When Brandon first mentioned that there might be some difficulty finding Girl Walk // All Day in order to watch it as this month’s MotM feature due to its rights issues, the first thing I thought of was On Your Mark. A seven minute experiment that Hayao Miyazaki churned out while dealing with his writer’s block on Princess Mononoke, the short film is an animated music video created for Japanese rock group Chage & Aska. It was originally released in theatres with Studio Ghibli feature Whisper of the Heart (which Miyazaki wrote but did not direct or animate), but has never had a legal release in the U.S., and is often pretty hard to find, even online (I found a version with a quick Google search, but won’t provide the link for fear that it will be immediately discovered and pulled). It was set to be released as part of a stateside Studio Ghibli DVD set, but Aska’s arrest for alleged possession of MDMA and other paraphernalia in 2014 meant that the set was delayed while Disney Japan scrubbed the video. Earlier sets of the DVD released in Japan were even recalled and new discs returned that did not contain the short. A note to international travelers: don’t do drugs in Japan. You’ll see your body of work erased from existence like lost, unnamed pharaohs.
The video itself is utterly beautiful. There’s no dialogue, and I don’t really know if the song itself has anything to do with the images, but the story is relatively straightforward despite being non-linear. There is an outside world that is ostensibly irradiated, and an underground metropolis that is visually evocative of both Blade Runner and Akira. Within this city, a group of policemen crash an airship into a tower filled with armed cultists, and two of them stumble upon a young girl with beautiful angelic wings. The girl is immediately taken by E.T.-esque scientists, and the two policemen who first discovered her break into a laboratory to liberate her. The three fail to escape and plunge to their deaths, but then a Lola rennt style rewind-as- montage leads back to the point where they fell and they instead fly away; the two policemen take the girl out into the sun to release her back into the sky, where she floats away and out of sight.
There are a lot of Miyazaki’s recurring elements in play, most notably his love for the imagery of flight. Whether it’s a flying fortress in Castle in the Sky, Nausicaa zipping around on her flier in Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, porcine fighter pilots in Porco Rosso, or pretty much the entirety of The Wind Rises, Miyazaki loves to make the audience feel like they’re soaring. The three characters have little in the way of characterization, but the policemen show a lot of personality in just their faces and their selfless attempts to save the girl from experimentation. We don’t really need to know much about their world at all, but the narrative of the story is clear regardless. Just as Girl Walk tells a story with no words, so to does On Your Mark. And, as both are constantly facing potential deletion, so to should you take any opportunity that presents itself to catch either film.
For more on May’s Movie of the Month, the 2001 narrative dance video Girl Walk // All Day, check out our Swampchat discussion of the film & last week’s look at five other classic visual albums.
-Mark “Boomer” Redmond