On Your Mark: Review/Synopsis

by: William String

In this six-minute music video, two anti-terrorist policemen, while storming a religious cult's headquarters, discover a young girl with two large, white, feathery wings sprouting from her back. Shortly afterward, scientists come and take the girl away to run lab tests on her. The policemen decide that that is no way for such a wondrous creature to live, and make plans to rescue her and set her free.

This music video, set to the song "On Your Mark" by Chage and Aska and created by Hayao Miyazaki, is a little-known but amazing work of art. It was shown in Japanese theaters before Whisper of the Heart. The two films are drastically different, similar to the pairing between Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbor Totoro, but you can tell they were made by the same studio.

On Your Mark is Ghibli's most famous short, excepting for Mei and the Kittenbus, perhaps. It centers around two policemen (who look like Chage and Aska themselves), and their fight to save a winged girl from a life of experimentation. The film is set in a future city, which is built in a crater to protect it from radiation from the remains of a nearby nuclear plant. The film is probably Miyazaki's most realistic work, as the plant resembles the remains of the Chernobyl facility. It has been compared to Nausica of the Valley of the Wind due to its foreboding yet entirely possible tone about the future (and also since the angel girl looks like Nausica, only with brown hair).

The short has many themes, mostly Miyazaki's trademarks, environmentalism and flight. It has multiple endings, causing the viewer to wonder what the "real" ending was. Whether the girl is an actual angel or not is an arguable point. Miyazaki always refers to her as the "bird girl". She is unconscious for almost the entire video, so we see little of her actions. At the end of the short's final ending, the policemen watch the girl fly away into the sky, which leaves them on the ground with the radiation and other policemen waiting to arrest them. But it leaves the viewer with a satisfied feeling, since the angel girl is free. Isn't that odd?