Film #56: Monmon the Water Spider (2006)

aka: 水グモもんもん (Mizu gumo Monmon)
Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
Language: none
Length: 15 minutes
Watched on: 11 Apr 2012

A sweet little film that was the icing on the cake of my visit to the Ghibli Museum back in April. The museum is very well worth a visit (if you’re ever in Tokyo!); it’s inexpensive at only ¥1000, although you have to buy it at a Lawson convenience store (charmingly shortened to コンビニ combini in Japanese) kiosk, which doesn’t have an interface in English – I rolled up at a Lawson store somewhere between Tokyo Tower and Roppongi in March and on a whim decided to get the clerk to help me with the machine. It was complex enough for him… I don’t know how I’d have managed it without help!

Anyway, despite the longwinded process, and the Lawson store being quite far away from my house, the museum itself is between Kichijoji and Mitaka stations on the Chuo line; actually very near my house and only a bus ride away. (It also gave me the opportunity to discover a Moomin milkshake stand in Kichijoji, and I went on my first visit to Inokashira park. And all during the cherry blossom season, so everything was beautiful even though it was a little cloudy that day!)

The museum takes about a couple of hours to walk around, and there is a lot of memorabilia from all the different films, and a lifesize catbus, which was pretty cool. As for the films that they actually show there in the small cinema, I think there’s about 4, and they rotate, so maybe on a different day there would be a different film. They’re all about 15 minutes long.

Anyway, this was a sweet little silent film with nice music, and depicts some kind of weird interspecies romance between a water spider and some kind of creature that skims around on the surface of the water. They protect each other from the predator fish, and it takes a while for the spider to win the skimmer’s trust; he finds her (oh, yeah, the genders are obvious here; whether that’s desirable or not in unanthropomorphic creatures I’ll leave up to yourselves) beautiful but not vice-versa.

We also get a glimpse into the daily chores of the spider – getting air from the surface, storing bubbles under a leaf, eating plankton, and so on. It’s not something I’ve ever seen committed to film before, and seems more like something out of a nature documentary for a few minutes, until the wistful norm that Ghibli films consist of comes back with full force when the second character enters the picture. And the two characters aren’t given hardly any anthropomorphisation, except perhaps the eyes, so the spider is “ugly” in the eyes of the humans watching the film. So it’s certainly something fresh.

Obviously, it’s only 15 minutes and has no talking, so it’s meant to be nice and not engrossing, and it fulfills that quite nicely, so as long as you go in not expecting too much out of it, that’s the best thing. It’s definitely nice! And as for the music, I only remembered that it was good and fit the tone of the film well, rather than anything more specific. The Ghibli museum is definitely worth a visit, though.

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