Maru Cannot Readily Go Into The Box: An Analysis

The great Japanese auteur returns to his greatest muse: the cardboard box.

The film opens, as always, with a black on white title card in both English and Japanese. Simply seeing the word “box” in this film’s name was a delight for long-time fans of the famous cat and his life’s work. Maru has recently released several artful (the sunny spot, snow) but noticeably box-free films, and many were ready to see him return to the subject that he so obviously and deeply feels most passionate about.

In the opening seconds, we are introduced to both Maru, our hero-protagonist, and his great love: the box. Maru examines, and then climbs atop the box, asserting dominance and yet his desire is unsatisfied. We know where this is going, but as ever with Maru: the journey is the destination.

Maru begins his effort. He is resourceful in his aim, but hopelessly enslaved to his love of the box. Anyone watching who’s ever loved someone who refused open up to them can relate to this moment.

Maru briefly resigns himself to coexisting on top of the box…

But of course that cannot last for long. Maru wishes to know the box fully, and a new camera angle reveals him just as determined as he was seconds ago.

Just as the viewer is starting to feel as frustrated and unsatisfied as Maru… a breakthrough!

Maru disappears inside of the box. The viewer’s imagination can run wild, imagining the dreams and adventures taking place inside. Maru is at home at last… for now.

Maru emerges, and the box and Maru move towards the camera. Maru begins to break the third wall. The audience is now a third party in the marriage between Maru and box.

But is this intrusion from the viewer welcome? That is the central question of this film as Maru retreats once more into his private boxiverse.

Although the film has followed the overall trajectory of Maru’s other finest work, this ending still takes the viewer by surprise. Maru leaps towards the camera and, by proxy, the viewer, leaving his box behind.

What does it all mean?

That is up to you.

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