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Studio Ghibli is on an extended hiatus and, indeed, may never return. Fortunately there is more quality animation to be found in Japan than just Miyazaki & co, with several exciting projects being scheduled for release in 2015. I have already written about Hosoda Mamoru’s「バケモノの子」(Bakemono No Ko/The Boy and the Beasthere and here, which will hit screens in July 2015. However, there is yet more to look forward to:

百日紅」(Sarusuberi/Miss Hokusai)

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Directed by: Hara Keiichi
Studio: Production I.G.
Release date: TBC

A while back (in April, in fact!) Production I.G. announced a new project from 「河童のクゥと夏休み」 (Kappa no Kū to Natsuyasumi/Summer Days with Coo, 2007) and「カラフル」 (Karafuru/Colorful, 2010) director Hara Keiichi:「百日紅」(Sarusuberi/Miss Hokusai). The film is based on a historical manga of the same (Japanese) title written by Sugiura Hinako. Set in early 19th century Japan, the animation focuses on Hokusai O-ei. O-ei is the daughter of Hokusai Tetsuzo (also known as Hokusai Katsushika), an accomplished artist who spends his days creating both spectacular as well as bizarre pieces of art (a giant-size Buddha on a piece of paper measuring 180 square metres, sparrows painted on a rice grain, etc.). He is wilful and uncompromising, and demands exorbitant sums of money for any job that he is not interested in. His daughter, aged 23, shares many of his traits – including his artistic talent and his stubbornness. She assists him with his art as well as creating her own, equally outrageous pieces – something that has however been lost in history. As Production I.G. reveals, “[t]his 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.” (quote)

We’re father and daughter; with two brushes and four chopsticks, I guess we can always manage, one way or another.

Hokusai Tetsuzo (Hokusai Katsushika) was, by the way, a real artist. Other than a manga-retelling of his life and this forthcoming animation, there is also a 1981 live-action film「北斎漫画」(Hokusai Manga/Edo Porn) directed by Shindo Kaneto.

Bonus: More on Hokusai Tetsuzo; Shindo’s「北斎漫画」(Hokusai Manga/Edo Porn) on YouTube.

「花とアリス殺人事件」 (Hana to Alice Satsujin Jiken/The Case of Hana and Alice)

Directed by: Iwai Shunji
Studio: T-joy
Release date: February 20, 2015

Ten years ago Iwai Shunji made a film called 「花とアリス」(Hana to Alice/Hana and Alice), starring Yu Aoi and Suzuki Anne as high school friends, who fall into a lie-entangled love triangle that tests their friendship. I still haven’t seen the original film, although reviewers seem to agree that it’s charming and worth a watch for the two lead actresses (both of whom have gone on to have solid acting careers in Japan). Now, Iwai returns with a prequel – his first feature-length animation –, which is set a year before the original story and shows Hana and Alice’s friendship at its very beginning: when they first meet over a murder mystery.

Bonus: The live-action film originally existed as web-based shorts for Kit-kat’s 30th anniversary (in 2003) and was expanded into a 135 min production by Iwai the year after.

「この世界の片隅に」(Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni/In This Corner of the World)

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Directed by: Katabuchi Sunao
Studio: MAPPA
Release date: unknown (but fingers crossed it will definitely be in 2015!)

If you were lucky enough to see「マイマイ新子と千年の魔法」(Maimai Shinko to sen-nen no mahō/Mai Mai Miracle), you will know that Katabuchi Sunao’s forthcoming project is certainly one to be super-excited about. With Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni Katabuchi once again chooses a subject matter with a historical setting, adapting a manga (same title in Japanese, English title To All The Corners of the World) by Kouno Fumiyo about a young bride, Urano Suzu, as she settles into a life with her new family during the Second World War.

Bonus: Anime News Network interview with Katabuchi Sunao (Dec 2014); my Mai Mai Shinko REVIEW; words from others that have seen it; and, fear not, it’ll soon be getting an English-language release.

From Hosoda’s Bakemono no Ko to Katabuchi’s Kono Sekai no Katasumi ni, I am eagerly anticipating all these projects. Release dates for some have yet to be confirmed and international festival screenings and release details are, as always, even more uncertain – but it’s still thrilling to know that we will, at some point at least, be getting films from directors that have delighted us before. I will be posting updates (e.g. trailers) as soon as they become available.

Bonus bits: