Miss Hokusai (2015) | home ent release

March 5th, 2016
Author: Meredith Taylor


Dir.: Keiichi Hara

Animation with voices of Anne Watanabe, Yukata Matsushige, Shion Shimizu; Japan 2015, 90 min.

Miss Hokusai is based on the real lives of the late 18th century painter and graphic artist Katsushika Hokusai and his daughter O-Ei, who is now emerging as the primary crafter of most of her father’s work, while less than a dozen of her own exclusive paintings survive today.

Director Keiichi Hara (Colorful) has set his episodic anime (based on the manga of Hinako Suguiura) in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1814, where Hokusai (Matsushige) and his daughter O-Ei (Watanabe), live the life of true and carefree bohemians, whose only concern in life is their art.

Hokusai was a convivial bon viveur who indulged in pleasures of the flesh and was not afraid of rich and noble clients. O-Ei also spends time caring for her much younger sister O-Nao (Shimizu), who has been born blind. Her father blames himself for her blindness – “I stole my daughter’s sight” –and avoids contact his younger daughter, out of shame. The scenes between the sisters are moving and extremely innovative in their execution, particularly those in the snow. After O-Nao’s death, O-Ei clings even more to her father; her clumsy romantic episodes revealing that she was not very fond of men. In real life, she married the artist Tomel around 1819, who expected her to keep house. Instead, she laughed at his not very skilful work and the marriage was short-lived. O-Ei returned to live and work with her father and after his death lived like a vagabond and little is known about her final years.

O-Ei is the portrait of a stubborn and strongly independent woman who found male society of the 18th century intolerable. Her artistic efforts were largely unrecognised and her father appears to have been cold and emotionally distant character causing O-Ei to escape into her own world of myths and fables. Her father (known to friends as Tetsuzo) frequently visits the boudoir of a restless courtesan, who he calms with a version of art therapy: Rather unconventionally, O-Ei spends a night with a geisha in a vain attempt to capture the heart of  trying of one of her father’s best students, the painter Tsutsui.

Katsushika Hokusai’s most famous painting “The great Wave off the coast of Kanagawa” purportedly influenced the work of western painters such as Monet and Klimt, and also inspired Debussy’s “La Mer”.
Miss Hokusai’s intricate artwork proves again that anime/animation is not a genre, but an art form in its own right. Hara daintily celebrates the charm of late 18th century Japan in this strongly feminine interpretation; the naïve narrative perfectly complimenting the free flowing movement of all the characters, while also serving as testament to the repression of female artists all over the world at that time. AS

Coming to DVD, Blu-ray and Collector’s Edition 25th April


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