June 09, 2014
On Your Mark
As previously mentioned, singer Aska's arrest for meth possession had the silver lining of reminding Hayao Miyazaki fans of a music video he directed for Chage & Aska back in 1995. Alas, this flurry of publicity resulted in the video getting pulled from an upcoming box set.
The video was originally released with two Chage & Aska tracks: "On Your Mark" (Japanese lyrics) and "Castles in the Air" (English lyrics). "Castles in the Air" strikes me as much more relevant to the specific content and was probably written with the video in mind.
Miyazaki tells a complete story, albeit in a non-linear fashion. There are echoes of Castle in the Sky and the flying gunships go back to his first Studio Ghibli film, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and even Blade Runner (that had a profound effect on the anime aesthetic).
Perhaps most tellingly, in the opening sequence of Nausicaa, a similar girl with wings appears in the "prophesy scroll."
All fused with the time-rewind plot device that dominates the Tom Cruise sci-fi flick, Edge of Tomorrow. (Incidentally, Edge of Tomorrow is based on All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, illustrations by Yoshitoshi ABe. Yes, there is an official translation.)
It's tempting to interpret the opening sequence in the video as a commentary on the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system by the Aum Shinri Kyo cult and the subsequent police raids. But production of the video had already been completed by then.
In this interview, Miyazaki points to the 1989 Chernobyl meltdown (the massive sarcophagus looming above the abandoned town). He would have been aware of the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. (If it bleeds in the U.S., it leads in Japan too.)
Of course, Occam's Razor also suggests that Miyazaki stitched the script together with whatever spare narrative parts were lying around at the time. He admits to sifting through the lyrics and making them mean what he wanted them to mean.
But for those of us who delight in deconstructing pop-culture sci-fi texts (regardless of authorial intent), you can find a summary of the story here and way too much analysis here and here.
There are several versions of the video floating around the Internet. With a little googling, you might be able to track one down. Be sure to watch it before the busy lawyers from Disney (which has international rights to Studio Ghibli films) send out another takedown notice.
In the meantime, enjoy a concert version of "On Your Mark" from 1995. A translation of the lyrics is here (a few minor differences with the concert version). Even if you don't understand Japanese (and frankly that doesn't help much either), it's a heckuva performance.