January 5, 2009
Recently, I had a pleasure of watching an unusual Studio Ghibli work titled Iblard Jikan. It’s more or less like watching a collection of Impressionist stills for 30 minutes brought to life(…?) through minimal animation and meditative music. There are no characters or story. Well you could argue that it’s a story of beautiful landscape, houses, their harmony, and the ways in which people inhabit them to make up a world of Iblard. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then at least scroll down to the screenshots at the bottom as they’ll make fine wallpapers. To review works like this, I think, it’s best if I make brief commentaries along with screencaps as visual reference.
You may have observed from below screenshots that they evoke quite a number of “flavours” of Impressionism, Monet being the most notable one. I won’t be comparing it to Monet or other Impressionists because 1) I am no expert 2) there are more eloquently writings on Impressionism on web. I have to say though, I enjoyed watching these scenes much more than looking at some of Monet‘s paintings at the gallery. What I prefered the most from Iblard Jikan was its depiction of the unusual and fictional, this beautiful world of Jikan. It’s of floating planets and islands, tiny houses situated near strange trees and lakes, residentials “plugged” into the side of canyons to resemble a kind of massive, natural metropolis.
Like the above screenshot for example, the mountain is surrounded not by clouds, but very thin layers of water rippling without spilling one drop, almost like a beautifully shaped disks. It’s just very unusual and incredibly beautiful to watch. That’s another thing about this OVA, there’s more than just panning of stills. Grass dance to the wind, surface of water ripples and sparkles, all done in minimum amount of animation. If Monet was free with his forms and colours to create an impression of rippling water, then think of this as reproducing that impression in motion. This beautiful and unreal way in which people are living in harmony with nature is Iblard Jikan‘s essence.
Honestly though, 30 minutes of absolutely nothing happening was bit too much. I normally have no problem enjoying anime without “stories” just fine, like 1001 Nights, Angel’s Egg and Cat Soup. But at least they had something to follow. Another point might be that those titles (including Mari Iyagi), although lacking in over-kill meticulous details of background art, are much better at evoking the sense of being inside that space, rather than merely observing it. This is a shame because Iblard Jikan does have actual characters animated (omg really?) inside these beautiful backgrounds. These are magical moments to say the least and definitely the best part of the OVA, which unfortunately aren’t enough of to be engaging for 30 minutes. So in a sense this is like Oshii‘s Mezame no Hakobune, you really have to be in a right mood to get the most out of it. And even then, I’m not sure if you can restrain yourself from skipping through at least once.