Tag Archives: iss Hokusai

Beautiful, sentimental portrait of a young woman of early-19th century Edo

I knew that the great late-Tokugawa artist Hokusai Katsushika (whose ‘Great Wave off Kanagawa” is probably the best-known Japanese graphic; it is one of his 36 Views of Mount Fuji) had a very dutiful daughter, Ôei, from having watched Shindô Kaneto’s 1981 biopic “Hokusai manga” (the title was sensationalized in English as “Edo Porn”). I think she managed the household of the obsessive artist. She also did work on his drawings and paintings (the art in effect came from an atelier Hokusai rather than from one man).

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The anime based on a manga,” Sarusuberi”/“Miss Hokusai” (2015), is often quite beautiful, but it is rather puzzling in its purpose. Ôei narrates it and is the prime focus, but her character is little developed. She placates as well as assists her father, trying to make sure he delivers on commissions on time. He sometimes thinks she should do her own work, at other times derides it (in particular, representations of males).

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Ôei spends time with her mother (long living separately) and her younger sister, Onao, who is sickly and  blind. (A high point is taking the younger sibling out in the snow.) Their father has an aversion to the sick, and mostly avoids seeing his younger daughter.

Though drawing erotic couplings, Ôei does not seem to have any sexual experience of her own.

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There’s not much plot, the movie not attempting to image Ôei’s life after her father died (at the age of 90). I’m not sure I’d even say that the movie is “episodic,” in that nothing much happens in the “episodes.” But, as I said, the movie is often beautiful. The musical soundtrack by Fuki Harumi, is sometimes distracting, especially when the imagery gets fanciful (out of body). It is definitely not of the period portrayed (the movie begins in 1914, btw).

 

There is a long (1:56) making-of feature that is supposedly quite dramatic on the blu-ray, but there is only a bland quarter-hour excerpt included as a DVD bonus.. (The movie itself has a running time of 1:33).

 

©2018, Stephen O. Murray

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