that they should understand how parents actually care for their safety when they are dictated what they should not do.
Eventually, Arrietty decides to bring the sugar back to Sho and tells him to stay away from her family. Her action of throwing the sugar cube through the window of Sho’s bedroom indicates that she is still afraid of establishing a friendship with Sho. However, she begins to open herself up the moment she bravely speaks with Sho. As the story progresses, Arrietty’s begins to trust Sho more when he helps Arrietty to rescue her kidnapped mother.
In the last scene near the ending, Arrietty delightfully receives another cube of sugar from Sho. The sugar is no longer untainted from dirt or the ants, indicating a new friendship born between Arrietty and Sho. The openness that Arrietty demonstrates toward the gift shows how much she has changed now from before. Now, she seems to be true to herself and be able to remove her doubt, created from her own imagination that all human are dangerous. Sho who previously gives up on his life due to his heart disease also learns from Arrietty the courage to live. The close intimacy between Arrietty’s hand and Sho’s finger bridged by the sugar represents the real significance of the food as a symbol of eternal friendship. Although they would eventually part their ways, this “sweet” moment may never be forgotten.
Consequently, Yonebayashi shows how the food, although it is small, may be used to humbly share the feelings between two different kinds of people, Arrietty and Sho, and to teach one another about some appreciation of life.