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Review: Miss Hokusai

Last night, I found out that an animated film I’ve been looking forward to for months was quietly released on Friday, to a criminally limited number of venues. So this morning, I popped over to the Angelika Film Center (an art house cinema chain I’d never even heard of) to watch Miss Hokusai, a beautiful slice-of-life character piece set in one of my favorite periods of Japanese history. It took me a while to get used to the disjointed structure, but director Keiichi Hara quickly reminded me that there’s more to storytelling than just narrative; there’s also pleasure to be had in the myriad emotions that a well-composed frame (movement, color, the juxtaposition of darkness and light) can evoke, and it’s fitting that this tale of two reclusive artists (the elder Hokusai, one of Japan’s most famous painters, is given just as much importance as his titular daughter) puts so much emphasis on sculpting a purely visual experience. This is the kind of anime I want to see more of, and I’m glad GKids (which also released Studio Ghibli’s long neglected Only Yesterday earlier this year) made the effort to import such a niche product into an already niche market. If you can see Miss Hokusai, take the time to do so; in the currently over saturated “American otaku” subculture, this is the sort of work that deserves support.

[Originally written October 16, 2016.]

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