I.G & Colorful's Keiichi Hara Make Historical Anime Miss Hokusai

posted on 2014-04-24 21:00 EDT
Film of Hinako Sugiura's manga about legendary painter Hokusai's uncredited daughter

Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh, Blood: The Last Vampire) announced on Friday that it is animating Hinako Sugiura's acclaimed historical manga Sarusuberi with Annecy-winning director Keiichi Hara (Summer Days with Coo, Colorful). Production I.G describes the story, which will have the English title Miss Hokusai:

The time: 1814.

The place: Edo, now known as Tokyo. One of the highest populated cities in the world, teeming with peasants, samurai, townsmen, merchants, nobles, artists, courtesans, and perhaps even supernatural things.

A much accomplished artist of his time and now in his mid-fifties, Tetsuzo can boast clients from all over Japan, and tirelessly works in the garbage-loaded chaos of his house-atelier. He spends his days creating astounding pieces of art, from a giant-size Bodhidharma portrayed on a 180 square meter-wide sheet of paper, to a pair of sparrows painted on a tiny rice grain. Short-tempered, utterly sarcastic, with no passion for sake or money, he would charge a fortune for any job he is not really interested in.

Third of Tetsuzo's four daughters and born out of his second marriage, outspoken 23-year-old O-Ei has inherited her father's talent and stubbornness, and very often she would paint instead of him, though uncredited. Her art is so powerful that sometimes leads to trouble. "We're father and daughter; with two brushes and four chopsticks, I guess we can always manage, in a way or another."

Decades later, Europe was going to discover the immense talent of Tetsuzo. He was to become best known by one of his many names: Katsushika Hokusai. He would mesmerize Renoir and van Gogh, Monet and Klimt.

However, very few today are even aware of the woman who assisted him all his life, and greatly contributed to his art while remaining uncredited. This is the  untold story of O-Ei, Master Hokusai's daughter: a lively portrayal of a free-spirited woman overshadowed by her larger-than-life father, unfolding through the changing seasons.

Sugiura made her manga debut in 1980 in the experimental magazine Garo, and made her mark with intricately researched historical stories about Japan's Edo period. Her unique storytelling won the Japan Cartoonists' Association Award in 1984 and the Bunshun Manga Award in 1988. She serialized Sarusuberi in Manga Sunday magazine (Jitsugyo no Nihon Sha, Ltd.) from 1983 to 1987. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 46.

Hara worked for years on the Crayon Shin-chan television anime series before garnering critical attention for such films as Crayon Shin-chan: Arashi o Yobu Appare! Sengoku Daikassen (Crayon Shin-chan; Brilliant! The Great Battle of the Warring States) and Summer Days with Coo. He earned the Jury's Special Distinction and the Audience Award for the bittersweet film Colorful at Annecy 2011. He has since made his first live-action film, a 2013 biography about the Japanese filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita.

Miho Maruo (Colorful, The Dog of Flanders, Kodocha) is writing the screenplay of Miss Hokusai, and Yoshimi Itazu (The Wind Rises, Denno Coil, planned Yume-Miru Kikai film by the late Satoshi Kon) is serving as chief animator. Hiroshi Ohno (A Letter to Momo, Wolf Children) is handling the background art. The film will open next year, and Production I.G is handling worldwide distribution and sales.

Images © 2014 Hinako Sugiura, MS HS/Sarusuberi Film Partners

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