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Animation Industry & Fans Offer Heartfelt Send-Off to Ghibli's Isao Takahata

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
"I'm really grateful to you. Mr. Takahata is the world's greatest animation director and forever my teacher." - director Yoshiaki Nishimura

One of the anime's industry's brightest stars left us yesterday. Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, the director of the emotionally powerful films Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, died on Thursday due to lung cancer at the age of 82. His friends, family, colleagues, and fans continue to mourn the loss.

Studio Ponoc (Mary and The Witch's Flower) founder and Ghibli alumni Yoshiaki Nishimura spoke about Takahata's death on Friday. He said, "Mr. Takahata gave me some of my richest life experiences. Meeting him, passing time, talking, laughing, even getting angry together. I'll never forget how we delighted in the joy of making films together and his boundless passion for movies and peace. I'm really grateful to you. Mr. Takahata is the world's greatest animation director and forever my teacher."

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya star and actress Aki Asakura also recalled her fond memories for the director. She said, "I thought I would get to hear a lot more stories with his gentle voice. It's a shame. I'm overwhelmed with loneliness. You've been like a shining star in my heart ever since I met you. Even though I feel worried, I've always found courage when I think that someday, surely, I will definitely meet that light. I can't forget your quiet eyes peering at the monitor during The Tale of Princess Kaguya and I cry when I remember your soft smile during the preview screening. Please have a good rest and I'm praying for your soul from the bottom of my heart."

Asakura was chosen as the heroine of Takahata's final feature film from hundreds of auditions.

Director and writer Shunji Iwai (The Case of Hana & Alice, Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom?) wrote his feelings on Twitter and credited Takahata for getting him started in the industry.

"I got the opportunity to listen to Isao Takahata speak in college, which also became my starting point. Even when he created challenging animation, it had a precious story. The last time we spoke, he talked about Kenji Miyazawa [Fairy Tales Park] in Hanamaki...The master of the anime world was a far bigger presence than me. I pray for your soul."

The Tale of Princess Kaguya theme song singer Kazumi Nikaido wrote her feelings about the news via SNS. "I heard this morning from my husband who saw the news via a news program that Takahata has gone on to Nirvana. Although I had considered this day would come several times, I still thought this future would never come and yet this is how it happened. It's raining."

Artist Yoshitomo Nara, who had a close relationship with Takahata up to his passing said, "Mr. Takahata, thank you for the unforgettable work. It is a great treasure that I got to know you."

Western animators also shared their condolences. The Book of Life director Jorge R. Gutierrez wrote on Twitter, "No animated movie [Grave of the Fireflies] has made me cry more than this tender, gorgeous, profound, soulful and landmark film. A giant of our art form has left us. RIP maestro Isao Takahata."

Pixar animator and Coco and Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich wrote, "Really sad to hear about the passing of Isao Takahata, co-founder of Studio Ghibli. Grave of the Fireflies is an amazing, emotional film. And My Neighbors the Yamadas is incredibly charming. It also had a big influence on Michael Arndt's script for Little Miss Sunshine.

Japanese television station NTV/YTV decided to replace its planned airing of Detective Conan: The Crimson Love Letter on April 13 with Grave of the Fireflies. The Conan film will instead air on April 20.

Studio Ghibli will hold a grand farewell gathering in remembrance of Takahata on May 15. Takahata's family is holding a family-only wake and funeral service and are politely refusing all offers of messages or gifts of condolence.

Takahata was born on October 29, 1935. He joined Toei Douga (now Toei Animation) in 1959 after graduating from the University of Tokyo in French literature. His directorial debut was on an episode of the Ōkami Shōnen Ken television anime, and he directed his first feature film, Horus - Prince of the Sun, in 1968.

Takahata had a long career directing such classics as Little Norse Prince Valiant (Taiyō no Ōji - Hols no Daibōken), Alps no Shōjo Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, and Panda! Go, Panda! before he co-founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki. He went on to create the feature films Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, and My Neighbors the Yamadas. He also served as a producer on Miyazaki and Ghibli's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, and was the artistic producer on Wild Bunch and Ghibli's The Red Turtle.

Among the honors he received were the Medal with Purple Ribbon from the Japanese government in 1998, the Honorific Leopard award at the 62nd Locarno International Film Festival in 2009, the Anime Award of Merit in 2010, an honorary degree from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2012, the Anime d'or prize at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival in 2014, the Honorary Award at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival in 2014, the Officier decoration in France's Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) in 2015, and the Winsor McCay Award for lifetime achievement at the 43rd Annie Awards in 2016.

Takahata's final film as director was The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which debuted in 2013. Takahata told entertainment news website Variety in 2016, "I have several projects that I still have in mind that I am currently working on to get closer to realizing. Whether those will be finalized as films is something that no one, myself included, can know."

Source: Cinema Today (石井百合子), Comic Natalie, Mainichi Shimbun's Mantan Web

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