Isao Takahata Dead at 82
April 5, 2018 5:43 PM   Subscribe

Isao Takahata, legendary animation director and co-founder of Studio Ghibli, has died at age 82.

Born in 1935, Takahata joined Toei Animation in the mid-1960s, despite having no background in animation, making his directorial debut with The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun in 1968. A commercial failure, it would later be hailed as animation milestone for its complexity, maturity, and technical and stylistic innovation. It was also Takahata's first collaboration with Hayao Miyazaki, a professional relationship that would last the rest of Takahata's life and lead to the founding of the renowned Studio Ghibli, along with Toshio Suzuki, in 1985.

As a director, Takahata's films are known for their adult storytelling, psychological realism, visual complexity, and overt political and social themes, as well as continually stretching the boundaries of animation as an art form, shifting styles almost every movie: Only Yesterday is a realistic slice-of-life drama about a woman in her late 20s finding herself adrift in life. Pom Poko uses mythical shape-shifting tanuki to convey a serious message about environmental loss. My Neighbors the Yamadas is done in the style of a comic strip, with the story split into smaller vignettes. His final film as director, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, looks like an ancient watercolor tapestry brought to life, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature at the 87th Academy Awards.

But Takahata's masterpiece is undoubtedly the bitterly tragic Grave of the Fireflies, the best movie you'll only watch once. It tells the story of two young siblings, a brother and a sister, attempting to survive in the devastation of immediate post-war Japan. Roger Ebert held that it " belongs on any list of the greatest war films ever made."
posted by Sangermaine (50 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
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(Chasing away dust sprites.)

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posted by Sing Or Swim at 6:31 PM on April 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


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posted by tychotesla at 6:36 PM on April 5, 2018


Miyazaki gets most of the Studio Ghibli love - and he is a great director. But I've always been so fond of Takahata's work that I insist on referring to them both. Theirs was a partnership that brought so much magic into the world.

And Takahata's My Neighbours the Yamadas should be much more famous than it is. It's startling and original and complex and touching and delightful. Only Yesterday is my usual go-to for "animation can be for adults", and I love it because it's so clearly adult (nostalgia! organic farming!) without sex or violence. The Yamadas is the same: a cartoon that talks about truly adult things, like growing old.

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posted by jb at 6:36 PM on April 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


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posted by juv3nal at 6:42 PM on April 5, 2018


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posted by Quackles at 6:49 PM on April 5, 2018


Everybody needs to seek out and watch Only Yesterday immediately. It is my favorite Studio Ghibli film by a large margin.

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posted by Sokka shot first at 6:52 PM on April 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Thank you for the joy and the tears and stories that my grown-up child and I still reference when there is something in our lives too big for words.

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posted by Jpfed at 8:28 PM on April 5, 2018


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Takahata had a lovely gift for portraying girlhood. The early TV stuff he directed based on Western children's books is full of pure gems, including Heidi and the best adaptation ever of Anne of Green Gables (Akage no An), which is legally available in English on YouTube.
It's a masterpiece of slow TV. Watch the whole series just to observe the gradual transformation in the characters animation as they grow up, Anne's face and body reshaped just a tiny bit with each milestone event. It's so subtle and, I dunno, loving? Just so rare to see that level of care and respect for a little girl's journey.
posted by Freyja at 8:51 PM on April 5, 2018 [13 favorites]


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posted by Pong74LS at 9:24 PM on April 5, 2018


Everyone on Twitter was lulzing earlier today about Pom Poko because lol balls (which is… valid) but completely disregarding the fact that it's really a surprisingly sad movie in the end. Maybe not quite as sad as Grave of the Butterflies, but still. Same guy either way.
posted by DoctorFedora at 9:26 PM on April 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


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posted by lazaruslong at 4:52 AM on April 6, 2018


Everybody needs to seek out and watch Only Yesterday immediately.

I remember watching it with crappy subtitles, on a dubious download, back in 2004 because it just wasn't available anywhere in the US. I was touched, and I'm pretty sure it made me cry (in a good-ish way, not a Grave of the Fireflies way. I should watch Fireflies again, even though it's hard. It's too good a movie to only watch once, even if it's the saddest thing ever.)

However, I'm pleased to see that Only Yesterday finally been given an official US release (okay, two years ago). I'm definitely picking up a copy of it, and any other missing gaps in my Studio Ghibli collection.

As for the others, My Neighbours the Yamadas is charming! It's delightful and it looks simple, but it obviously isn't. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya makes me swoon at the gorgeous art every time I watch it. Pom Poko is another one of Studio Ghibli's famous moral stories, but it's also crushingly realistic.

Thank you, sir, for all the stories.

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posted by PearlRose at 6:49 AM on April 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


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I had no idea he was the age he had been. It is hard to know what sort of direction Studio Ghibli will take with him gone and Miyazaki half out of the picture.
posted by koucha at 6:51 AM on April 6, 2018


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posted by evilDoug at 7:12 AM on April 6, 2018


Did Miyazaki and Takahata work together producing a single movie? Or did they do separate projects? The only Takahata film I've seen is Grave of the Fireflies and it is beautiful and haunting and so, so, tonally different from a happy Miyazaki kids' movie. But the animation style is certainly related. Honestly I've always thought of Studio Ghibli as exclusively Miyazaki, with Grave of the Fireflies being the weird one-off exception. But I'm probably wrong.
posted by Nelson at 7:33 AM on April 6, 2018


Pre-Ghibli they worked together on some films and TV shows in the late 60s and in the 70s, and Takahata was a producer on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. He also produced Miyazaki's Castle in the Sky and did music direction for Kiki's Delivery Service.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:29 AM on April 6, 2018 [2 favorites]


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If you haven't seen the documentary about Studio Ghibli, Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, you should - it's been on Netflix on-and-off, worth looking for. It focuses on Miyazaki, but his and the studio's relationship with Takahata is a central theme too. It's good for really making you think about what they're each trying to do, and about what's involved in getting big things done, getting your individual artistic vision realized, when it necessarily involves so many other artists.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:04 AM on April 6, 2018


Pre-Ghibli they worked together on some films and TV shows in the late 60s and in the 70s

Including the back half of the first series of Lupin III, which helped define some pretty culturally persistent characters.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:16 AM on April 6, 2018


"But Takahata's masterpiece is undoubtedly the bitterly tragic Grave of the Fireflies, the best movie you'll only watch once."

I've never had the heart to actually watch this, what little I know of it is already enough to make me quite sad. Maybe now I should finally get around to it.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:23 AM on April 6, 2018


Maybe now I should finally get around to it.

You definitely, definitely should. It makes your heart bigger.
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