The setting is a reception room in a design office in Tokyo. Seated side-by-side at a table are two women in their 30s.
One is Rie, who is dressed in stylish fashion. The other is Taeko, and she is dressed in the kind of unsophisticated black pants suit that is the accepted uniform for job applicants. After sitting for a while with a vacant look on her face, Rie glances over at Taeko and then begins to describe dream-like images.
She says that there are fish swimming together in schools in the sea that begin to melt into a soupy mass. Those that don’t melt completely come apart, leaving a scatter of tails and fins.
“Did you know such fish exist?” she asks. Being told such a strange thing all of a sudden by a stranger, Taeko is perplexed and at a loss for words.
Rie makes an excuse for her behavior in suddenly speaking out that way. She explains that the silence had bothered her, and that she was disturbed by the fact that the personnel interviewer had suddenly stood up and left the room.
But, her words have succeeded in breaking the tense silence between the two, and now they introduced themselves.
Taeko had worked as a cook at a cafeteria food service for eight years before suddenly deciding that she wanted to be a designer and applied for this job. As for Rie, she has gone from one job to another, including some in the apparel industry, but she has no experience as a designer. It appears that the personnel rep who had been interviewing them had become appalled by their lack of credentials and had just stood up and walked out.
After finishing their short self-introductions, their conversation again turns to the imaginary fish.
“What’s the difference between the fish that melt and the fish that come apart in pieces?” asks Taeko. “The ones that melt are the good fish that spawn lots of eggs, and the ones that come apart are bad fish that that don’t leave any offspring,” Rie says.
Suddenly Rie feels a shake like an earthquake, but Taeko doesn’t feel it. When Rie opens the room’s window to see what is happening outside, she notices that there is a figure on the roof of a nearby building.
“I wonder if the person is searching for something,” says Taeko. “The person might be getting ready to jump off,” suggests Rie. Taeko says that if it is a jumper it would be best if they called the police, wouldn’t it? Rie resists, saying that if it is, then someone has surely called the police already. But, she finally gives in to Taeko’s urging and calls the police on her cell phone to report the situation. Is the figure a man or a woman? The two talk on casually as if it is a continuation of the earlier fantasizing about fish.
They give the figure the name “Ogasawara” and decide that he is a man in his thirties. In a completely irresponsible and arbitrary way, they continue deciding things about his and speculating things like style of clothes that might make him change his mind about jumping. Eventually Rie begins speculating aloud about the state of mind “Ogasawara” is in. As she talks she gradually develops feelings of compassion for this Ogasawara, and as she goes on her feelings intensify into a frenzy.
Taeko asks, “Are you OK?” Only then does Rie begin to return to her senses. As Taeko looks more closely for signs of what is happening to their “Ogasawara,” what appeared earlier to be the silhouette of a man has shrunk to that of a child. The two realize they had mistaken him for a man.
In a rush to save the boy, Taeko tries to leave the room, but Rie stops her, saying, “Leave his fate in God’s hands.” She insists that a person’s fate can’t be changed. Taeko says, “Are you crazy?” and pushes her aside to leave the room. A few moments later, she is back.
She announces, “He jumped! It’s your fault that help didn’t get there in time,” she says to Rie accusingly. Soon, however, the figure of the boy reappears on the roof.
“You lied to me?” demands Rie.
“I’m just an ordinary person,” says Taeko. Then she continues to lament on and on about how a person like herself who is so extremely ordinary that she can’t even go out to save a child in danger could ever possibly get a job as a creative designer.
Seeing this display, Rie uses the expression “
” to show her impatience and annoyance. But, Taeko takes the figure of speech literally and blurts out in alarm, “Are the teeth itchy? Is that what it feels like when your face starts to melt?” she says, suddenly sandwiching Rie’s cheeks with her two hands.
Taeko talks about the cafeteria food service where she worked all day with her face and head covered with a surgical mask and a cook’s hat. She explains how much she wanted to do something different from that work she had done until now. Then she asks Rie, “If that boy on the roof were me, what would you do?”
“Of course, I’d go to save you,” answers Rie. The two look at each other for a moment in silence.
Like earlier, Rie begins once again to speculate about the hopeless state the boy is in and the things that must be in his mind and starts to speak on his behalf. Again she enters a strong state of empathy for the boy, but maintains that she is only a bystander and does not try to go and save him.
When they look out the window at the boy again, he is facing their way and they feel his eyes have met theirs.
This makes Taeko feel that they are the reason the boy is standing on the roof suffering. Hence she picks up a nearby jacket that must be a test sample and with growing excitement says that if they can put it on him he will surely change when he sees himself in it.
Rie refuses to accept such a frivolous idea, but Taeko leaves to go to the boy.
Now alone in the room, Rie puts her cell phone on movie mode and takes a pan of herself, the interior of the room and the roof of the building outside the window, narrating like a TV reporter, “Something impossible has happened.”
Finally she turns the phone’s camera on herself and says, “Ogasawara, I won’t apologize to you, boy.” Then she closes the window and leaves the room.