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Anime / Miss Hokusai

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Miss Hokusai is a 2015 Japanese animated feature film directed by Keiichi Hara (who is also known for directing Colorful (2010)). It is based on the manga of the same name by Hinako Sugiura and produced by Production I.G.

Set during the Edo era, it is an episodic tale following the life of Katsushika Oei, daughter of the renowned painter Hokusai (who is famous for painting The Great Wave off Kanagawa).


  • Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: The only person who Oei is consistently expressive to is her blind sister. Otherwise, she's more aloof.
  • Ambiguously Bi: By nature of Kichiya being a male prostitute servicing a mixed gender clientele, he comes off this way, being introduced seeing off a male client and then enthusiastically jumping into serving O-ei.
  • Ambiguous Situation: Ultimately the tale of O-Ei is one of these. The daughter of one of the most famous artists of all time who both assisted him in his work and was a phenomenal artist in her own right is barely in the history books despite the fact she worked with her father until his death. Whether this was a case of overt oppression due to her gender, or if she was simply Vicariously Ambitious and did not care too much about making a name for herself over helping her father isn't known. Fittingly, the film doesn't really give much insight into O-Ei's exact feelings over her father, as she seems to teeter between annoyance and fondness.
  • Anachronism Stew: At times, the film transitions between traditional Japanese music and a rock/pop soundtrack. Ironically, otherwise its one of the few historical anime that fairly faithfully depicts the time period, with everyone sporting period typical hairstyles, complete with men's shaved tops.
  • Artistic License – History: Apart from a smattering of historically factual details, like that Hokusai and O-Ei kept their living quarters sloppy and O-Ei was fascinated by fires and particularly proficient at drawing beautiful women, most of the story is fictional. Historically O-Ei did have a younger sister named O-Nao, but there's no indication she was blind, and both had several other siblings and half-siblings. The story was likely rendered in this way to better showcase Hokusai's eccentricities and failure to be a proper parental figure.
  • Art Shift: At several points when different characters tell stories.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Both Oei and Hokusai himself are viewed as this; they're both Eccentric Artists (though Hokusai moreso than his daughter, even if she has more in common with him than she'd like to admit) who live for their work to the point of never cooking or cleaning, but they're still considered highly talented at their craft.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: While O-Ei addresses her mother as 'mom', she almost never addresses her father as 'father' or 'dad', preferring instead to call him 'Tetsuzo' (Hokusai had many names and pseudonyms over his life, Tetsuzo being one of them). Fitting perhaps given that he treats her more as his assistant or protege than his daughter.
  • Cool Big Sis: Oei is her nicest and most emotionally expressive to her younger sister, O-Nao.
  • Crush Blush: O-Ei has a huge crush on Hatsugoro, who is an expert at making her blush, even if he's not trying.
  • Delicate and Sickly: O-Nao is not only blind since her birth, but also has a delicate body that makes her susceptible to illness. She ultimately dies towards the end of the film.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: It's left ambiguous whether or not Oei had sex with Kichiya after he woke up.
  • Disappeared Dad: Hokusai himself treats Oei as a mere assistant rather than a daughter, while he abstains from contact with O-Nao because of discomfort with her disability.
  • Dog Owner Resemblance: Downplayed: instead of copying the appearance of one member of the household, the dog copies the behaviour of whoever would be funniest. On one occasion O-Ei returns to the house, and finds the dog and the Tetsuzo's apprentice both lying on their backs with their legs in the air.
  • Drag Queen: Kichiya, who works at a brothel, is basically a period-typical equivalent of this. Kagema were male prostitutes who typically dressed effeminately in a style similar to that of geisha (due to the fact this originated as a common side job for women-role actors in Kabuki theatre, though not all Kagema were actors) and were known to serve both male and female clients.
  • Geisha: Several can be seen as it is the time period when they were emerging.
  • Genius Slob: O-Ei self admits that she and her father don't care about cleaning their living quarters and that when it gets too messy to do properly do their work they just pick up and leave to live somewhere else.
  • Eccentric Artist: Hokusai and O-Ei base their world around their art, both as a job and as a passion. Being artists lets them see the world around them differently, to the point where they can see and sense spirits.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: As O-Ei narrates at the end, Hokusai on his death bed lamented that if he lived 10, or even 5, years longer, he could have "finally become a real artist". He was 90. She calls him out on how crazy that sounds coming from him.
  • Jidaigeki: Set during the Edo period.
  • The Lad-ette: Downplayed. O-Ei has no domestic skills like cooking or cleaning and works in a male dominated field. Her male artistic peers for the most part regard her as a colleague and acknowledge her talent. History tells that apart from a short-lived marriage, she remains single and working in art for the rest of her life.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: O-Nao constantly needs assistance due to her blindness, then she dies from an undisclosed illness.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The anime uses several depictions of fantastic events to illustrate emotions such as frustration, fear, and determination. However, there are times when superstitious characters are subjected to these moments, making it come off as this trope.
  • The Oldest Profession: Erotic prints known as "shunga" were a major subcategory of Japanese art and Hokusai and O-ei are shown being commissioned to do such works. As a result brothels and eroticism are a recurring topic.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: O-Nao dies of an undisclosed illness and therefore Hokusai and his unnamed, estranged wife become this.
  • Professional Sex Ed: Bothered by several insinuations that her erotic paintings are lacking due to her naivety in sexual experiences, O-ei goes to the brothels to hire a prostitute for herself.
  • Pun: O-Ei and O-Nao are out and about, when they meet Hatsugoro, who says that O-Ei is good at painting women. A dragonfly chooses this moment to fly in front of O-Nao's face. The French word "demoiselle" means both "young woman" and "dragonfly."
  • Pyromaniac: O-Ei has an obsession of watching house fires and firefighters tearing down neighboring houses, calling it "mesmerizing". Thankfully it doesn't appear that she likes to set fires herself.
  • Race for Your Love: A platonic example. Oei races to O-Nao when she gets an ominous feeling that the latter has passed away.
  • Random Events Plot: The film consists of a series of short stories which don't really connect with each other apart from the fact that they mostly involve the same characters. In the end there is no primary goal to achieve, and no particular lesson to be learned. Life just happens. This sense of disconnection is played up in the epilogue, where we're informed about Hokusai's death, O-Ei's marriage and even O-Ei's eventual death without any emotion, and then we're told that the time of the samurai came to an end, and suddenly the scene flashes to a futuristic Tokyo.
  • Spooky Painting: O-Ei paints a mural of hell for a rich man, and his wife starts freaking out, claiming the demons are haunting the place. Whether or not there are actual demons from hell, of if she's just hallucinating the whole thing, is left up to debate.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Oei's erotic paintings compared to Zenjirô's. Oei's paintings are technically well-done but lack passion and charm, while Zenjirô's have a lot of technical mistakes but are much more popular because of how expressive and evocative they are.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: Oei runs into her father's student Hatsugoro, who she has a slight crush on, while walking in the rain. He offers to share his umbrella with her as he's going in the same direction, and encourages her to get in closer to him underneath it. Ultimately subverted as she becomes too uncomfortable with the situation and makes an excuse to leave.