The House of Small Cubes – A Lot Packed Into Just 12 Minutes

A Film That Time Should Not Forget

Image result for the house of small cubesLast week you may recall my look into The Diary of Tortov Roddle, a short six episode ONA series that offered unique visuals while being thought provoking at the same time. I expressed interested in seeing more work like this and so decided to look into creator Kunio Katou. This lead me to the last project Robot Communications did in 2008, and today’s point of discussion, The House of Small Cubes.

In its 12 minute runtime, this short film manages to pack in an awful lot. Conveying ideas clearly and effectively, packing an emotional punch, all while leaving room for the viewer to fill in some of the gaps between. I want to preface any further discussion here by saying this is 100% worth looking into, especially if you were a fan of The Diary of Tortov Roddle like I was. Seriously, give it a watch.

The story of this film is about an elderly man who one day awakens to find his house slightly flooded. You quickly note that other buildings are at varying levels of submersion and can gather that they were once not underwater at all. He begins to build a new home on the roof of the existing one, preparing for the water to rise even more. Eventually, this task is complete but along the way he loses his smoking pipe down the fishing hatch in his previous dwelling.

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Thus begins his adventure down into the increasingly desolate and lonely floors of the house he’s built throughout the years. You see the story of his life to this point told in reverse as memories flash back to him with each level. It’s kind of like that sequence in Up, which may be just as poignant for some. Additionally, each floor gets larger and more ornate, a stark contrast to the tiny cube of a room he starts in.

Eventually, you see a memory of a time where there was no water at all, that the house was built on land. This background detail, while kind of obvious, is never explained in the picture. Instead, it is left up to the audience how and why this place began to flood as time went on. It’s the little details, which there are a lot of, that make this so much more than it otherwise would be.

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Incidentally, this film won several awards.

Beyond this, it would be reckless for me to explain the film any further. It is so short that doing so would virtually eliminate the point in watching this for yourself. However, I wanted to mention what I did because Kunio Katou excels at creating these small world details that leave you wanting to explore more while presenting these interesting stories in the process. They have this almost melancholic feeling to them that, while not having me feeling sad, leave me walking away like I watched something meaningful.

It truly is a shame that he has not really done much more. Aside from this and The Diary of Tortov Roddle, he really hasn’t done all that much. Outside of a few commercials and one additional series of shorts in 2012 titled “Scenes” he has virtually disappeared as a creator. It would have been fantastic to see him attached to a larger work such as a film or even an episode director of some anime because I am sure that his style would resonate with a larger audience.

Art like this should not be forgotten to time like it has seemed to be destined for. Through these articles, I hope that I have shed at least a little light onto them. While I don’t have the reach of Digibro, who originally started me on this journey, I hope you share and encourage folks to check these titles out because they are well worth your time, especially given how short each is.

With that, I aim to track down more obscure works like this and discuss them in the future. If you have a suggestion, please feel free to leave it in the comments. I would prefer shorter works that I can find, but I’m open to most things. Additionally, I’d love to hear what you thought about the film! As always, please consider utilizing my donation button and thank you so much for reading.

11 thoughts on “The House of Small Cubes – A Lot Packed Into Just 12 Minutes

  1. Jon Spencer reviewing short films, what’s next K at the Movies reviewing anime? What a gorgeous short film, I’m glad I got to watch that to start my post reading expedition. The score is so charming and it really is impeccable visual storytelling.

    Thanks for reminding me that When the Wind Blows exist and that’s a very similar one that I should watch sometime.

    Well, it looks like time hasn’t forgotten this review, isn’t that remarkably reassuring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the short films you took a look at. Of the two you viewed, this one is easily the best. When I find out about a neat short film like this I try to watch ’em. I’ve seen others but they weren’t as notable sadly.

      Hope the rest of your post expedition today is fun 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! This was such a poignant short and I’m glad I saw it last year. I have severe issues against the Oscars, but if any film deserved one it was The House of Small Cubes. It even beat out a freaking PIXAR short that same year, so let that sink in. Kunio Kato seriously needs to go back into animating things. I’m happy you got to review this gem of an anime short.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really enjoy finding stuff like this and am glad I decided to look into something Digibro talked about. A lot of folks hate him, but he does point folks at interesting stuff sometimes.

      Anyway, thanks for reading. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 If you have any other things like this that I ought to look into, feel free to let me know!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely. I’ve seen that name, but I never saw his videos. I’m glad you like the artsy side of anime.

        No problem, Jon. I would recommend Golden Time if you’re looking for works from the same animation studio. As far as other anime are concerned, I’d say Angel’s Egg, A Tree of Palme, and maybe Princess Kaguya.

        Liked by 1 person

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