Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) is one of the most famous artists in Japanese history. With his woodblock prints he was quite popular during his lifetime in the Edo period (1603-1868), but it wasn’t until after his death that he became internationally renowned with his works. He is mostly known for his 36 views of Mount Fuji which includes The Great Wave off Kanagawa, arguably his most famous print.
Miss Hokusai is a small and calm animation film that follows Hokusai’s daughter O-Ei as she struggles with her famous father and tries to find out what she wants in life. For 90 minutes the film slowly flows through the year 1814, introducing us to O-Ei and her father, but also to the artist’s other daughter, estranged wife and apprentice.
It is interesting to see the famous Hokusai through the eyes of his daughter, which brings a new perspective on the man. O-Ei is a skilled painter herself and often creates works that end up being published in her father’s name. She struggles as she basically has had enough of her father; a man that people around her admire, but she herself loathes for staying away from his family. His only interest is in his work. It especially hurts her that he stays distant from his other daughter, the blind and sick O-Nao.
The film is pretty held back considering style and story but has its touching moments. It dips itself into the supernatural every now and then, creating a very dreamy atmosphere. The film also provides a look into the past giving the viewer an idea of how life was like during this long period in Japanese history. What is also interesting is that the film doesn’t hide, and gently touches upon, the fact that Hokusai also painted Shunga (erotic art), a genre which was very popular among men and women back then. It was a large part of his income and also plays a role in how O-Ei sees her father and his work.
The film is a small joy for those who know Hokusai as it gives a lot of winks to his work, but it is also a quite touching story about a daughter who wants to be loved by her father. Poetic and pleasing to the eye with beautiful animation, the film paces itself through the floating world of Edo. It leaves the viewer satisfied but might also do the opposite with leaving you wanting more as it does remain rather timid. The filmmakers nevertheless present us with a pleasing motion picture.