In Memoriam: Isao Takahata (1935 - 2018)

Oscar Cross
April 7, 2018

He was co-founder of the important Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli. Inspired by the director's own experiences, the film's emotional heft lies in its unblinking assessment of the ravages of war.

Over night, news outlets in Japan have reported that Takahata died in a Tokyo hospital following a long illness. The film was nominated for the 87th Academy Awards in the Best Animated Feature category.

Born in Ujiyamada (now known as Ise) in the Mie prefecture of Japan, Takahata's passion for animation was ignited by the 1952 French feature Le Roi et l'Oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird).

Takahata made his debut as a director of anime in 1968 with Toei Animation's Horus: Prince of the Sun. Unlike Miyazaki, Takahata didn't draw his films himself; all the same, his talent was plain to see, his style of storytelling visibly distinct from Miyazaki's.

In 1985, Takahata co-founded Studio Ghibli with Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki, and went on to direct several films for the studio, beginning with the wrenching World War II drama Grave of the Fireflies (1988).

While many may recognise Studio Ghibli for the imaginative genius of Hayao Miyazaki, it is through his own merit that the handsome, breathtaking humanity that Isao Takahata brought to his films will endure and continue to be celebrated now and forevermore. He directed "Grave of the Fireflies", a tragic tale about war time childhood. Though at occasions Takahata has denied this praise, but critics like Roger Ebert call this movie as a classic example of an anti-war film and easily be categorised under the list of greatest war films ever to be made.

When work began on The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya in the late 2000s, it was originally supposed to be a double-feature with Miyazaki's The Wind Rises, then billed as the latter animator's final movie before his retirement.

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