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Disabled Winner Stripped of Art Prize for Ghibli Plagiarism


The winner of a newly instituted prize for disabled artists was stripped of her title after it became apparent she had plagiarised a Studio Ghibli character; the judges, including an art professor and two gallery bosses, apparently suspected but awarded the prize anyway, whilst the organisers pointed out that they had not actually explicitly prohibited plagiarism.

The top prize for artistic excellence in modern art by a disabled artist was awarded to a 26-year-old woman by the Osaka municipal government, who organised the event. There were 791 entrants in total.


The winning entry in question was entitled “A Downpour of Light” and roundly praised for its use of mosaic effects.


However, after the award a city employee apparently rather more familiar with Ghibli’s work than the judges or anyone viewing the works pointed out that the picture bore an uncanny resemblance to the sky robots in Ghibli’s masterpiece “Laputa.”

Studio Ghibli subsequently confirmed the obvious plagiarism, and the award was hurriedly rescinded.

After being caught the woman innocently claimed she had merely used Laputa as a “motif”: “I love Ghibli and so I made it the motif for this work.”

She then “declined to accept” the prize in a gesture likely intended to allow her and the organisers to save face.

The prize itself was recently instituted specifically in the hopes of encouraging disabled artists, and awarded for the first time to the woman.

The three judges overseeing the award included two heads of art galleries and a professor at an art college; one of the judges actually mentioned that the picture “resembled” Ghibli’s work, but they decided it was not a problem and awarded the prize anyway.

The department organising the event excused itself thusly:

“There wasn’t actually any warning to candidates that they should not submit works infringing on copyright. To avoid this happening again we’d like to devise some countermeasures.”

Sadly the rest of the art on display is strictly “modern art” and so devoid of much in the way of artistic merit:


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  • Sighhhh, been seeing a lot of this lately… If you take all works of art and look at all of them, you are gonna find things that look similar or even the same, even if the people who created them never saw the other.

    ~There is only a certain amount of materials and only a certain amount of ways to arrange that material so therefore only a certain amount of patterns.~

    The more you look into different type of artworks – Paintings, music, drawings, sculptures – anything, you will be likely to start noticing similarities…

    – wow that turned into a rant fast..-

  • In order to avoid the plagiarism charge the artist only needed to call the painting Laputa Sky Robot or something which made it clear that the subject was not her original invention.

    The technique used was worthy of note and there is nothing wrong with make an artistic representation of an already existing subject.

  • I don;t get it this is art She drew it Sure someone else drew something very simmilar first but its not like its writing She drew this herself I dont; find that plagirizing myself regardless if she sat down and went with intent to copy laputa stuff identically She didn;t photo copy a cell and enter it or something She created this art herself.

  • LOL, plagiarism?, well, should I remind you of the 80’s huge robot boom?, everyone was (and still is) into it, almost most of the anime mechas resemblence one or more mechas from other series and it’s NOT plagiarism isn’t it?. Well, this is supposed to be art, an expression of her former self so I think the “plagiarism” doesn’t exists as such in the common art (not “artist”, watch it) way as long as you don’t take an exact piece of art and present it as yours.

  • “Plagiarism” as a term applies to ideas, thoughts, and words (such as the content of an essay or journalistic article), not visual images. Saying she “plagiarized” the character is like accusing someone of jaywalking through a forest – it doesn’t make any sense. Warhol didn’t plagiarize the soup can. Perhaps she was guilty of copyright infringement (though that would be up to the courts to decide), or perhaps the contest judges felt that the lack of originality took away from the appeal of her piece, but it’s not plagiarism either way.

  • “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

    Considering this was a not-for-profit endeavor I fail to see what is so wrong on modeling your artwork on one of the most recognized brands in their country. Ghibli should be astounded that it has such an influence.

    Then again, it was most likely the price was rescinded because she was a woman and disabled.

  • It’s only plagiarism if she tried to pass it off as her own work (as in an original piece) and at no point is it indicated that she did that. It seems people cant separate a copyright infringement from plagiarism.

  • I suppose if she had used a chair instead she would have plagiarized the guy who invented the chair instead. In fact, if she had made anything that even remotely resembles anything that already exists in any way then that would have been plagiarism too.

    • Ehhh.. what?

      Whoever invented a chair didn’t make the chair for the purpose of art or to represent his idea. It is invented with a function as a main purpose. If she had used a chair to create an art she wouldn’t be plagiarizing.

      But I’m sure she has to do more than just replicating an ordinary chair or draw one to justify as an art. I’m saying she will need some sort of intriguing idea to go with it or make some sort of statement visually, or even arrange to make aesthetically pleasing.

  • This isn’t plagiarism, it’s a tribute. Plagiarism would imply that someone stole an idea almost word for word, or in this case, replicated an artwork with some tweaks. The painting clearly shows off her own technique and brushwork it’s just that she chose the subject from an existing character.

    I’ve done mosaics before and they’re shit hard, time consuming, and tedious. There’s a saying in the graphic design community(and maybe this is a general rule of thumb) that if you change a certain % of something, it’s not a copy anymore. Depending on the size, this must’ve taken forever to do and the work that she put in deserves more credit than the outline of a character.

    I guess it’s a little more iffy in this case because ghibli films could be consider an artwork and there’s a chance that she didn’t credit them to begin with. Whatever the case, I would like to see the painting in person since it’s hard to tell how good it is from the picture.

    • Tribute, satire, yes.


      Entire circumstance of judges finding out from source other than this lady changes everything. Because she didn’t declare it before it was judged it is no longer passable as a tribute.

      Either way, in an art contest, if you were a judge, would you really want to pick someone who didn’t bring his/her own creative idea to the table? Craftsmanship and techniques are important but creativity is what makes art worth it.

  • If there was no set rule against infringing copyrights, then she should have won on the merits of the work, how it was painted, the way it was done etc.

    Next time they should make that a part of the official rules.

    • Yes, they should’ve stated clearly just incase, but in an official contest such as this, you expect people got at least awareness of ripping someone’s work isn’t the way to fly and hopefully little twist here and there is going to do the covering.

    • You dumbnuts, of course not. You can’t plagiarize a tree when the tree wasn’t created by men. Unless you are saying we plagiarized god.

      You can’t just rub it off call it a “motif” or “I don’t think it’s similar enough to call it plagiarism.” Ahem, Darkrockslizer if you create a variation character of Miku for Vocaloid and call it Darkrockslizer you think its not similar enough to get away?

      Plagiarism mean when an individual steal or copy someone’s work along with its distinguished features and ideas, in some case specific choice of words.

      If she made it look like a satire art that would’ve been a different story but even satire artists can get in trouble and cause controversy either way.

    • Yes it is a plagiarism.
      As long as she didn’t declare her intention ahead of time or inherent clearly in her work it is too late to make excuse after she was caught.

      For example, your so called “pop art” or specifically satire art uses popular culture (icons, famous art work, popular logos) as a medium to convey another idea as main goal. Parody is a common example for satire.

    • Don’t see the damn problem. It’s obviously her own work, even if the motif is from Laputa. Stupid japanese… I guess if Andy Warhol was japanese he would have been thrown in jail for copyright infringement instead of becoming famous for painting tomato-soup cans and Marilyn Monroe…

        • Right back at you, for one, Warhol didn’t try to pass off Campbell tomato soup can design as his work. Whether his work should be called “art” or not is an entirely different debate. His idea was to visualize importance of pop culture icons and how it affect social and people.

          This lady hoped judges didn’t notice anything and let it slide as her creation. From this action her intention is far from using Laputa robot as a medium to convey her own idea and perspective.

          Again, “Detecting idiot…” back at you sir.

        • Detecting idiot…

          Based on the artpiece itself I could pull a litteral shit-ton of different ideas out of my ass about various ideas she is trying to convey with her art.

          I’d even go as far as saying that if this peice and Warhols tomato-soup can peice was side to side, I’d see a lot more art and a lot less plagiarism in this piece than in Warhol’s…

        • Campbells Soup could have put the kaibosh on Andy’s Cans if they wanted. They liked the publicity and actually showcased the artwork themselves, eventually buying a set.

          Today, the copyright to those paintings are owned JOINTLY by Warhol’s foundation and Campbells. Neither can reproduce them without the other party’s consent.

  • People claim to hate the derivative aspects of art or anything for that matter.

    Hypocrites I say. How are your opinions formed should you have nothing to base it on? Are these strong feelings against the artist in question really your opinion? There must have been something you’ve read before that caused such a reaction now.

    Everything is derivative. All characters are modeled on something from life. Robots? Where did that come from? Oh yeah, the humanoid shape of the robot is strangely reminiscent of that of humans. Just metal.

  • Barbarian of Gor says:

    A while back in AmeriKKKa, a “Fine Artist” made a name for himself by re-creating panels (and the parts of pictures and the white between them) giant size. He did things like cutting holes in big metal sheets to emulate huge size the “Screen Tone” effects. He did a good tribute to old pre-code comics, the classic “His kisses are dreamy but I wish he wouldn’t hit me so…” stuff, recreated with almost photographic precision much, MUCH larger. However, he was making thousands while the artists that drew those were often of very modest means in their ‘golden years’ and wanted some of that. If he sold a painting for $8K, $100 or so would have been a generous royalty, but he said no.

    And so it got brought to court and more or less because the public was still unaccepting of “Comic Art” as anything respectable, the “Fine Artist” won. The rule it set was that you had to do it by hand (versus photo/printing) and on either personal initiative or by unsolicited request, but there was a huge way around the copyright rules. I could, for instance, tint lenses with “Mickey Mouse” without paying Disney if someone asked me to, but I couldn’t directly advertise I would do Disney characters…though of course a giant company’s lawyer still wins the day…

    So, I’m not too sure about this…

    Misaki is very influential. He’s all over.

    For instance, there was a robot scene that was almost identical in a “Lupin the Third” episode. Also, the direct to Video “Final Fantasy: Legend of the Crystals” had very similar robots for the main bad guy.

  • You know, in modern times where pretty much ALL types of creative characters have already been conceived, up to and including a fucking elf that wears a snake as a panty, is it even possible to make something “original” without accidentally plagiarizing something that already exists already?

  • There is enough differences between this picture and the original subject matter to constitute fair use so doesn’t violate copyright law.

    This kind of thing happens all the time where someone makes new art based on the subject matter from another piece of art. There are some very well known pieces of art that do this and some of those are less different then the original subject matter then this painting.

    She didn’t deserve the award being taken away from her fo that.

    • Fair use? stop talking when you have NO IDEA what you are talking about.
      There is NOTHING fair use about this when she was attempting to written off as her creation in both product and idea. She even admitted she “copied” it, only little TOO MUCH you mean.

      • Well, lets look at the 4 factors of Fair Use in the US.

        Purpose and character of the work: She made the art based on their work for the contest. She didn’t simply trace the original and then add a moustache to it, she drew it on her own and added her own quirks. This will weigh in her favor or remain neutral.

        Nature of the copied work: Its a statue in the public domain. This will weigh in her favor because she made a drawing(or painting) or it and not an actual statue. If she made a sculpture this would be against her but she didn’t sculpt anything.

        Amount and substantiality: She took something that you could probably find on a postcard and a large amount of the statue has been seen else where as well. Robot designs are not very original.

        Effect on the work’s value: If anything it will increase its publicity because people will want to see what inspirired this girl to make her piece of art.
        A court probably would rule in favor of fair use on this one.

        • Your so called factors are biased.

          Purpose and character of the work: Her purpose was to enter art contest and aim for a prize and a title. She did add her own texture and colors but there are too many characteristics of Laputa carried over. Again, her purpose was to win and show off as her work in public, nothing here works in her favor.

          Nature of the copied work: Laputa robot is a statue. While her work is in 2D medium the idea and distinguishable features carried over. Features such as ball shaped shoulders, long thin neck and segmented arms.

          Amount and substantiality: Laputa robot design being not so original has nothing to do with it. Close examination shows many of details being copied not just general shape of the robot. I’d say 80% of original was imported to this lady’s work.

          Effect on the work’s value: I agree it could possibly promote publicity of the original work but not because of “people will want to see what inspirired this girl to make her piece of art” She tried to pass off as her work, she only called it her inspiration after she was caught. She’s lucky this contest was rather small in scale and importance thus minimizing the “effect”. Increase in value of Laputa robot by publicity is only a result of unintended side effect. Her work has nothing of original in craftsmanship or idea prominent enough to call it an art.

    • I forgot to mention that a large proportion of art is based on something that exists like an object, creature/person, or another artistic work. Every one of the above pieces of art are based on something preexisting.

      An example (for people here) is anime characters. A schoolgirl in an anime is based on real schoolgirls. The wear school uniforms with skirts because the real schoolgirls in Japan do. What an artist does is take that and use their imagination to make that schoolgirl what they want them to look like.

      The robot that the artist made was based on the robots in Laputa. What she did is took that subject and used her imagination to make it how she wanted it to look like.

  • Fuck the asshole who even mentioned the resemblance. I mean realy a disabled person go do some work pickin rice for me to eat and let people do there art. Bearly tell it’s the fucking same jeez.

    • @ twin blades 18:04

      The first thing I thought when I saw the images was, “Oh, hey, it’s one of the giant robots from that Miyazaki thing, that anime, what was its name? …”

      @ Anon 18:29

      I give higher marks for originality than for execution (in the general case, not just disabled artists).

      Yes, little will be truly new, most things are influenced in various ways by others, but the degree of “influence”/”copying” is important.

      If she simply wanted to show off her mosaic technique, she could have picked a subject most people are unfamiliar with, i.e., many-years-dead U.S. President James Van Buren. *I* wouldn’t recognize him in a mosaic painting (or shopping bag/milk carton ‘missing person’ photo).

    • check your eyes,you probably wouldn’t recognize it right away,but you have the freaking thing right under your nose,sorry,it is CLEARLY the same.

      yes,i don’t give a damn if that person is disabled.

      and also:art? i’d like to see someone paint a freaking Disney character and put it on auction just to see how people will react to his “art”,this is just copy.
      no matter how hard it was to do it.

  • I bet someone would win the top prize in Japan song writing if he stole from lyrics from Eminem and switched the words around a little.

    “Hey, I think that’s Eminem.”

    “Nah, you think too much. We’ll just give him the prize anyway. I’m hungry, who’s up for lunch!”

  • Not plagiarism.

    That’s definitely more than 21 modifications to the original character design, which thereby makes it an original piece.

    Even if it WERE based off of Ghibli’s robot thing, then it very well could be an homage to the animation that the artist saw it from.

    Perhaps she was so inspired by the movie she wanted to draw a robot thing for herself.

    I’m rather horrified by how the organizers stripped the award from her.

    • Plagiarism? Wow… We throw that word to often when we see something that is not 90-99% original.

      Truth of the matter is that when you do something you thought was original, someone might have done it already.

      Ah but who cares… It’s sankaku… we rape the comments section for all we care.

    • Agreed. No one who is actually familiar with creative work would call this plagiarism.

      I take the short story “Silence” by Edgar Allen Poe and turn it in as my own work for my creative writing class.

      I download a painting from Banksy, sign my name to it and pass it off as my own.

      Not Plagiarism:
      I re-write “Dante’s Inferno” but in the style of Douglas Adams.

      I reshoot the movie “Psycho” frame for frame identically to the original, but with new actors.

      Unless all this woman did was slap a couple Photoshop filters onto an existing drawing or just found it on the internet… made minor changes or no changes… then it’s not Plagiarism. It’s a homage, it’s an inspired work, it might even be copyright infringement if push came to shove (If I made the worlds greatest, most intricately detailed marble statue of Totoro using nothing by my two hands and imagination… Ghilbi can legally say it’s an unauthorized use of a trademarked likeness regardless of artistic merit.)

      TL;DR: Plagiarism is passing off someone else’s work as your own. The character design isn’t of her own creation, but if she painted it, it’s a homage at best and copyright infringement at worse.

      • “TL;DR: Plagiarism is passing off someone else’s work as your own. The character design isn’t of her own creation, but if she painted it, it’s a homage at best and copyright infringement at worse.”

        When you are talking about the work of art, idea that associate or represented is just important as rendition. In this case, the design and specific features of the robot IS part of the art infact probably more important than how it was portraited.

        She didn’t declare about her inspiration and drive of her work. She merely used it as an excuse after she was caught.

        This is a contest of art, just because she can draw well and paint well doesn’t justify as a prized winner. If this was okay then you should be totally okay when someone copied Mona Lisa with a twist and not say anything about it until someone finds out about it.

        • >>If this was okay then you should be totally okay when someone copied Mona Lisa with a twist and not say anything about it until someone finds out about it.

          Well, that depends on a few things. Like so many things in life, it’s not a binary issue. It’s a continuum.

          In your scenario I’m creating a forgery, attempting to pass off a work of my own as someone else’s.

          If I enter a short story contest and send in something I found on the internet, that’s plagiarism.

          Doing either but making changes, you enter the realm of copyright infringement (Mona Lisa with vulcan ears, The Midnight Meat Train with Kittens).

          Plagiarism is presenting another’s work as your own with intent to defraud. The Mona Lisa with a minor, unnoticeable change is attempting to defraud. Basing your work off another’s is an homage. An homage can still be a copyright infringement.

          You can look on the internet if you want, they’re related terms all related to protecting creators and consumers.

          After that you’re past the continuum of creativity and talking about “Cheating”.

          Again, my Brass Totoro. If I enter that in a “Create a Character” competition, I’m bypassing an integral part of the contest. The spirit of the contest is who can create a character. I’ve certainly done something dishonest by using the bulk of someone else’s labor as my own. I may deserve some credit for the execution of my work.

          Now, I take the same sculpture and enter it into a metal working contest. The subject matter of the sculpture is not as important as the techniques I used to create it. The execution would out weigh the fact that it’s not an original character. Same way if I did a meticulous sculpture of my father.

          Both are copyright infringement. First case is copyright infringement with the intent to defraud and present someone else’s work (character creation) as their own. The second case, the work I’m presenting (the metal working) is my own. So long as I don’t claim it’s an original character.

          From the article it didn’t sound like it was a “create a character” type competition, also she ever explicitly said the character of her own creation.

          If her submission was the EXECUTION of the painting… copyright infringement.

          If her submission was the CREATION of a character… plagiarism.

          Plagiarism requires an intent to defraud.

          Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying she should have still won… she should cite her references for integrity sake and if she had maybe she still wins and no controversy.

          But it’s like calling someone a rapist when he grabbed your boob.
          Assault is not rape, manslaughter is not murder, copyright infringement is not plagiarism.

    • Well they didn’t state plagiarism is not allowed, or any form of referencing.
      I’m more inclined to categorize this as simply an unfortunate event and move on, instead of debating on morale values or what is right or wrong.

      • I’m always amazed at the number of people who just don’t get how big of a deal plagiarism is. Every year college students are kicked out of undergraduate and graduate programs for plagiarism, and they just don’t seem to get it. I know Japan is a lot more tolerant of fan derived works than America, but it’s still copyright violation.

        • An Otakus Opiate says:

          I’m curious as to her artistic intent here, a description of which seems to be missing from Artefact’s write-up. Given that she refused to accept this award in the end, she probably didn’t intend to make this piece as a sort of homage to Ghibli.

          However, I’m still interested to find out whether she intended it as such, or if she honestly intended to pass off a high-profile character from one of the most high-profile producers of animation in Japan.

      • There is perhaps no greater crime than plagarism in art. There is no value in using someone else’s work to establish your own standing as an artist.

        If she wanted to use someone else’s work because the rules didn’t say she can’t, the decent thing to do is to put a note to give proper credit to the original artist, not mention the fact after people found out about it.

        • This picture is actually a scene in the movie. Inside the big dome before the battle, the only functioning robot stands like that, covered in moss in the areas colored yellow in this picture, and with that weird squirrel/fox thing from Nausicaa standing on its finger. I’d call that plagiarism.

        • The form of the robot is completely identical to that of Ghibli. But that’s not enough to be called out for plagiarism. It’s plagiarism because the artist did not cite Ghibli as her source of inspiration **before** submitting her work.

          Taking ideas from other sources and claiming them to be your own creation is plagiarism (see Kaavya Viswanathan). Taking ideas from other sources and publicly attributing your work those sources is not plagiarism. This should help clear up some of the awful parallels with no logical basis that Anon has made.

        • An Otakus Opiate says:

          yuriphoria @ 00:46
          >here, both the original robot and her golem are shitty simple geometric forms.
          Leave it up to otaku and/or weeaboos to bash on Ghibli films that have an infinite amount more artistic merit than Moeblob Shit Series #45759.

        • Thinking this from another perspective, if she was truly inspired by Laputa robot and wasn’t attempting to plagiarize then why the eyes, why the same body proportion? why the long arms? Why stop at textures and colors? Why not go further?

          She doesn’t deserve it either way.

        • > “Dark Rock Slizer” as a variation of Hatsune Miku for Vocaloid songs.

          But that’s tremendously specific and detailed, here, both the original robot and her golem are shitty simple geometric forms.

          I couldn’t draw Miku to save my life, but I could draw such a robot just fine.

          Long armed robot with rectangular arms? That’s simple, even natural, even the small one-eyed head is natural, so yes the woman admitted being influenced but I would have believed if she claimed it was original.

        • Darkrockslizer says:

          anon@ 23:02:
          I use nickname “Dark Rockslizer” since year 1998 as an artist and trading card game tourney player. It is one of my manga characters that I’ve never really made a decent story upon.

          Black Rock Shooter appeared only recently, I was amazed about the similar name when I first heard of it too.

        • Since she was so open about telling people that her work was based on Ghibli’s work, I’m fairly certain this would fall under the same legal precedent that doujin get by under.

          If there isn’t any yet, most groups with fan-based work made would be on her side because fan work(parody etc.) tends publicize the original work and they wouldn’t want to deal with legal loopholes on their currently free publicity. If 1 person gets nailed people would actually start getting official permission and shit that neither party wants to deal with in their silent symbiotic relationship.

        • If you go make a character named “Dark Rock Slizer” as a variation of Hatsune Miku for Vocaloid songs. You think it was not “similiar” enough to get away from being accused of plagiarizing Black Rock Shooter?

          This is so retarded, without specific intention is stated ahead of time (ie fan art or satire art whatever suits you) THIS is without a doubt, a plagiarism.

          I see very close resemblance in segmented body parts (arms especially), depiction of a hand in resting position, pencil thin neck, ball shaped shoulder joints and even belt buckle-like feature on the waist is there just like Ghibli’s Laputa.

          Her so called creation with Laputa as “motif” ripped off too many distinguishable features and idea as a work of art to just walk away. She didn’t even “admit” she ripped off Laputa until she was caught for christ sake.