Film review: Miss Hokusai - female empowerment through art
Anime adapted from manga brings dragons and demons to life to tell story of an artist’s daughter in 19th century Japan. It’s both inspiring and a visual feast
Visually rich and episodic in nature, Miss Hokusai is a mature and elegantly told tale of a young woman struggling for artistic recognition in 19th century Japan.
O-Ei (voiced by Anne Watanabe) lives with her father, Tetsuo (Yutaka Matsushige), a renowned painter who squanders his earnings on alcohol and women. Often left to finish her father’s commissions herself, O-Ei must also fend off the unwanted advances of her’s father’s adolescent students, while caring for her blind half-sister, whom her father refuses to acknowledge.
Adapted from Hanako Sugiura’s well-regarded manga, Miss Hokusai is at once a depiction of a talented, forthright woman struggling in a male-centric society, but also an exploration of art and the power it wields. O-Ei’s work is not only aesthetically accomplished, but her depictions of the fantastical and nightmarish appear to also impact the real world.
While grounded in a recognisable historical setting, the film is willing to suggest that dragons and demons - as well as more benevolent spiritual forces - are very real and tangible, and that art may provide an environment where we can all coexist.
Marred only by a jarringly anachronistic rock soundtrack, Miss Hokusai is a thoughtful and visually resplendent anime with a playful interpretation of art and artists.
Miss Hokusai opens on November 19