A scattershot but intriguing account of a year or so in the life of the artistic community in Edo during the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate. When we meet O-Ei, she is a young woman living with her father Hokusai, a (real-life) great painter who is not a great husband, father, teacher, or human being — in both cases, because he is utterly devoted to his work. O-Ei is also an accomplished artist, but she has yet to give herself over to it — e.g., her images of women are technically excellent but lack a kind of lived-in sensuality. Small wonder: she has a lonely, aging mother to think of, and a blind younger sister to console. Also, there are men in the picture: other artists, whose attitude toward her father is rather more reverent than her own. The art here is rawer and more idiosyncratic than some other anime, and there is a pleasing matter-of-factness about fleshy matters — drinking, sex, sickness — even as the more abstract question of art’s practice and power is under consideration. Just don’t go looking for a grand point beyond that, or even a narrative structure amid the history, and you’ll be fine. Directed by Keiichi Hara. In Japanese with English subtitles. (2015) — Matthew Lickona
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