Kyle Dominic G.

Ta-ay, 143872
FLC 2JSP Section A
March 31, 2016
Miss Hokusai Movie Paper
A highly significant period in feudal Japan was the Edo Period or the Tokugawa Era wherein
Japan was headed by the Tokugawa shogunate and the regional daimyos whose power they derive
from the shogun. While the Japanese emperor still held his position, the responsibility of leading
fell to the shogun. The Edo period marked the country’s unification, the transferring of Japan’s
capital from Kyoto to Edo, now known as Tokyo, and most importantly, the end of an extensive
internal conflict. This period was characterised by economic growth, strict social order and popular
enjoyment of the arts and culture. The most famous and prominent artist within this period was
Katsushika Hokusai, who created some of Japan’s most iconic images including the worldrenowned woodblock print called The Great Wave of Kanagawa. The narratives which talk about
Hokusai, however, usually overlook the less-known parts of the Hokusai story wherein his daughter
named O-Ei, a skilled artist in her own right, assisted his father Hokusai with some of his works
and, most probably, outright painted some of them herself. O-Ei and her brilliant but difficult father
are the main characters of the animated movie entitled Miss Hokusai, a film directed Keiichi Hara
and animated by Production I.G.
The movie opens with O-Ei crossing a busy wooden bridge emphasising the major role of
the city of Edo will play in the film. The sights of Edo are animated with exquisite detail from the
cities various inhabitants, the blending of traditional Japanese architecture in that era together with
Japan’s lush natural setting. The scenes in Miss Hokusai wherein O-Ei spends time with her
younger sister, Onao highlight parts of the story of the artist Hokusai which are not generally
known by the public. Onao, being blind since birth, has had a relationship with her father which has
been plagued by a certain distancing from her by her father. Hokusai, as a venerated artist, almost
feels ashamed to have borne a blind child. Onao is virtually ignored by his father and instead, it is
her older sister O-Ei, together with their mother, who provides Onao with a close familial
relationship. One scene in which O-Ei and Onao explore the town right after a snowfall is portrayed
with a certain lack of dialogue which provided emphasis on the stunning animation of Japan’s
natural environment. Despite the film possessing these scenes, narrative-wise the film did not
achieve cohesion. Miss Hokusai, while narratively underwhelming, might be regarded as an
encapsulation of the long-gone traditional Tokyo.
Audiences with a more Western perspective may be slightly disconcerted by the movie’s
shifting approach to portraying its narrative, with Miss Hokusai venturing into varying themes and
characters in loosely connected scenes. The film’s blunt approach to the topic of sex might also
raise varying reactions with its audiences, with Hokusai himself advocating that his daughter’s
erotic images aren’t of quality as she does not have familiarity with what she is painting; while the
women she paints are decent, the men she paints are copied from the works of her father. A scene
appertaining to a ghastly depiction of hell and another involving a religious painting in a brothel
exhibit how artworks were consumed in Japan in this period of time and also suggests the art’s
influence and how it relates to the people’s individual experiences. Artists are necessitated to
transcend themselves to try and capture the sublime. The language present within the movie
exhibits the Japanese culture at that time. There was a noticeable lack in foreign words as seen in
how, in that time, Japan’s contact with the West and other foreign nations was very limited. Creating
a sterling effort to portray traditional Edo-era Japan, the movie Miss Hokusai is divergent from the
modern-day films’ portrayal of modern-day Japan.

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