Note: The next screening is on Saturday July 25, 12pm.
This is the latest animated feature from Production I.G. which takes place in Edo in 1814. It mainly focuses on the daughter of a famous artist named Hokusai, known at this point in time as Tetsuzo. He is a real historical figure who has gone by many names but this film is purely fictional and based on a manga. His daughter, O-Ei is just as talented as her father and also as stubborn. She helps him with his work but due to her inexperience she sometimes leaves “loose ends” which leads to supernatural occurrences where people believe the painting is possessed. The heart of the story inevitably lies with O-Ei’s younger sister, O-Nao, who is blind and occasionally sick. Because of this, Tetsuzo is reluctant to visit O-Nao.
The film has moments that are touching, funny and sad but it seems that’s all there is to the film. There’s no real story and events just happen. While the characters are likeable, none of them come off as particularly interesting. The film does not really go into depth into any character and the supporting cast is of little consequence. O-Ei is mostly cold and expression-less except when she’s with her little sister. The best moments are between O-Ei and O-Nao, particularly when O-Nao plays in the snow with another kid. Some lines are spoken which could imply something but it comes off as mostly vague. If O-Ei was supposed to experience some sort of growth, it’s hard to say what growth that was.
Scenery is very lovely, with lots of vibrant color of the outdoors. The artwork is top notch as expected. Animation is fine, having watched other Production I.G. films, they always look wonderful but I never feel like they look or move very fluidly. Strangely, we do not see that much of the Japanese paintings, I would’ve hoped for a bit more but some of the fantasy sequences are quite fun and lively. Don’t expect this film to enlighten you about the art of painting. Overall, this is not a bad film and worth a watch for those who are intrigued by it but I found it a tad disappointing. While it manages to evoke emotions at times, the lack of story or character exploration makes the film feel like it’s missing something.
As a side note, it was nice to see the director, screenwriter and president of Production I.G. in attendance. This is apparently only the second city outside of Japan to screen the film thus far. It was a good film to open the festival with.
Seen in the theatre at Fantasia 2015