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Cartoon Friday Watercooler: On Your Mark


A silhouette of an angel touches the silhouetted head of a human.

How far would you go to save an angel?

It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

Tonight’s selection is On Your Mark, a music video from 1995 by Japan’s Chage & Aska. But I’m not linking to it because of the music.

If you’ve been reading Cartoon Friday, you’re probably aware that I don’t usually link to music videos on Cartoon Friday. But this music video is by perhaps Japan’s greatest animator, Hayao Miyazaki. You may know some of his other works: My Neigbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service or perhaps Princess Mononoke. If you don’t know, do whatever you can to acquire some of these films. When the American dub of Mononoke opened in America, the author Neil Gaiman wrote the translation. I was able to attend a screening where he was present and got to ask him if he was a regular fan of Japanese animation. “Not really,” he told me. “But whenever I see one I like, it’s always been by Hayao Miyazaki.”

It’s comparatively rare for Miyazaki to take on a short form work like this. But as Io9 commented, it “Packs a Full Movie Into Just Seven Minutes.” What’s interesting is the short form seems to have freed Miyazaki from being fully linear, and so this video explores several iterations of the story’s possible endings.

In 1995, Hayao Miyazaki had writer’s block while working on Princess Mononoke. So he took a break to direct this music video for Chage and Aska’s song On Your Mark. And while it may have been a short film, Miyazaki didn’t skimp on the visuals. On Your Mark let Miyazaki play with his storytelling through repetition and alternate endings for her trio of protagonists. It’s not hard to imagine it fleshed out into a feature-length, time-looping film, but it’s perfectly lovely as this self-contained nugget of brilliance.

Miyazaki’s films are fascinated by both innocence and the horrors of war and this film explores both those themes. GhibliWiki (Miyazaki’s production house is Studio Ghibli) has some more details on the background of the film in a FAQ:

Q: Who are Chage & Aska?

They are two of the most popular Rock/Pop musicians in Asia. They (sort of) look like the two policemen in the film. To know more about them, visit one of their fan pages.

Q: What is the big building which looks like a box in the beginning of the film?

According to Miyazaki, humans in this time are living underground because the earth is covered with pollution, radiation, ultraviolet light, and so forth. You can see a car with a radiation warning sign moving in front of this ‘Box.’ After the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, the reactor was totally covered by concrete to keep radiation in. The plant now looks like a huge concrete box, called a ‘coffin.’ Since Miyazaki mentioned Chernobyl in his interview about OYM, this big ‘box’ is probably something like Chernobyl’s coffin.

Q: Who are those people who were raided by the police?

They are the followers of ‘Saint Nova’s Church.’ We don’t know why they were raided by the police. However, unfortunately, a religious cult being raided by the authorities is not such a rare event today. OYM was made before Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult, was raided by the police for their criminal activities.

You can also read a translation of the lyrics courtesy of Aardvark Anime Concerts. I learned an interesting idiom from reading them:

On Your Mark itsumo
On Your Mark, let’s go
Hashiri daseba. Hayarino kaze ni yarareta
I always seem to catch the flu that’s going around

NOTE: ‘Catching the flu that’s going around’ is correct, I have verified it with several sources both in and out of Japan. Basically it means a new start, a new beginning. Don’t ask me why.

Seen any good cartoons lately? What are you watching on TV these days?

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The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your Friday thoughts.

Image by Ivan David Gomez Arce released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and