Miss Hokusai.


Last year we wrote an article about Oei Katsushika, the daughter of the famed Ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai. What we didn’t know at the time was that a Japanese film on that exact subject was just getting ready to be released. Directed by Keiichi Hara (Colorful) and Production I.G (creators of Ghost in the Shell), “Miss Hokusai” is coming to theaters in the U.S. this fall and the trailer was just released.

As we wrote last year, only about 10 actual works have been attributed to Oei, but considering Katsushika Hokusai created some of his most famous and brilliant works towards the end of his life it seems reasonable to wonder just how much of the work was created by Oei. And the film appears to tree in similar waters:

As all of Edo flocks to see the work of the revered painter Hokusai, his daughter O-Ei toils diligently inside his studio. Her masterful portraits, dragons and erotic sketches – sold under the name of her father – are coveted by upper crust Lords and journeyman print makers alike. Shy and reserved in public, in the studio O-Ei is as brash and uninhibited as her father, smoking a pipe while sketching drawings that would make contemporary Japanese ladies blush. But despite this fiercely independent spirit, O-Ei struggles under the domineering influence of her father and is ridiculed for lacking the life experience that she is attempting to portray in her art. Miss Hokusai‘s bustling Edo (present day Tokyo) is filled with yokai spirits, dragons, and conniving tradesmen, while O-Ei’s relationships with her demanding father and blind younger sister provide a powerful emotional underpinning to this sumptuously-animated coming-of-age tale.

Looking forward to this very much! Via Spoon & Tamago.


  1. says

    I agree. Almost everyone on the planet is familiar with the Great Wave, even if they aren’t familiar with the artist. Now I really wonder how much was Oei’s work that was never credited.

  2. Ice Swimmer says

    “With two brushes and four chopsticks, we can get by anywhere.” That’s both wonderful and sad. I don’t know which one more.

    Am I right that O-Ei is a three-syllable name as Japanese doesn’t have diphtongs?

  3. says

    I’d pronounce it O ay. I don’t remember much Japanese, but ei is pronounced ay, as in say, like George Takei, and ai is pronounced as a long I, as in ice.

    I think that’s right. It’s been a long time since I’ve summoned up any conversational Japanese, so I could be completely wrong.

  4. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Caine is correct (I lived in Okinawa for three years, and although I’ve forgotten most of it, I still remember some!)

    Technically, the e is prounounced like eh, and i is a ee sound. If you say the two syllables together, they sound like ay, although with a really good ear (something most of us westerners who aren’t used to the type of tonal context of Japanese don’t have), you can actually hear a native speaker pronouncing it as eh-ee or ah-ee (english alphabet sucks for trying to hint at the subtleties), but when I spoke it, I was lazy and and would just say it like a long i. :) Same thing with the rl sound that so many westerners make fun of as a Japanese ‘lisp’ or whatever. It’s actually a very subtle, and somewhat difficult to make sound where you roll the r sound into the l sound.

    Although the Japanese language doesn’t have any glottal stops (like many Pacific Island languages), the difference between a single O and a double OO, for instance, is there, but most westerners wouldn’t be able to pick it up. To most of us, it would just sound like a long O.

  5. chigau (違う) says

    oops, too late
    oh well
    re: Caine #4
    Close enough.
    Although I’d agree that the pronunciation should be closer to three syllables
    oh eh ee
    but glided sorta together without becoming a True Dipthong.
    Wikipedia spells her name Ōi (おうい) and offers

    There are multiple theories as to the origin of her name, including Ei (her given name), Ei-jo(“jo” meaning “woman” or “daughter” in Japanese), O-i (“loyal to itsu”), and O-Ei(お栄?, honorary ‘O’ as a prefix for womens’ names in 19th century Japan).

    栄 can also be pronounced sakae.
    The kanji in the title, between Miss and Hokusai is
    sa ru su be ri
    crape myrtle
    for no reason that I have been able to find.

  6. chigau (違う) says

    Crimson Clupeidae
    Okinawans talk funny.
    So saith many of my Tokyo-dwelling informants.
    Usually with a little (condescending) chuckle.
    I smile and nod because I cannot hear any difference.

  7. Ice Swimmer says

    Upon listening to the trailer second time, the name Oei was said (around 1:40), three syllables, but the e-i less separate, as chigau said. The first time I didn’t pick that up, because it wasn’t in the subtitles.

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