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Glassy Ocean

Entry updated 3 May 2021. Tagged: Film.

Japanese short animated film (1998). Original title Kujira no Chôyaku. Project Team Sara. Directed and written by Shigeru Tamura. Voice cast includes Ichirō Nagai and Kento Ogasawara. 23 minutes. Colour.

As a liner crosses the ocean, a boy (Ogasawara) looks out over the sea, watching a school of flying fish; another passenger remarks "I bet we're being followed by some kind of giant fish".

Our point of view retreats, leaving the ship, now immobile, in the distance. The sea is unmoving too, as the colour shifts and we see an old man (Nagai) standing atop a wave, bringing down an axe: cracking the sea like glass, he takes out a fish. He also plucks a flying fish from the air and gives it to his cat. From the shape of the waves he realizes a whale is about to surface, so lights a fire and – as water people appear and sing – reminisces about his past: in another place he and a Robot travelled in a steamboat called "Gondwana" winding up stopped clocks, amid warped, grey half-drowned Cities and Dinosaur skeletons in a landscape of eccentric Gravity. Later, he sees the whale has begun to surface, and during the several hours it takes to breach, sightseers gather and talk, including a painter who recalls seeing the old man's steamboat at the world's edge, motionless.

At the close we go back to the liner: the boy says he sees a whale about to jump.

In the dream logic of this film, Time Distortion means the sea is as solid as glass to those who live on its surface. For the liner's passengers, time is moving faster – though the animation suggests it might still be slower than normal. This is an odd, surreal (see Absurdist SF) film, whose simple art style makes charming backgrounds, but – unlike Tamura's other films Blue Little Bear Ursa Minor Blue (1993) and A Piece of Phantasmagoria (1995) – works less well for its characters. Glassy Ocean was an influence on Tatsuo Sato's Cat Soup (2001), particularly the music by Utollo Teshikai. [SP]


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