That’s all it takes.
You don’t need 26 episodes. You don’t need 13 episodes. Hell, you don’t even need an hour. You only need 12 minutes.
You only need 12 minutes to have one of the most absorbing, thought provoking, melancholic, bittersweet, beautiful and calm (all at the same time) moments of your life. Le Maison en Petits Cubes (The House of Small Cubes) is proof of that.
This Oscar winning short film (yes, you read right, this anime won an Academy Award in the category Best Animated Short Film in 2009) is about a grumpy old man who builds additional levels onto his home in order to escape the water that is flooding his town. While rummaging through the lower levels looking for his pipe, he is flooded with memories of his life thus far and how the eternal continuum of time filled his journey with speckles of happiness and inklings of sorrow.
With less than quarter of an hour of total run time, there’s not a lot of story. But lack of story does not mean lack of content. By taking the example of an old man, it sends us spiraling down memory lane and makes us relive the flavors of the past, posing questions that you thought about, but never answered. If you were to contemplate on your life right now, what do you think would be the moments that you would take to your grave? What was your life’s defining moments? If you were to disappear today, would there be someone to cry for you?
As you can see, the movie covers a lot of ground with one protagonist and no voices. It has no vocals and for the entire twelve minutes, you are treated to a wonderfully orchestrated violin and piano combination that will enchant you for every second. The sounds of the occasional acoustic guitar just ooze emotion into this already sentimental anime. You can just switch off the monitor, close your eyes and just listen to the music, and still give it a 10/10.
It also works the other way around. Turn off your speakers and just watch the movie. You would still give it a perfect ten – it really is that good. The animation is done in a Van Gough-esque style, much like the one in The Diary of Tortov Riddle. Its break-motion animation also gives the feeling that you’re flipping through the pages of a picture book. Le Maison en Petits Cubes is absolutely beautiful.
The old man is the lone character and it is through his eyes that you see the trials and tribulations of a man. Due to the abstract nature of the show, the true meaning of this anime is wide open for interpretation. It is poetry in motion, filled with rich metaphors and subtle symbolism.
Drenched with meaning, seasoned with style, coated with the perfect chords and pregnant with emotions, Le Maison en Petits Cubes is a masterpiece in every sense of the word.