A TRIPPY BUT THOUGHTFUL TRIBUTE TO ART, AND AN EFFECTIVE AND EMOTIONAL ANIME FILM!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: **** out of 4
O-Ei and O-Nao in Miss Hokusai
Talk about a movie that I knew practically nothing about but completely blew me away, really all I knew about the movie, Miss Hokusai, based on a manga written by the late, Hinako Sugiura, was that it was a Japanese anime movie and it was made by the creators of Ghost in the Shell. I didn’t know what the movie was about, who the characters were, or what the film was based on.
So I came into this movie with a very fresh mind, and why did I see it to begin with? Plain and simple, I love Japanese anime in cinema and the Ghost in the Shell movies were confusing but awesome. The same can be said about this movie, to put it simple the film is pretty much about an artist’s life, but add in a bunch of weird imagery and odd symbolism, and you got a very unusual product, in the best way possible.
The film is beautifully animated, the characters are very interesting and engaging, and the story has plenty of odd narratives and heart to impact your feels. When I think of a great anime (or even animated movies in general) those are the elements I find the most important, I prefer impressive animation and good characters and story over what’s going to sell merchandise.
The movie follows a young woman named O-Ei (voiced by Erica Lindbeck-Sword Art Online, The Seven Deadly Sins, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans) who is the daughter of one of history’s greatest artists, Katsushika Hokusai (voiced by Richard Epcar-Ghost in the Shell, Digimon, Rurouni Kenshin). All the citizens of the then-named, Edo (Known today as Tokyo) flock to see Hokusai’s work, meanwhile O-Ei works diligently inside his studio on her own artwork.
Her masterful portraits, dragons, and erotic sketches, sold under her father’s name, are coveted by upper crust Lords and print makers alike. O-Ei is shy and reserved in public but in the studio she is as brash and uninhibited as Hokusai.
She smokes a pipe while sketching her drawings, but despite her fiercely independent spirit and attitude, O-Ei is struggling under the domineering influence of her father, and ridiculed for lacking the life experiences she is trying to portray in her work. Meanwhile Edo is filled with yokai spirits, dragons, and conniving tradesmen as she’s trying to prove what she is capable of with her father and take care of her blind younger sister named O-Nao.
Overall, Miss Hokusai is a very inspirational film, whether you’re a fan of anime or not even if your dream is to become a famous artist in the future, this is pretty much your version of Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. Despite being animated, the characters feel real, especially when you watch the original Japanese dub, it feels authentic and natural when you watch the characters with Japanese audio, and thanks to is thoughtful storytelling and writing, these are some of the most realistic movie characters I’ve seen in a while.
The animation is gorgeous, like most anime movies and shows, but as I mentioned before, it does get chaotic at times. Spirits, dragons, dreams, and visions that come out of nowhere that are surreal but symbolic to those who understand art.
I saw two movies about art symbolism over the weekend and a Japanese anime movie about a young woman’s life as an artist was a lot more interesting than a Ron Howard thriller about Dante’s Inferno. I’m actually shocked Hayao Miyazaki didn’t have anything to do with this movie, the animation, story, and characters feel like something out of one of his movies, but it does show you don’t always need to be Studio Ghibli to make a great anime film.
It’s a win-win, if you love anime, biographical movies, or have a passion for drawing and making art, this is a priority movie. Miss Hokusai is a uniquely beautiful and completely inspirational coming-of-age tale.