Hayao Miyazaki’s Magical Animated Music Video for the Japanese Pop Song, “On Your Mark”

On this site, we’ve fea­tured music videos by such acclaimed film­mak­ers as David Lynch, David Finch­er, Jim Jar­musch and even Andy Warhol. Now add to this list the leg­endary Japan­ese ani­ma­tor Hayao Miyaza­ki.

Back in 1994, Miyaza­ki was stuck on the script for his next fea­ture Princess Mononoke. So he decid­ed to do a video for the song “On Your Mark” by Japan­ese pop duo Chage & Aska. The result­ing piece is a gor­geous, dense, enig­mat­ic work that not only recalls Miyazaki’s ear­li­est works like Nau­si­caa of the Val­ley of the Wind, but also the edgi­er visions of the future seen in films like Aki­ra or Ghost in the Shell. In fact, the short is such a mag­i­cal, mem­o­rable piece of film­mak­ing that it over­whelms the song.

The video unfolds in a non-lin­ear fash­ion, jump­ing for­ward and back, fork­ing into mul­ti­ple ver­sions of the same scene. Miyaza­ki isn’t con­cerned about you not get­ting the sto­ry. As he said in a 1995 inter­view, you can “inter­pret [the film] any­way you want.”

The piece opens with a giant struc­ture that looms over an oth­er­wise beau­ti­ful, bucol­ic land­scape. Miyaza­ki, who is nev­er espe­cial­ly forth­com­ing when talk­ing about his work, describes the world of “On Your Mark” like this: “There is so much radi­a­tion on the Earth­’s sur­face, humans can no longer live there. But, there is flo­ra, just like there is one around Cher­nobyl. It became a sanc­tu­ary for nature, with the humans liv­ing in the under­ground city.”

The video then shifts abrupt­ly to a scene straight out of Aki­ra. Down in that under­ground city, the police attack the high­rise head­quar­ters of a spooky reli­gious cult and res­cue a young girl with broad, feath­ered wings. An angel? Who knows. A lot of view­ers have not­ed the cult echoes that of Aum Shin­rikyo, the dooms­day cult that released Sarin gas into the sub­ways of Tokyo in March 1995. Of course, the video was made before the attack. Mamoru Oshii’s 1993 ani­mat­ed fea­ture Pat­la­bor 2 also had eerie sim­i­lar­i­ties to Aum, so much so that it was fea­tured in the 1995 Yam­a­ga­ta Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val. Both film­mak­ers, it seems, tapped into that ugly under­cur­rent in the zeit­geist of Japan­ese cul­ture at that time.

As Miyazaki’s short pro­gress­es, it shows two cops who decide to do the right thing and break the girl out of the lab­o­ra­to­ry where she is being held. The first time they try, the cops (and pre­sum­ably the angel) plunge to their deaths. The sec­ond time they try – and it’s not real­ly clear how they get this do-over – they man­age to escape. The cops dri­ve to the irra­di­at­ed sur­face of the earth and watch in awe as the angel flies way.

In Miyazaki’s mind, the winged girl rep­re­sents hope:

If you don’t com­plete­ly give up on the sit­u­a­tion and you keep your hope, not let­ting any­one touch it, and then you have to let it go, you let it go where no one can touch it. It’s just that. Maybe there was a bit of exchange in the moment of let­ting her
go. That’s fine, that’s enough. …Prob­a­bly they’ll go back to being the police­men. I don’t know if they could go back, though. [laughs]

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

How to Make Instant Ramen Com­pli­ments of Japan­ese Ani­ma­tion Direc­tor Hayao Miyaza­ki

French Stu­dent Sets Inter­net on Fire with Ani­ma­tion Inspired by Moe­bius, Syd Mead & Hayao Miyaza­ki

Japan­ese Car­toons from the 1920s and 30s Reveal the Styl­is­tic Roots of Ani­me

Watch Sher­lock Hound: Hayao Miyazaki’s Ani­mat­ed, Steam­punk Take on Sher­lock Holmes

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veep­to­pus, fea­tur­ing pic­tures of vice pres­i­dents with octo­pus­es on their heads.  The Veep­to­pus store is here.

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