Studio Ghibli, Japan’s famed animation house, has a remarkable talent for captivating audiences around the world with inspiring storylines and loveable characters. What really brings them all to life, however, are their animated backgrounds; beautiful palettes of light and shade and inky hues that draw us into their magical worlds and have us never wanting to leave.

There’s one background illustrator in Tokyo who knows just how to recreate the atmosphere of a Studio Ghibli movie and now he’s bringing out the beauty of Japan’s narrow roads and suburban landscapes in a series of illustrations entitled “Bicycle Boy”. Using a real-life setting from Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart, the picturesque journey of a boy and his bike through the streets of Japan is so beautiful we’ll happily follow him wherever he goes!

Mateusz Urbanowicz, a digital creator specialising in background art at Comix Wave Films animation studio in Tokyo, is currently working on a number of side projects in the field of illustration but there’s one project that’s been getting so much attention he’s already sold all the original pictures from the series. Meet “Bicycle Boy”, a young lad on a bike who gets from A to B by way of some extraordinarily beautiful scenery.



The Studio Ghibli film, Whisper of the Heart, is set around Seiseki Sakuragaoka, which is located just on the outskirts of Tokyo on the other side of the Tama River, which acts as the border between Tokyo and neighbouring Kanagawa Prefecture. The watercolour illustrations below are based on photographs from a visit to the winding road that features in the movie.



▼ Come rain or shine, you’ll find that boy and bicycle remain inseparable.


Urbanowicz painted this one in several stages, using the same type of poster colour paints used by Japanese animation studios for their backgrounds.


An old bicycle shop in Tokyo’s picturesque Kagurazaka area formed the basis for this picture, where Bicycle Boy waits for his ride to be repaired as the heavy rain subsides and finally stops.


Bicycle Boy continues on his journey, this time through a fictional neighbourhood born from the mind of the experienced background illustrator, taking inspiration from various famous sites, including Kamakura.


A peek at the artist’s desk reveals the digital sketch, the completed illustration and a number of side projects currently in progress.


Urbanowicz also uses the same brand of Maruman sketchbooks as Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli’s co-founder and acclaimed director.


Bicycle Boy navigates a corner alongside a tram. Urbanowicz’s fondness for Japanese trains and trams meant he felt compelled to include one in the series.



And now for a quintessentially Japanese scene: sakura cherry blossoms, vending machines, a corrugated roof and some Japanese road signs. If you’ve ever visited Japan, this one is bound to stir up some fond memories.


The illustration below is the final, beautiful conclusion to the series. Could this be where Bicycle Boy was heading all along?


There may be a pretty girl and a gorgeous sunset at this boy’s final destination but everything he’s been through to get there is a great reminder to enjoy the journey along the way. Hopefully this isn’t the last we see of Bicycle Boy and his beautiful road adventures!

Source: Mateusz Urbanowicz H/T DesignTaxi
Images © and published with the permission of Mateusz Urbanowicz