Takahata Isao, one of the directors of the two major Japanese animation artists jointly with Miyazaki Hayao, died of lung cancer in Tokyo at 82 years old April 5th. Takahata Isao was one of Studio Ghibli’s founders and the comrade of Miyazaki Hayao with whom had cooperated and competed for years. Takahata Isao’s famous works include Heidi,a Girl of the Alps, Grave of the Fireflies and recent The Tale of The Princess Kaguya. After knowing the heart-breaking news, the producer of the Studio Ghibli Shibuya Suzuki said that he had already discussed with Miyazaki Hayao and planned to ask Ghibli to hold a grand farewell ceremony for Takahata Isao.
Born in 1935, Takahata Isao got himself in the Japanese animation industry since 1959 until his last directing animation film, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya, in 2013 and he was responsible for the artistic director of the French animation, La Tortue Rouge in 2016. In the summer of 2017, rumor has it that Takahata Isao’s health had deteriorated and he had suffered from heart disease and has repeatedly been admitted to the hospital.
Takahata Isao hadn’t specialized in animation; instead, he graduated from French Department of the University of Tokyo. During the school times, Takahata Isao was inspired by the French animation Le Roi et L’oiseau released in Japan in 1953, and decided to dedicate his life to animation. Afterward, in 1980, Le Roi et L’oiseau was re-adopted as an animated film “King and Bird,” which was considered as “the origin of Ghibli Studio” by Takahata Isao.
After graduation from the college, Takahata Isao entered Toei Animation Cooperation releasing the colored animated film Legend of the White Snake which made a great success in 1958 at that time which was the thriving era of Japanese animation. One of the animators in Toei Animation, Otsuka Yasuo, later became Takahata Isao’s creative partner.
As the TV animation Astro Boy released by Mushi Production Cooperation in 1960 turned over a new leaf in Japanese animation industry, Takahata Isao debuted with the Wolf Boy Ken released by Toei Animation in 1963, and directed his first animated film The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun, which cost 130 million yen (US$ 12 million dollars) in 1968. At that time, the pioneering style of The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun was regarded as a breakthrough in Japanese animation.
In particular, many of the production team of Prince of the Sun were also members of the labor union in Toei Animation, including the chairman of union Otsuka Yasuo and the vice-chairman Takahata Isao himself. Prince of the Sun reflects the social atmosphere of Japan’s anti-war and labor movement at that time. There were also parts of the scenes that paid tribute to the Soviet animated films.
In 1971, Takahata Isao and Miyazaki Hayao transferred to A Production (SHIN-EI Animation Cooperation) and started plenty of works like TV animation series Arsène Lupin III, Panda Family and Future Boy Conan. From 1973, Takahata Isao began directing the famous animated cartoon Heidi,a Girl of the Alps. It was the vanguard of later World Masterpiece Theater which influencing a lot on the Japanese animation including From the Apennines to the Andes and Anne of Green Gables.
The bond with Takahata Isao and Miyazaki Hayao was really close. Takahata Isao had worked as the producer of many of Miyazaki Hayao’s famous works like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky. Afterwards, Takahata Isao set up Studio Ghibli with Toshio Suzuki. Interestingly, in 1988, Grave of the Fireflies directed by Takahata Isao and My Neighbor Totoro by Miyazaki Hayao were released on the same day and made a fight in theaters.
Grave of the Fireflies which was adapted from a short novel by Nosaka Akiyuki later became the representative piece of Takahata Isao. Based on the Bombing of Kobe in World War II in 1945, the story describes the tragedies faced by the innocent children in war. The animated version by Takahata Isao has been awarded as one of the greatest war movies in history; in fact, some plots in the movies came from Takahata Isao’s war experience.
Takahata Isao had been through an air attack when he was in elementary school. At that time, he fled with his sister in the sixth grade and almost died in the sea of flames caused by dropped firearms from the planes. Takahata Isao took his own experience into Grave of the Fireflies, but he also stated that “it’s not just for the cruelty of war, but for the innocence and joy for tiny things even in war.”
Takahata Isao had expressed his hatred for the war during the interview with Asahi Shimbun. In fact, besides being an animation creator, Takahata Isao was also active on politics and social movements. He openly supported the “Japanese Communist Party” and promoted the concept of anti-war as well as the defense of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. (Peacekeeping force) In 2015, he delivered a speech to note his opposition against the amendment of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution on the 70th anniversary Post-war Memorial Ceremony.
There had not been any Takahata Isao’s creations after Only Yesterday in 1991, Pom Poko in 1994 and My Neighbors The Yamadas in 1999 until he released The Tale of The Princess Kaguya in 2013, which brought Takahata Isao back to the international; stage of animation. This work which was adapted from the Japanese folk tales received well at home and abroad and was also nominated by the 87th Oscar.
After knowing Takahata Isao’s death, Otsuka Yasuo regrettably expressed “there is no one being so talented like he was. A lot of memories popped in my heart and it’s difficult to say anything…” The Takahata Isao’s funeral is currently scheduled to be held on May 15.