watch this forgotten 90s studio ghibli music video about a cult
Directed by Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, it’s not very kid-friendly.
One of the (many) spectacular elements of Hayao Miyazaki’s craft is his ability to transcend genre and medium. The storied animator has worked on everything from feature films to manga comics, with the one consistent feature being his humanistic aesthetic. But the average Studio Ghibli fan probably doesn’t know that Miyazaki once carried his inimitable approach over into an unexpected artistic medium: music videos. Which is exactly what we’re here for.
In 1994, Studio Ghibli created the most touching anime music video of all time. Miyazaki wrote and directed a six-minute short film for Japanese rock duo Chage and Aska’s ballad “On Your Mark.” The project tells the story of an angel being rescued from a world afflicted with radiation and disease. Be warned: despite being animated, the video is not very kid-friendly (featuring lots of gunfire and violence) and it will make you teary-eyed.
The experimental video for “On Your Mark” came about in the most mundane of ways. Miyazaki was suffering from a bad case of writer’s block while creating The Princess of Mononoke and used the project as a creative distraction. What a productive procrastinator.
Considering “On Your Mark” was a casual undertaking for Miyazaki, it’s even more impressive the video has inspired plenty of academic study. “You can interpret it anyway you want, but I think that it's enough if you can feel something from the truck with the radiation warning sign in the next scene,” Miyazaki said in a 1995 interview, taking a rare moment to elaborate on the messages embedded in his lauded music video. “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.”
The video depicts two men risking their lives to escape from their underground habitation (a result of them fleeing a ruined, toxic Japan) and rescuing an angel imprisoned by a nuclear facility. “It became a sanctuary for nature, with the humans living in the underground city,” Miyazaki explained. The video can be viewed as a clairvoyant vision of where our planet is heading. Japan suffered from an unprecedented nuclear meltdown in 2011 and the potential disintegration of the Iran Nuclear Deal has reinvigorated fears of global chemical warfare. This is very far from the whimsical lightheartedness of My Neighbor Totoro!
Miyazaki does provide one silver lining at the end of the music video: “The angel whom two policemen rescue can be seen as one hope in the chaotic world.”
“On Your Mark” appears to have been largely forgotten about since its release in 1994, most likely because the dark subject matter is such a radical departure for Miyazaki. However, it is one of his most layered works. There are a host of pop culture references in the clip. The futuristic world we’re presented feels similar to the opening of Blade Runner and the sign atop a skyscraper reading “God is watching you” is equal parts 1984 and The Great Gatsby.
Apparently Miyazaki’s angel is the figure of a religious cult, the government intervening to put an end to the group. Which sounds quite familiar, doesn’t it?
You can watch “On Your Mark” below: