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Studio Ghibli Co-Founder Isao Takahata Has Died at 82

Studio Ghibli Co-Founder Isao Takahata Has Died at 82

Reports from Yahoo! Japan have come in that Isao Takahata, who co-founded the legendary Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki in 1985, has died at the age of 82. Takahata’s career in film spanned over 50 years and include some Ghibli’s finest work, including his masterpiece, Grave of the Fireflies, which has its 30th anniversary this year. It is an incredibly sad day for anyone who loves animation, and film in general.

To say Takahata was a pioneer in Japanese animation is an understatement. He brought techniques theretofore unheard of in the medium to the mainstream all the way back with his first feature, 1968’s Horus, Prince of the Sun. These included adult storytelling, psychological realism, visual complexity, overt political and social themes, and stylistic violence, all of which have become hallmarks of anime ever since. He treated animation like a medium to tell stories of all kinds, not a genre in and of itself. His working relationship with Hayao Miyazaki began in the 1970s and following the production of Miyazaki’s 1984 film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the pair founded Studio Ghibli, along with producer Toshio Suzuki.

Two years back I did a retrospective of Takahata’s films (which you can find here) and going in I certainly wasn’t as familiar with his work as I was with Miyazaki’s. The experience was nothing short of revelatory. Though he directed fewer films than his co-founder, I find that Takahata’s work was always stretching the boundaries of the art form, and shifted styles almost every movie. Fireflies features bitter, tragic realism, whereas Pom Poko was a surrealist environmentalist film. My Neighbors the Yamadas was done in the style of a comic strip, with the story split into smaller vignettes, while his final film as director, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, looks like an ancient watercolor tapestry brought to life. I came away feeling like I might actually like him more than Miyazaki.

Kaguya earned Takahata his only Oscar nomination in 2014, though his final film as producer, Michael Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle, was also nominated, in 2017. While Miyazaki has always gotten more acclaim, he would certainly never have had the level of success without his collaboration with Takahata, an artist who never stopped looking to the future of his chosen art.

Images: Toho/Studio Ghibli

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. He’s the writer of Studio Ghibli retrospectives Miyazaki Masterclass, Takahata Textbook, and Ghibli Bits. Follow him on Twitter!

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