While not many spectator know the name Naoya Asanuma (Heart-Beat (2013)), there is a high possibility that one has seen one of the films he worked on, i.e. One Cut of The Dead (2018) as assistant and Aesop’s Game (2019) as director. Can he, with this short-narrative, convince the spectator of his talent?
Kosuke Kogawa (Takaki Uda) and his daughter Hazuki Kogawa (Riho Toshio) travel around Japan in a van. They are able to survive by burgling and thievery. One day, Kosuke, who is getting sick, realizes that Hazuki has run off on her own.
Stolen Ocean is a short narrative that touches upon the difficulty of accepting the impeding reality of death. If the illness that takes hold of Kosuke has any effect it is that it makes the real of death a tangible presence for his daughter Hazuki.
His refusal to go the hospital or to accept any kind of money for a medical purpose makes Hazuki more anxious and more conscious of what is inevitable. With his refusal, Kosuke echoes that he has accepted his fate, that he has come to terms with the fact that he will soon meet his friend called death.
The anxiousness Hazuki responds to her father’s coughing is born from her inner-struggle with her impeding independence. Her anxiety is, in other words, a sign that she does not feel ready to live on her own. Her vicious search for money is thus not only an attempt to escape the real of death that resounds in the bloody coughs of her father, but also the separation that his death will inaugurate.
Asanuma delivers a touching and quite intimate finale in which a dying father, by engaging in a fleeting moment of make-believe with his daughter, tries to ease Hazuki and dispel, for a short moment, the shadow of death that haunts his body and his interaction with her.
The composition of The Stolen Ocean, which relies on shaky dynamism, stands out due to its naturalism – its documentary-like feel. Yet, it is not simply the shakiness that ensures the naturalistic feel but also Asanuma’s use of dynamic long-takes and the natural colour- and lightning-design (Cine-note 1).
The naturalism of the narrative is further enhanced by the acting-performances. In fact, Asanuma, by relying on long takes, grants Toshio Riho and Yuki Hikaru the space and time to breathe life into their characters. As a result, the narrative is driven by interactions that feel genuine and the chemistry on screen a believable impression of a parent-child relationship.
With his The Stolen Ocean, Noaya Asanuma proves that he has a creative voice worth listening too. The naturalism of his composition empowers the performances, a combination that allows his finale both to be charmingly light-hearted but also melancholically poetic.
Cine-note 1: Besides relying on long-takes, Asanuma also utilizes more static moments (e.g. while driving) and snappier cutting. These faster-paced moments are to indicate the passing of time, i.e. narrative transitions.