Miss Hokusai is anime’s Mr Turner, offering a roundabout biopic of its nation’s most recognised artists – Katsushika Hokusai, painter of “The Great Wave” – that’s more interested in emulating (or, at least, evoking) its subject’s works than telling a complete story. Director Keiichi Hara frequently pays homage to Hokusai’s paintings and drawings through a gentle tale of nothing in particular.
Yet where I found Mr Turner captivating, Miss Hokusai failed to maintain my interest. Perhaps that’s credited to the disparity between Leigh’s painterly landscapes and Hara’s less-lavish animation, or the absence of a central performance like Timothy Spall’s. I’d primarily credit it, however, to the lack of purpose behind Miss Hokusai.
The film’s central message is plucked from its dialogue: “This life is nothing special, but we’re enjoying it.” A sentiment I can appreciate, but not one that makes for compelling cinema. There are feints at the path towards modernity, but they’re never sufficiently fleshed out. It doesn’t help that despite centring its story on Hokusai’s underappreciated daughter, O-Ei, herself an artist, Miss Hokusai’s representations of gender inequality have none of the aching tragedy of Mr Turner’s coda. There’s much to like for fans of Hokusai, but I found this forgettable.