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Anime / La Maison En Petits Cubes

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Building a new cube

La Maison en Petits Cubes ("The House of Small Cubes") is a 2008 animated short film (12 minutes) directed by Kunio Kato.

Despite the French title, this is in fact a Japanese animated film. The story features an old man, living alone in a small room that turns out to be atop a high tower. The reason that the tower is high is that the old man's whole city has been flooded and is under several stories' worth of water. The waters are still rising, in fact; when the water laps the front door of the old man's room he builds another room on top of the one he's currently in (hence the title, as the old man builds cube after cube).

One day the old man, who is always puffing on a pipe, drops it, and the pipe falls far down to the bottom of his tower. The old man promptly dons scuba gear and dives to the bottom to retrieve the pipe. As he dives through the abandoned, flooded floors of his tower, things that he sees remind him of his old life.


La Maison en Petits Cubes is the only Japanese anime product to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and the second anime to win an Oscar overall, following Spirited Away.


  • After the End: There's no explanation of why the town has flooded, but global warming seems to be a pretty good guess. Society seems to be functioning, as the man receives a delivery by boat and watches TV, but something disastrous has obviously happened. And since the man has had the chance to build cube after cube, the sea level rise is apparently very gradual.
  • Back to Front: Sort of. The flashbacks are presented in reverse order as the man scuba dives down one cube after another, starting with him feeding his dying wife, ending with him meeting his wife as a child and later getting married.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Of the Victorious kind: They met as young children, and got married when they were adults.
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  • Cool Old Guy: He goes scuba diving for a pipe!
  • Determined Homesteader: A variant. The old man has hung on in his old house, simply building new cube after new cube rather than evacuating. Naturally, his motivation is that it's built on the house he and his wife built together.
  • Flashback: The old man's life is told through a series of flashbacks as he goes down levels of his tower.
  • In the Style of: This film does not look like Japanese anime at all, instead resembling French animation, which is no doubt the reason for the international title.
  • Flooded Future World: The show is set on an Earth that's mostly seawater. The level rises steadily, as the main character discovers one morning while getting out of bed when his feet get wet in inch-deep water on his floor. The solution is to build another room atop his current room, which he has done five or six times previously. There are a few other people that visit him, always traveling by boat, which is also how the man acquires his building materials.
  • Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: The short is entirely dialog-free.
  • Ruins of the Modern Age: Eventually the film reveals that there was a major city where the old man lives. Only a couple of building tops are still visible.
  • Time Passes Montage: An elegant one. The man and his wife, as children, are running in circles around a tree. The scene then shifts, showing the two of them as older children, then as young adults, when the man finally takes the woman's hand and asks her to marry him.
  • To Absent Friends: The man pours two glasses of wine, but only drinks one. The short later reveals that he and his wife used to drink wine together.