“Across the Sky” by Yusuke Hirota, a poetic Japanese animated film about the friendship between a young chimney sweep and a curious trash man

A sky obscured by a thick and huge gray cloud. Cheminée Ville, an island and industrial city yellowed by the electric lights on night and day, lives up to its name: thousands of chimneys cover the roofs of its buildings, spitting out kilos of smoke. Its inhabitants do not know the existence of the sun, even less that of the plants and most of the animals which have disappeared from the face of the earth for hundreds of years.

Lubicchi, a little boy with red hair hidden under a patched top hat, has been forced to work as a chimney sweep since the death of his father. He lives alone with his sick mother. On Halloween, he comes to the aid of a mysterious trash man, stuck in a mountain of garbage ready to be incinerated. This candid and endearing monster is wanted by the city’s law enforcement agencies because of his difference. The young boy baptizes him “Poupelle”, like the hero of his favorite tale. Together, they will try to realize his biggest dream: to contemplate in the sky small points of light that his father called “stars”.

On the other side of the sky is a Japanese animated film that departs a little from the traditional codes of Japanese films shown in French cinemas. Far from copying the aesthetics of Hayao Miyazaki’s splendid feature films, its director Yusuke Hirota preferred to turn to a “steampunk” universe (a style that combines the industrial aesthetics of the 19th century with futuristic elements) mixing 2D with 3D. The two graphic techniques come together wonderfully: the computer-generated images bring relief and fluidity to the drawings, the drawings bring intense colors and expressiveness to the computer-generated images. The aerial shots of the city, covered with a thin yellow film, almost give the impression of flying over New York with its immense illuminated buildings.

However, Cheminée Ville is unlike any other. With its long chimneys and imposing buildings, it has the features of any industrial city, unwelcoming, where crime and disease reign supreme. In an interview, director Yusuke Hirota explained that he didn’t want her to be reminiscent of a particular place: “To do this, I used a number of real cities as references – Jiufen in Taiwan or the industrial complex of Shûnan in Japan, for example. For my part, I like the alleys of the slums of Asia, because I have the impression that they conceal drama…”. Through the pure gaze of the young hero Lubicchi, the dark smoky city nevertheless finds its magic.

Inspired by the novel Poupelle and the city without sky by Akihiro Nishino, On the other side of the sky is above all else a beautiful story of friendship between a young boy and a humanoid robot. Poupelle, made up of rubbish – a rusty pan for jawbone, old brooms for feet – is as stinky as it is endearing. Appearing suddenly and mysteriously in Cheminée Ville, he knows nothing of the world or of emotions, although he is naturally endowed with language. Rejected by the inhabitants and wanted by the police, he finds refuge with little Lubicchi. In the French version, Philippe Katerine lends his voice to the character, and at the same time all his sensitivity and delicacy.

Poupelle and Lubbicchi in the film "On the other side of the sky" by Yusuke Hirota. (ART HOUSE)

Top hats, jackets and patched suits, monocle and goatee… The other characters also have a worked style, as is the whole universe of the film: Dan, the chief of the chimney sweeps has a real dandy look with his long hair and his impeccably trimmed beard. Scoop “La Pipelette”, meanwhile, is covered with a steel snail shell, for a very futuristic look. Through these different encounters, the young Lubicchi faces several trials that the film uses as lessons: loneliness, mourning or even the need to believe in his dreams.

Film for young audiences that will also appeal to older people, On the other side of the sky is full of good feelings. It lifts a veil of smoke on sometimes difficult but very topical themes, such as the climate emergency, in a colorful and poetic universe.

Movie poster "On the other side of the sky" by Yusuke Hirota. (ART HOUSE)

Gender : Animation, fantastic
Director: Yusuke Hirota
Dubbing: Philippe Katerine, Masataka Kubota, Fanny Bloc
Country : United States
Duration : 1h40
Exit : August 17, 2022
Distributer : Art House
Summary: Lubicchi lives in the middle of large chimneys whose thick smoke has always covered the sky of his city. He would like to prove to everyone that his father was telling the truth and that, beyond the clouds, there are stars. One Halloween night, the little chimney sweep meets Poupelle, a funny creature with whom he decides to set off to explore the sky.

“Across the Sky” by Yusuke Hirota, a poetic Japanese animated film about the friendship between a young chimney sweep and a curious trash man