In a flooded town where the waters are ever-rising, an old man must constantly build new floors onto his home in order to keep dry. But when his favorite smoking pipe falls into the watery abyss beneath him, he dives into the depths of not only his house, but memories of years past.
Tsumiki no Ie is a short film about the everlasting effect of time on one's life—how it can swallow the past entirely, and how one must learn to continue moving forward despite what has already happened.
The Architectural Intricacies of Sentiment: A Review of Tsumiki no Ie (The House of Small Cubes)
Human life is a ceaseless pageant of poignant relationships and times long gone. A torchbearer of this sentiment, Tsumiki no Ie (The House of Small Cubes) presents a ferociously tender narrative that embraces the anthropocene and architecture to weave an emotional 12-minute tale. Produced by Robot Communications and directed by the brilliant Kunio Kato, this piece of anime cinema won the Academy Award for the Best Animated Short Film in 2008 and invites you to glimpse the depths of memory through the lens of its aged protagonist.
The story is an intimate portrayal of an old man living in a city submerged in water due to global warming. Each time the water levels rise, he stacks a cube onto his existing house – each cube representing an era of his life. One fine day, he accidentally drops his favorite smoking pipe into the lower floors. Donning diving gears, the old man embarks on a journey, where he dives into the depths of his house, or more accurately, into the remnants of his memories. With every single breathless dive, he reconstructs his life – love, loss, and longing unfold within the blocky boundaries of his unique underwater abode.
Stirring Silent Narrative – A Masterstroke
Tsumiki no Ie is a silent film, devoid of any dialogue, and relies upon visual narrative along with short bursts of gripping music to convey the intricate tale. The beauty is in its simplicity; the narrative is straightforward, yet profoundly moving. By exploring the space one floor at a time, the protagonist’s bemused expression, now and then filled with loss or mirth, implicitly reflects the diverse emotional spectrum that life offers.
Artistic Ingenuity – Visually Striking
The anime takes an inventive approach to render connections between time and space. Each room or floor is a different epoch, vividly recreated. The visuals are detailed meticulously; the rusty hues of the submerged part of the house contrast beautifully with the sunny, bright upper levels. The innovative texture of watercolor background and crisp character designs add layers to the storytelling, bringing out the poignancy of the narrative.
Music – Melodic Companion of Nostalgia
The harmonious music by Kenji Kondo underscores the emotional resonance of the storyline. The soulful piano tunes, playful notes reflecting the joy of the protagonist’s younger days, and melancholic music marking losses powerfully echo the silent narrative, guiding the viewers through the old man’s memory lane.
Verdict – A Must Watch!
Tsumiki no Ie stands as a cinematic ode to life, love, and the relentless passage of time. The short runtime does not diminish the anime’s emotional coherence but rather adds to its appeal, making it an experience that can be savored over and over again. In the end, the anime leaves you with a profound sense of lingering nostalgia and the bittersweet joy of introspection.
Whether it’s a buy, rent, or stream, you would be amiss if you didn’t give this Academy Award-winning anime “house” a visit. After all, sometimes, the smallest cubes of time build the most enormous mansions of memory!
Happy reviewing my fellow otakus and see ya on the flip side!
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