On Your Mark (ジブリ実験劇場 , Jiburi Jikkengekijō On Yua Māku) is a song by the Japanese rock duo Chage & Aska. The music video was part of the "Ghibli Experimental Theater" project and debuted on July 5, 1995. It was screened in cinemas as an opening to "Whisper of the Heart" on July 15, 1995.
The duo were celebrating the 15th anniversary of their debut, and at their request, animator Hayao Miyazaki agreed to produce a music video for their song. At the time, Miyazaki had been facing challenges working on "Princess Mononoke" and his producer Toshio Suzuki thought this project would be a good change of pace.
The music video is entirely animated, has no dialogue, and runs for about six and a half minutes. It was shown during Chage & Aska's live performances for their 1995 - 96 concert tour "SUPER BEST3 MISSION IMPOSSIBLE". The song was also used in advertisements for NEC.
In an indeterminate future where the earth's surface has been contaminated by radiation, the human population has taken refuge in large underground megalopolises. During a brutal raid on a cult building, two police officers discover a mysterious winged young woman. Unscrupulous scientists remove it in front of their eyes, already considering it as an experiment subject. Haunted by this memory, the two policemen decide to try everything to give him his freedom...
The narrative is told in a nonlinear fashion. This is likely inspired by the lyrics. Just as the song describes, the two men do not give up in their efforts to rescue the winged girl, no matter how many times they fail.
The video begins with shots of a peaceful but vacant village, overgrown with weeds, with the enormous concrete sarcophagus of a covered-over nuclear reactor in the background.
As the music picks up, the scene changes to a sci-fi style nighttime military-style police raid on a cult. Futuristic flying troop transports crash through the windows of a tower topped by the gigantic neon-lit eyes and occupied by armed defenders. Anti-terrorist policemen exchange gunfire and grenades with cultists whose hoods depict an enormous eye, similar to those of the Dorok priests in Miyazaki's Nausicaa manga. The police are victorious; as they sort through the bodies of apparent mass suicide victims, two of them find what appears to be a girl, lying unconscious, with large feathered wings on her back.
The scene changes again, now to bright daylight and blue sky. Two men are driving an old Alfa Romeo down an empty road. One of them helps the girl up; she spreads her wings; he holds her hands as she gains confidence. With a nudge she is airborne, but she seems hesitant and afraid as he lets go.
The scene changes back to the discovery of the girl in the tower (bypassing the original sequence of the raid leading up to this point). Only at this point are the two men revealed to be the two from the vehicle in the previous sequence. The two men carefully carry her out and offer her something to drink, and are encouraged when she sips. But a team of scientists wearing radiation suits arrives and quickly whisks the girl away after placing her into a sterile container.
The two men are shown relaxing later, but thinking about the girl and looking somewhat morose—haunted by the fate this girl will suffer. The two hatch a plan - they are shown working on various aspects of this, then the pair wearing radiation suits and breaking into a laboratory and rescuing the girl. This triggers the lab's alarms, and the three of them escape in an armored truck. They drive along a narrow suspended roadway over what appears to be a domed city built in a crater. Police hovercrafts are in hot pursuit, and one of them collides with the roadway and destroys it, sending the truck plummeting. The winged girl refuses to let go of the hands of her rescuers, and so the three of them presumably fall to their deaths.
A brief montage of previous shots follows: the discovery of the girl, the girl flying through a blue sky, the two men rescuing the girl from the laboratory and stealing the truck, the truck plummeting amidst the wreckage of the roadway. But this time, the truck fires stabilizing thrusters and makes a short flight into the side of an apartment tower. The men and the girl escape; they are seen in their sports car racing through a dark tunnel underneath signs which bear radiation symbols and read (in kanji) "Beware Of Sunlight" and "Survival Not Guaranteed", then finally they emerge into daylight, passing through a field of nuclear cooling towers and past a sign which reads "Extreme Danger." Besides the green fields and trees, there are no other signs of life. This lush vegetation however hints that the radioactivity may have subsided long ago, allowing nature to take over.
As the car speeds down the road, one of the men helps the girl up, and she spreads her wings and gives them a grateful smile; he kisses her hand, and the other winks in farewell. Soon, she is gone drifting upward into the sky. Briefly, a major urban cityscape is seen beyond the trees. From a bird's-eye view, we see the shape of the car veering off the road and slowing to a stop in the grass. Hayao Miyazaki implies that the two policemen might not be able to return to their old life, however; whether this is due to the authorities being on their trail or because of potential radioactive poisoning is unknown.
Chage (CHAGEがモデル , Chage ga Moderu) Chage, which we can guess is his name since it's on his coffee mug, is one of the two policemen who rescue the angel girl. As far as we can tell, he's funny, loves taking risks, and knows a lot about technology.
Aska (ASKAがモデル , Aska ga Moderu) Aska is the other policeman. He is more serious than his partner. It is he who suggests that they save the angel girl. He drives the car whenever they need to go somewhere.
Winged Girl (翼の生えた少女 , Tsubasa no Haeta Shōjo) The winged girl may or may not be an actual angel, but she does have two large, white, feathery wings sprouting out of her back. She is found by the two policemen in a religious cult's headquarters. It is possible she was given her wings by the cultists. She is unconscious for nearly the entire film, but in her waking moments, she is revealed to be grateful for what the policemen do for her.
Behind the Scenes
According to French fansite Buta Connection, towards the end of the production of "Whisper of the Heart", the Japanese record company Pony Canyon considered commissioning Studio Ghibli to produce a 35mm animated promotional video for the song, "On Your Mark" by the Pop-Rock duo Chage and Aska.
It was during a meeting that the record company decided to transform the promotional video for the song into a full length animated music video. As Ghibli was considered the most famous studio in Japan, one of the producers came up with the idea of commissioning them for the project. Everyone wondered if Ghibli would accept such a request, but the person who pitched the idea felt they had nothing to lose by contacting them.
Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, who had never accepted such requests until that point, tried to talk to Miyazaki about it. Somehow, against all odds, Miyazaki accepted the offer. It turns out that Miyazaki, who at the time was busy in the production, screenwriting and storyboard of Yoshifumi Kondô's film, "Whisper of the Heart", was suffering creative burn out when it came to writing Ghibli's film, "Princess Mononoke", which had been based on an original idea from ten years prior. The weary director had been looking for another project that would distract him. The last time this happened to Miyazaki was during the early in the development of "Porco Rosso", where he supervised the construction of a new office for Studio Ghibli.
Anime scholar Toshio Okada proposed another possible explanation on why Miyazaki accepted the commission. Miyazaki had just completed the final chapter of the manga adaptation of "Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind" in 1994 and that the last few Studio Ghibli, "Pom Poko" (1994) and "Porco Rosso" (1992), were not major box office successes. Suzuki understood that Ghibli needed to release something that would have mass appeal, and making a music video for a pop group might have been the attention the studio needed.
Thus, from January 5 to May 27, 1995, he brought together some of the studio's most promising young animators for this music video project and by the end, the budget nearly exceeded ¥100 million.
“On Your Mark turned out to be a great distraction for Miya-san,” Suzuki noted prior to its release. “After he was done, his work on Princess Mononoke was able to finally progress slowly. “When it comes out, the music, the quality and the visual richness of the clip will mark the audience. However, as producer, I will admit that Miyazaki had not yet given 100% to the project..."
When Pony Canyon placed the order, the record company demanded that the characters of Chage and Aska appear in the video. However, Toshio Suzuki refused. Yet, Hayao Miyazaki didn't care and used visually-similar looking stand-ins of the duo as the main characters.
The legwork was handled by animation director Masashi Andô. The two male protagonists were clearly stand-ins for Chage and Aska. On the other hand, the winged young woman is visually a typical Miyazakian heroine. Andô also teamed up with Yôji Takeshige who made his debut as artistic director. Finally, Kazuo Oga handled background art.
Rumors floated around that Miyazaki accepted making of this video because he saw there the possibility of adapting computer tools within the framework of a traditional animated film. His main goal had been to merge hand drawn art with digital CG animation with this production. However, at the time, Studio Ghibli did not have an IT department and subcontracted this work under the supervision of Hideki Nakano. Two years later, the need for IT and a CG department would prove invaluable in the creation of "Princess Mononoke".
Shortly before Ghibli was commissioned, the staff took a relaxing trip to Nara, Honshu. There, Suzuki, Miyazaki and fellow partners got to test out a new arcade game from SEGA. It was a space simulator and they were all amazed, except Miyazaki who said, "Such cheap illusions never fool me."
During the storyboard phase, Suzuki found that it contained an image similar to that of the SEGA attraction. Miyazaki seemily borrowed this idea and was heard saying, “I can make it a lot better than SEGA."
The project period lasted from January 5th - May 27th, 1995. Despite its short length, they had produced roughly 8,053 sheets of drawings. It was released in Japanese cinemas as part of a "Ghibli Experimental Theater" and an opening to "Whisper of the Heart" in July 1995. The response was overwhelmingly positive with Suzuki remarking, "It was a special work for us." The video proved to be so popular that talks were made to develop it into a a feature-length film, however the project never proceeded beyond that.
- HEART / NATURAL / On Your Mark (released August 3, 1994)
- CHAGE and ASKA's 35th single. Only the song is recorded in the third song.
- CODE NAME.2 SISTER MOON ( released April 22, 1996)
- CHAGE and ASKA's 18th album. Only the song is recorded on the 12th song.
- One voice THE SONGS OF CHAGE & ASKA ( released July 31, 1996)
- CHAGE and ASKA tribute album by overseas artists. The 12th song contains the English version of "On Your Mark" ("Castles In The Air" -Chage & Aska).
- MTV UNPLUGGED LIVE ( released October 7, 1996)
- A live album containing the sound source of CHAGE and ASKA's appearance on " MTV Unplugged " in London on June 19, 1996 . Only the song is recorded as "CASTLES IN THE AIR" on the 9th song.
- STUDIO GHIBLI SONGS (released May 21, 1998) An omnibus board containing songs produced by Studio Ghibli. Only the song is recorded on the 15th song.
- CHAGE & ASKA VERY BEST ROLL OVER 20TH (released December 16, 1999) The 20th anniversary of CHAGE and ASKA's debut, the best compilation album of 2 discs. Only songs are recorded on the 2nd and 10th songs.
- STUDIO GHIBLI SONGS + ONE ~ Music Box Melody's 2000 ~ (Released on December 22, 1999) A planning board that contains the music box melody of the songs produced by Studio Ghibli . Only the music box version of the 15th song is included.
VHS / LD
- Studio Ghibli Works LD Complete Works Full of Ghibli (TKLO-50180) On Your Mark Recording (TKLO-50180-11) (Released on August 1, 1996) Audio is recorded in Dolby Surround AC-3 Digital.
- Ghibli Experimental Theater On Your Mark ( released July 25, 1997 ) Includes PV and Leica reel ( test version video of the main story composed of Hayao Miyazaki's hand- drawn storyboards). Released as a PV of CHAGE and ASKA from Pony Canyon to which they belonged at that time (CHAGE and ASKA " Something There " PV is also recorded at the same time).
- A lot of Ghibli SPECIAL Short Short (released on November 16, 2005) Contains a total of 6 patterns with and without lyrics for 2.0ch in Japanese, 5.1ch in Japanese, and 2.0ch in English ("CASTLES IN THE AIR"). Leica reel recording as a video privilege. May 20, 2014, sales suspended.
- A lot of Ghibli SPECIAL Shorts 1992-2016 (released July 17, 2019) Includes 2.0ch in Japanese, 5.1ch in Japanese, and 2.0ch in English ("CASTLES IN THE AIR"). Leica reel recording as a video privilege.
- "Hayao Miyazaki Works" ( 2014 July 2 release) special disk "On Your Mark" (October 27, 2014 - October 31, 2015 distribution) It was distributed free of charge for a limited time to purchasers of "Hayao Miyazaki's Works". Includes 2.0ch in Japanese, 5.1ch in Japanese, and 2.0ch in English ("CASTLES IN THE AIR").
- A lot of Ghibli SPECIAL Short Short 1992-2016 (released July 17, 2019) Includes 2.0ch in Japanese, 5.1ch in Japanese, and 2.0ch in English ("CASTLES IN THE AIR"). Leica reel recording as a video privilege.