Miss Hokusai is an absolutely beautiful slice of life drama from the 19th Century set during the Edo Period in what would come to be known as Tokyo. Production I.G have done a stellar job with this anime adaptation and crafted something quite beautiful with exquisite storytelling, music that captures the very essence of the time and artwork that is up with some of the absolute best.
The film adaptation of the manga tells the story of young artist O-Ei who lives with her father Tetsuzo also known as the talented painter Hokusai and a pupil of her father’s, Zenjiro. O-Ei has a particularly strained relationship with Hokusai as he constantly berates her and tells her that her artwork is not up to scratch even though she’s highly talented at drawing more risqué art with women and men. Zenjiro is also particularly adept at drawing sensual women. O-Ei has a very tight relationship with her younger sister, O-Nao who was born blind. O-Ei often takes her to a busy thoroughfare bridge where she describes the environment to her blind sister in great detail while he sister loves taking in the smells and sounds of the people around her. It’s worth noting that in the manga that the film is based on, the younger sister doesn’t have a big as role as she does in the film. The role was expanded for the film and the writers have done an outstanding job with fleshing out the relationship. You can clearly tell that O-Ei loves and cares for her sister very deeply. They go for walks together, all the while the elder sister describing the world for her younger sibling. It’s very touching and endearing watching them together. O-Nao lives with her mother in a separate dwelling to Tetsuzo, O-Ei and Zenjiro.
Tetsuzo also has a difficult relationship with O-Nao as he hates being around sick people because he fears them. This results in him hardly ever visiting his younger daughter. O-Nao loves receiving visits from her father and look forward to them even though half the time he visits her it’s usually because O-Ei has been prodding and hassling him to do so.
There are quite a bit of spiritual themes with many various apparitions seen by different people in the film which is something that is normally caused by a piece of artwork in the house. Tetsuzo is often called upon to examine the art and modify it to stop these “demons” or other visions to stop occurring and bring peace to the household. The themes vary in origin from Buddhism to Japanese mythology but they’re woven very tightly into the story and provide some of the most delicate artwork in the film. The film basically weaves in and out of their lives over a few years through different seasons and finishes with a nice written epilogue on the screen which wraps everything up, suffice to say, being a slice of life drama, it doesn’t always end well for all.
The film has completely stunning artwork and gorgeous animation and comparisons between this and Studio Ghibli are inevitable. However, after seeing it, I feel like it stands on its own and deserves it’s own merit. Ghibli is Ghibli and is perfect but this is something original and beautiful in its own right. Once again this film delivers some stunning 3DCGI that is used sparingly and definitely adheres to the less is more philosophy. The animation is sublime with the muted colour palette serving the time period well. You wouldn’t necessarily be expecting to see a swathe of brilliant colours but what you do get is a feast for the eyes nonetheless.
The music is beyond perfect while main instrumental song, Wind In Edo by Yo Tsuji still bouncing around in my head with its delicate string chords just absolutely beautiful to hear. And in fact the entire soundtrack itself is gorgeous, I couldn’t help myself and am listening to it as I write this review. Production I.G are normally known for more violent and futuristic fare such as cult classic Ghost In The Shell, Psycho-Pass, Guilty Crown and more but with Miss Hokusai, their experience in the anime industry shines through and gives them another classic. The only nitpick I really had with it is that it was too short at only 90 minutes long. I would have loved it for it to have gone for at least 120 minutes or even a bit more but then again, I love slice of life anime.
Thanks to Madman for review copy.
Final Score: 8.5/10