Production I.G. has an impressive filmography including every FLCL season, a short from Gotham Knight, and the ever-so popular Bunny Drop (you know, the one with the sweet ending unlike its manga counterpart). They were tasked with making an adaptation of Miss Hokusai, a manga which ran from 1983-1987. What was released in 2015 is an extremely well animated film, which feels more like an anthology series.
Miss Hokusai follows O-Ei, a painter and the daughter of the famous Hokusai, or as she calls him, Tetsuzo, through different stories in her life spanning a year. O-Ei’s relationships with her father, her sister O-Nao who was born blind and sickly, and other artists are all explored, as are her feelings towards art and different inspirations around it. The deepest storyline and the one with the most consistency is the relationship between O-Ei and O-Nao. Their bond is powerful and the love O-Ei has for her sister helps her as an artist. Other stories, while not explored as in-depth as the bond of the sisters, work well enough. Stories such as O-Ei’s feelings towards sexuality and different characters coming to her and Tetsuzo for help with spiritual issues they believe to be linked to art, are welcome editions to the film.
By telling different stories in succession there is not much time to get attached to any one piece of the film. Unless something really sticks out to the viewer, it may be easily forgotten. This does not mean the stories are not well told but focusing on one story may make the viewer miss out on a key point in another story. In addition to this, there are not many memorable characters in Miss Hokusai. Some of the characters who do show up in other stories do not leave much of an impression, but do have some importance, even if it is very little.
An extremely enjoyable piece of Miss Hokusai comes from the music choices. Parts of the score do not seem like they are fitting for the time period, but when matches with the characters and overall aesthetic the film presents, it fits very well. The score is jarring at first with differing tones, but soon enough feels as if it has found the perfect home.
Miss Hokusai is more fun than you think it would be based off of any trailer. It is wonderful to look at and more of its stories are effective than not.
*Miss Hokusai is available to watch on Netflix.