Miss Hokusai Review

“With two brushes and four chopsticks, we’ll get by anywhere. ”

Journey back to 19th century Edo for a look at famous painter Hokusai and his work through the perspective of his daughter O-Ei, who possesses a talent to rival his own.

 

MISS_HOKUSAI

 

The trailer to this looked delightful and I enjoyed Keiichi’s Colorful, so my anticipation was high for NYAFF’s screening of Miss Hokusai. I’m pleased to say it lived up to expectations.

This look into the life of famous painter Hokusai through the eyes of his daughter is beautiful both visually and thematically. The backgrounds are gorgeous and extremely evocative of the featured period. The art being created by the characters is depicted wonderfully, feeling authentic to the styles and techniques employed. A variety of animation techniques are used here and there to enhance the atmosphere and/or illustrate a particular point. Contrast from scene to scene is used exquisitely. At one point a dark, heavy scene showing a fascination with the beauty behind the danger of fire immediately gives way to a stark, calm, white winter’s day to great effect. It all comes together wonderfully as a perfect vehicle to to tell O-Ei’s story.

The thematic and emotional core of the movie comes from it being appropriately and strongly character driven. Creativity and inspiration aren’t direct subjects of the film, but are rather the lenses that shape the main characters’ view of the world around them. The characters’ personalities and idiosyncrasies are often not directly tied to specific events, but are extensions of their emotions and overall experiences. They feel real and relatable as we receive little glimpses of their lives, which is of course exactly the goal of a good biopic. I don’t know how accurately the artists and their lives are reflected here, but the version presented is wonderfully thoughtful and poignant.

One of the the film’s greatest achievements lies in its depictions of an artist describing the world to a blind child. These moments are touching and emotionally charged, and comprise Miss Hokusai’s best scenes

This is an excellent film that provides a nuanced look at life and art via gorgeous animation. Highly recommended for anyone with any interest in anime and/or Japanese art and culture in general.

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