I must be honest: reviewing an anime that is a mere thirty minutes in length is a chore. Not only is there rarely enough time to develop strong characters (or any sort of emotional bond with them), but there generally isn't time to develop a complex or compelling story, as well. Now imagine what's it's like to try to review a thirty-minute OVA which has no dialogue and almost no animation! Needless to say, I apologize in advance for the length of this review.
Studio Ghibli's Iblard Jikan is comprised of nothing more than a minimally-animated set of paintings by the famous Japanese artist Inoue Naohisa (most commonly known for being the inspiration behind scenes in Ghibli's Whisper of the Heart). There is no dialogue and little animation, save for various water-animating techniques. No story can be found, but the order in which the paintings are displayed - for the lack of a better word - paints a gorgeous picture of individual parts of the fantasy world. Floating islands abound in one "set", while city shots make up another. Thus, we can partially experience Iblard Jikan's world through the imagery alone.
Even with the eye candy as a distraction, any semblance of a story is a moot point. You wouldn't watch this for the story, you'd watch it for the paintings; and thus, in the story arena, Iblard Jikan doesn't earn many points.
So Iblard Jikan is all about the animation; does it live up to its goal? In my opinion, no. While Naohisa's paintings are admittedly gorgeous in every way, they also look almost identical to each other. Thousands of tiny flowers dotting the hillsides are stunning and all, but after 15 minutes of seeing the same said multi-colored flowers, one can't help but wish for something a little different.
In addition, the minimal animation is so crude and abrasively different than the backdrops that it would have been far more effective to leave the paintings as stills. Each scene has some sort of moving part, whether it's ripples in a pond or rain falling softly. These water effects are, for the most part, the caliber of old flash animations; would you want to see flash animations over the top of vibrant oil paintings? I think not.
Character-wise, there's the occasional girl or woman who flies or walks into view, but their jerky style of movement and general flat appearances make them seem fake and forced. At times, I was reminded of classic Broderbund game called Spelunx that I played as a wee child; specifically, this came to mind in a scene where a door swings open to reveal blooming flowers within.
Throughout the entirety of the OVA, a mild-tempered soundtrack sets the stage for the visuals to come. Being comprised mostly of acoustic guitar-driven numbers, the audio is decent, but is not a good match for the imagery. Rather than Ghibli's typical sweeping orchestral melodies, Iblard Jikan's more rustic soundtrack makes me feel like I'm watching an in-store computer demo from the 90s. Sound effects are well-constructed, though sometimes come across as a little loud compared to the music.
Another hard category to rate, as there are no central characters to speak of. Literally the only "characters" worth calling out are from a scene where two girls who are tinkering around with some sort of carnival game. The girl on the left passively watches while the girl on the right does various things, and suddenly turns into a creature of light and speeds off into the building. Besides these two, most of the very simplistically-animated characters are on-screen only for a quick cameo.
I suppose the scenery itself could be considered a character of the anime, as it's the focus and, in a weird sort of way, has a personality of its own. That being said, there wasn't enough life or motion to make much of an impression upon me.
Well, the OVA tells no actual story as it is plainly a sequence of impressive fantasy landscapes by Inoue Naohisa - the artist who created the dream world in Whisper of the Heart, one of the famous Ghibli movies. Now, while the idea of peeking into a different world sounds naturally intriguing, this anime is an example of a good idea overdoing itself, as it feels extremely lengthy, lasting at least three times longer than needed for something that's basically a slideshow of extremely similar pictures with no story going on. And just in case you think I've got a short attention span - no, I actually don't have any problem with that, considering some of my most favourite series are rather slow-paced works like Mushishi and Haibane Renmei. The problem is that a slow-paced show keeps being interesting if it gradually reveals something new, and not just exhibits random & almost identical pictures for 30 minutes.
While the presentation is flawed, the landscapes themselves are beautiful and incredibly detailed, looking like classic Impressionist paintings of an amazing fantasy world with flowery valleys and floating islands. The only serious shortcoming about them is similarity. If they were more diverse, it would be much more interesting to watch the OVA for its whole length, and I would probably call the art of this anime a masterpiece. However, due to their likeness I rate it "only" as excellent.
The sceneries are accompanied with some music that sounds like a repetitive MIDI track: the melody is ok but the quality of sound & reiteration get annoying after a while.
While the art is outstanding indeed, the presentation leaves quite a lot to be desired. So, let me give you some advice on how to enhance your viewing experience with this OVA:
1) mute the original sound and turn on some relaxing music you like;
2) don't anticipate any story - just lay back and watch the landscapes, as if you visit a picture gallery. Be prepared for a long and very unhurried ride.
I hope this helps you enjoy Iblard Jikan if you decide to give it a try.