Isao Takahata, one of the four men to establish iconic Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, has died of lung cancer. Takahata was 82 years old. Takahata was known to say that the earth is a good place because life is fleeting and cyclical.
Takahata began his Ghibli career in 1985. While working for the studio, Takahata served as the director of “Grave of the Fireflies,” a tragedy about children struggling to survive after the American bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and as a producer on films like Hayao Miyazaki’s “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” the latter being a tale of environmental catastrophe and war. Takahata’s final film, “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya,” recounted a classic Japanese folk story and received an Oscar nomination in 2015. Other adapted works by Isao Takahata include “Heidi, Girl of the Alps,” a ’70s television series focusing on Johanna Spyri’s literary character.Takahata was fully aware that his unique art style was in direct opposition to the CG approach that Hollywood animation has favored for years.
In a recent interview, Takahata mentioned that while the woodblock-print artists of Edo period Japan has an understanding of perspective and lighting, they preferred to create with flat linework and minimal shading. Takahata went on to describe this aesthetic as the essence of Japanese comics, focusing on the message of the drawing over the drawing itself. Takahata wanted to express reality without using realistic imagery in order to excite the audience’s imagination. Takahata was also known for having a conflicted relationship with Miyazaki. While he respected Miyazaki, Takahata was known to have difficulty avoiding giving harshly honest criticism of Miyazaki’s drastically different approach.
One of the most common traits to characters in a Takahata story would be its bold females. Takahata had been planning on a film revolving around exploited girls that were stuck laboring as nannies lugging infants around. Takahata remarked that most Japanese lullabies were actually intended to calm these struggling young women rather than their charges. Takahata wanted every story he wrote to urge people to enjoy life and pursue it to its fullest, regardless of greed or pride.
Toshio Suzuki, one of the producers for Studio Ghibli, commented that he was collaborating with Miyazaki on a farewell to Takahata in mid-May. Details for this ceremony currently remain unknown. Suzuki was aware Takahata still had many plans, making news of his passing even harder.