La Maison en Petits Cubes Is an Emotional Anime About Memories

La Maison and Petits Cubes (The House of Small Cubes) is a 12-minute film created by Kunio Kato that was released in 2008. Since its release, it has gone on to win several notable prizes including The Annecy Cristal at the 32nd Annecy International Animated Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Movie at the 81st Academy Awards.

Kato’s evocative animation style paints a magical picture of a post-apocalyptic world that has largely been submerged by water. While the film’s tale of an isolated pensioner who dives deeper and deeper into his past is certainly melancholic, it manages to be just as heartwarming. Kenji Kondo’s poignant score sweeps sadly through each frame and makes up for the short’s lack of dialogue. If this animated masterpiece doesn’t make audiences shed a tear, it’s likely that nothing will.

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La Maison and Petits Cubes’ Plot

La Maison and Petits Cubes tells the story of an aged widower living in a house largely submerged by water. Alone, he spends his time fishing, eating and watching shows on his small television set until he discovers that his apartment has begun to flood once again. In an effort to stay dry, he orders materials from a local seller to begin building an additional level to his home.

Like the steeplejacks of old, the pensioner scales his house to place brick after brick regardless of the weather. After completing his new room, he then begins to move his small collection of possessions piece by piece into a small row boat. However, in the process of doing this, he manages to lose his trusty pipe, which falls into the murky depths of the building where he formerly resided.

Rather than purchase a new pipe, the widower decides to get ahold of some diving equipment and venture through his sunken home to find it. Each room he visits gives rise to memories of his past, from when he first met his wife to his daughter’s wedding day. While the widower’s journey was initially about retrieving his pipe, it becomes a contemplative trip about life and the ones he loves.

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The Importance of Family and Memories

Initially, it appears that the widower’s life is filled with sadness. He remains alone on an isolated island without the support of his family or friends. However, as the short progresses, it becomes clear that he has lived a full life, filled with wonderful moments and people. As he dives deeper through the caverns of his apartment complex, his relationships with his wife, daughter and son-in-law are revealed.

While the people he loves have moved on, the widower appears to gain solace in that he’s had the opportunity to experience each of these moments with them. Although he will never be able to create new memories, the fact that he holds so many, so dear, is something he is eternally grateful for.

In the last few moments of the short, the widower drinks alone just as he did in its opening. However, after his journey, he now sits with two glasses — one for himself and the other for his wife. While she’s not physically present, the pensioner has come to the revelation that she will always be with him in spirit. La Maison and Petits Cubes evokes an important message about the importance of human memory and living life to its fullest while people have the chance.

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Themes of Environmentalism

La Maison and Petits Cubes has a clear environmental message. Its story’s characters are trapped in a liquid desert that continually threatens their survival and quality of life. As the widower progresses through his memories, the nature of the world’s rapid decline is brought to light. While he grew up surrounded by green fields, this landscape would rapidly change and become consumed by the ocean, all within his lifetime.

The short film creates a world that is no longer fit for human living and is washing away the signs of their existence. However, the use of this theme may not just be a call for environmental responsibility but a metaphor surrounding the inevitability of death. As the tides rise, so too does the widower’s age and his coming meeting with his maker.

The old man’s continual need to build his house higher in an effort to avoid being swallowed up by the sea demonstrates mankind’s drive to survive. However, despite this attempt, nature will inevitably take its course. The widower’s rise into the sky symbolically references Jacob’s Ladder and his slow ascent into heaven.

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La Maison and Petits Cubes is a stunning piece of animation that moves the heart in many ways that others are unable. The short paints an evocative picture of life and makes the viewer step back, just like the widower, to appreciate those they love. While many often get consumed by the daily chores of life, this animation takes one step back, even if it’s just for a moment, to appreciate how lucky we all are.

Whether it’s the people audiences surround themselves with or just the taste of a warm meal, La Maison and Petits Cubes sends a clear message that viewers should relish each moment. Ultimately, the clock is ticking and life goes faster than many might expect. Like the widower, it’s easy to dwell on times gone by; however, rather than seeing the past as lost, it can instead be seen as something eternal that can never be taken away.

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