Isao Takahata passed away on April 5th 2018 at the age of 82. Takahata during his career directed only a few films but two of these are among the finest pieces of animation, Japanese or otherwise, ever produced. Both Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of Princess Kaguya are monstrous achievements in the field. Grave of the Fireflies, released in 1988, in particular, helped to draw attention and clout to the Japanese animation industry in the West as it drew attention and high praise from the likes of Roger Ebert. Even if it was not his original intention, Grave of the Fireflies continues to be recognized as one of the greatest war films ever produced. Takahata’s consistency and craft maintained over twenty-five years as The Tale of Princess Kaguya was released in 2014 and nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar that year and, even though it did not win, Princess Kaguya was easily the best offering that year.
Takahata’s work is also wonderfully varied. Grave of the Fireflies is a grim period piece drama about a pair of siblings trying to survive harsh conditions during World War II. The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a retelling of a Japanese folk-tale. Others range from a talking animal tale about environmentalism, Pom Poki, to family comedy much the same as could be found in American sitcoms, My Neighbors the Yamadas.
Equally as important as his individual works, Isao Takahata co-founded Studio Ghibli, the titan of Japanese animated movies, alongside Toshio Suzuk and the much-lauded Hayao Miyazaki. In addition to directing his own films for the Studio, Takahata acted as a producer for several other pieces.
So, on his passing, this author would suggest you find one of Takahata’s works you find particularly compelling and give it a watch. You won’t be disappointed. Leave a comment below with your favorite Takahata’s work!