A small comment on Ojii-san no Lamp

Ojii-san no Lamp is a 23 minute long short film that was produced in 2010 for the Young Animator Training Project, an effort for revitalizing the anime industry. Out of the four short films that were produced that year, this one was unanimously the best. Not only did it amaze with its graphics, but also with its plot and storytelling.

A boy finds a strange object while playing hide-and-seek. His grandfather tells him the story of his own youth, and the important role the old lamp played. This story is about the modernization of Japan and the changes that came with it. ~ My Anime List

If you haven’t watched it, just go already. The summary should be intriguing enough. If it hasn’t convinced you, you can check other reviews and analysis. I’m here to contribute something else, even if it’s just a small comment, that hasn’t been mentioned up till now: the probable reference and meaning of the opening scene. 

So, the question I’m asking and want to elaborate on is why did it have to be a hide-and-seek game that leads to the discovery of the old lamp. Couldn’t any other storytelling technique be implored to start the story? A possible alternative scenario would be that the grandfather wanted to find something else or asked help from his grandchild to clean the storeroom. My best guess is that the person behind the script was a Kurosawa fan and watched even his last film that wasn’t very famous, Madadayo (1993).

Kurosawa’s film is about a German professor the years after WWII, his poverished life, the mutual respect and love between him and his students, and his quirks and worldview. The film’s title pops up during the film in the festivities that his students arrange for his birthday and every time they ask him, if he’s ready (to let go of this world), to which he answer ‘madadayo’, hence not yet. This mini-dialogue is the one used when children play hide-and-seek in Japan, and in the final moments of the film, where the professor dies in his sleep peacefully, we see this game literally on screen. I believe that Ojii-san no Lamp intended to pay a homage to Madadayo and at the same time forshadow the initial unwillingness of the merchant of moving on and away from the old technology he used in trade. The spread of electricity meant his job’s death and for awhile he tried to impede it, only to come in terms with it in the end, like the German professor did.

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