Nitobe and Sakamoto are friends from childhood who now work at the front desk of a capsule hotel. Nitobe has a particular fondness for philosophy and crustaceans. Sakamoto, meanwhile, is fixated on suicide. The capsule hotel draws a variety of guests, including a Finnish mother who has lost her child, a fugitive woman, and a researcher studying Daphnia. None of their lives ever intersect. Nor do any of the lives out of it for that matter. They exist, but never cross, like cells in a capsule hotel. With crustaceans as leitmotif, the themes of life and death are explored through a fragmentary view of the characters’ lives.
"I have spent the past 17 years making some 20 short films. Shell and Joint represents my first ever feature-length production, asking the big questions like, “What is the shape or condition of life? And conversely, of death? Perhaps death is the more universal natural and common condition, while life is something of a journey of a free will; a short trip that ends with death. I wanted to make a film that explores that theme, free of the usual conventions of cinematic structure. I wanted to be free. If life is freedom, so is art." Isamu Hirabayashi