REVIEW: Tsukumo [Possessions] [2013]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 14 minutes | Release Date: 2013 (Japan)
Studio: Sunrise Interactive
Director(s): Shuhei Morita

“Here and there, use and dispose”

The title of Shuhei Morita‘s Oscar nominated short Tsukumo [Possessions] on first blush conjures thoughts of two separate meanings. One is the idea of spirits possessing objects or people to do their bidding and the second is a grouping of things someone owns. If not for an opening textual prologue, it would be easy to believe what goes on strictly concerns the former when in fact there is more to it. Because as the screen explains, Japanese lore says tools and instruments attain souls to trick people after 100 years. So everything our stranger experiences while hiding from the storm in a rundown shrine isn’t the work of demons, but actually the discarded items locked away in obscurity yearning to be appreciated once more.

A segment from Katsuhiro Otomo‘s omnibus anthology entitled Short Peace, Possessions is a sort of eulogy for all the inanimate objects we use and abuse until discarding them without a second thought. It’s actually a somewhat nightmarish companion to the Toy Story saga as it parallels those characters’ desperation in the face of being abandoned. It’s only fitting then that our rugged hero is described as a Mr. Fix-It—someone who sees broken not as garbage but as something to be repaired and restored to its former glory. So rather than cower in fear as torn-to-shreds umbrellas surround him in song or suffocate under the drab and worn silks swirling in on him, he pops open his toolbox and goes to work.

It’s an intriguing message that I’m sure few people in American society would ever deem relevant in their overly consumer-based society championing new technology before its previous generation has run its course, so it may prove a bit on the nose and/or trite to some. But if you embrace its impossible world and remember some object from your past that served you well and sadly got left behind, there is a lot to enjoy. And even if you can’t, Morita’s animation is gorgeous to behold with sumptuous matte paintings and a rich palette to his main character that allows him to seamlessly and realistically move within the static environments. Labeled CGI yet appearing hand-drawn courtesy of NewTek’s LightWave 3D software, I’m glad to see the anime style retained rather than usurped for Pixar-quality aesthetics.

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