Here's a Hayao Miyazaki film that never gets any love, even from the die-hard fans. On Your Mark is a 1995 short film that doubles as a music video for the Japanese pop duo Chage and Aska. It played in theaters alongside Yoshifumi Kondo's Mimi wo Sumaseba.
This short film was Miyazaki's first animated film since completing his landmark graphic novel, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, which was published in monthly installments in the pages of Animage Magazine. There were several major breaks, including a three-year hiatus at the midway point, but Miyazaki finally managed to complete his epic masterwork.
Why am I mentioning this? Because On Your Mark is very strongly influenced by Nausicaa. This film is often interpreted as Miyazaki's attempt at "letting go" of his most iconic heroine. The mysterious angel who is rescued from captivity and set free, the glowing of her "wings" among the clouds, are too obvious to miss. Slightly more subtle is the Nausicaa riff of the tank driving over a crumbling bridge (in a spectacular action sequence - we always have spectacular action in a Miyazaki anime). The story's religious cult also points back to the Dorok Empire, as well as the notorious (real-life) cult, Aum Shinrikyo, whose 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack surely weighed on the mind of Miyazaki.
I'm personally less enamored of Chage and Aska themselves; their song has that syrupy, dopey quality that defined so many bad 1980s pop ballads. I'll prefer to turn the sound off. On Your Mark works best as a silent film, anyway. The excellent sci-fi art design is unique in the Miyazaki canon. His worlds owe everything to Horus and Heidi, not so much Akira or Fritz Lang's Metropolis. This is also an early use of CGI in a Studio Ghibli movie (the others being Pom Poko and Mimi). It's a single first-person shot of a helicopter flying through a futuristic skyscraper, very short dipping of toes into the water. Princess Mononoke would be the studio's first major investment in computer animation (and even then, mostly in a support role).
Now a short note about these screenshots. On Your Mark was prepared for release as part of the Hayao Miyazaki Blu-Ray Box, with full 4K digital restoration. Suddenly, Chage and Aska were caught in a drug scandal just before the box set's release. Studio Ghibli quickly removed the short film from the package; the 2005 DVD Ghibli ga Ippai Special: Short Short, which also included OYM, also went out-of-print during this time.
After an outcry by fans, Ghibli relented somewhat. On Your Mark would be available via mail to those who purchased the box set, but will not be included in future pressings of the package. Whether this situation changes is anybody's guess. Also, due to copyright issues (read: money), it's unlikely OYM will be included in Western releases of the Miyazaki BD set.
These screenshots were taken by Michael Burns, who kindly sent them to me for publication. He has also purchased the newly-released Isao Takahata BD Box, and will be providing screenshots of those films in due course. More OYM photos appear after the jump cut: