Co-founder of Studio Ghibli best known for Grave Of The Fireflies

Isao Takahata
Isao Takahata

TOKYO • Celebrated Japanese anime director Isao Takahata, who co-founded Studio Ghibli and was best known for the 1988 war film Grave Of The Fireflies, died on Thursday in a Tokyo hospital, the studio said. He was 82.

He died after a battle with lung cancer, according to a statement from the studio.

He was considered one of the greats of Japanese animated film, alongside his Studio Ghibli co-founder and friendly rival, Hayao Miyazaki.

Takahata's latest production, The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya, earned an Academy nomination for Best Animated Feature in 2014.

The adaptation of a popular tale from the 10th century also won rave reviews, with The New York Times describing it as "exquisitely drawn with both watercolour delicacy and a brisk sense of line".

Grave Of The Fireflies, a moving tale of two orphans during World War II, is considered Takahata's best work. Reviewer Roger Ebert wrote that it "belongs on any list of the greatest war films ever made".

Takahata was born in 1935 in Mie prefecture in central Japan. American forces bombed his hometown in June 1945 as World War II was coming to a close. In an interview with The Japan Times, he described fleeing with his sister barefoot and still wearing his pyjamas.

On his way back to the family house, he recalled seeing piles of bodies in the street. "We were lucky to get out alive," he said.

He started his career in animation at the Toei studio in 1959, where he eventually met Miyazaki. In 1985, they founded Studio Ghibli, which went on to produce several blockbusters.

"We would never criticise each other face-to-face because it would just cause a fight. However, I know he has criticised my work," Takahata told The Japan Times.

Over a long and distinguished career, he produced about 20 films, including Pom Poko (1994), Only Yesterday (1991), and the Miyazaki-directed The Valley Of The Wind (1984). He is also well-known for the animation series Heidi, Girl Of The Alps and Lupin The Third.

He was an avid anti-war campaigner and in 2013 co-signed with around 250 other film celebrities a petition against a controversial state secrets law.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2018, with the headline 'Co-founder of Studio Ghibli best known for Grave Of The Fireflies'. Subscribe