Hayao Miyazaki eulogizes Isao Takahata, remembers purposely subjecting him to second-hand smoke

One anime legend looks back on 50 years of friendship with another in memorial service held at Studio Ghibli museum.

Last month, Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, director of theatrical anime including Grave of the Fireflies and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, passed away at the age of 82, succumbing to lung cancer. On Tuesday, friends and colleagues gathered at the Ghibli Museum to say their farewells, with Hayao Miyazaki delivering a eulogy, pausing repeatedly as emotion overwhelmed him and tears filled his eyes.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

It’s customary to display a photograph of the deceased at memorial services in Japan, and Takahata’s was surrounded by some 2,000 flowers, an idea Miyazaki himself proposed so that Takahata would be surrounded by the scent of a warm flower field. However, during his speech, Miyazaki told the audience of a time he subjected Takahata to a very different smell.

Miyazaki and Takahata share the same personal physician, and nine years ago, the doctor called Miyazaki on the phone. “If you’re Isao Takahata’s friend, make him quit smoking,” the doctor gravely commanded. Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki (the remaining member of Studio Ghibli’s group of three founding fathers) then sat Takahata down and implored their friend and coworker to give up the habit, with Miyazaki straightforwardly saying “Please stop smoking,” and Suzuki asking him to quit so that he could continue creating animation.

“We thought he’d get angry, making excuses and protesting,” Miyazaki recalls, “but he humbly said ‘Thank you. I’ll quit.’ And he really did. After that, I made a point of going to stand right next to him when I smoked, and he’d say ‘That smells nice, but I no longer have any desire to smoke.” Miyazaki is skeptical about the last part, though, saying “Takahata was always a better actor than me.”

Grave of the Fireflies

Miyazaki (a long-documented smoker) made no mention of whether or not Takahata’s death was prompting him to reconsider his own nicotine consumption, but addiction/temptation wasn’t the only topic he spoke about, He also explained the origin of “Paku-san,” his personal nickname for Takahata. “He always hated mornings, and when we worked at Toei Doga, he’d come barreling into the office barely on time. After punching his time card, he’d start scarfing down the bread he’d brought for breakfast, making paku paku (the Japanese onomatopoeia for quickly eating) noises.”

More flattering was Miyazaki’s recollection of the first time he and Takahata spoke with one another, when Takahata (six years Miyazaki’s senior) struck up a conversation as the pair were waiting for a bus at twilight, with puddles on the road following a just-ended rain shower. “He seemed like a kind, wise young man,” Miyazaki remembers, an impression keeping with the soft, relaxed tone of many of Takahata’s films.

Miyazaki also spoke of a time when he’d grown dissatisfied with the work he was doing at Toei Doga. He and Takahata were both officers in the company’s employee union, and during an overnight session in the organization’s office, Miyazaki opened up about his desire to go beyond what he’d done in animation so far, to tell deeper, more meaningful stories, and the two discussed how to achieve those dreams. Given how rarely Miyazaki has kind words for anyone else in the anime industry, the fact that he’d engage with Takahata in such a conversation shows the deep admiration and trust he had in his colleague.

“Paku-san, in those days we did our best, and we were truly alive,” Miyazaki said while bringing his speech to a close. “You never gave up. Thank you, Paku-san. Thank you for talking to me 55 years ago at that bus stop after the rain, and I’ll never forget you.”

At multiple points of his speech, Miyazaki mentioned that he’d always assumed Takahata would live until the age of 95, and no doubt his grief is all the greater for losing his friend 13 years earlier than he’d expected. Judging by Miyazaki’s words, though, Takahata’s presence and influence will never fade from Miyazaki’s heart.

Source: Cinema Today via Hachima Kiko
Top image: YouTube/Madman

Studio Ghibli fans surprised to find hidden images in Grave of the Fireflies anime poster

The new meanings revealed in this image, thirty years after the film’s release, have anime fans reaching for the tissues.

It’s been a sad month for anime fans after internationally acclaimed anime director and Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata passed away in Tokyo on 5 April, after being hospitalised for heart and health conditions during a long battle with lung cancer.

As tributes poured in for the 82-year-old, Nippon TV paid their respects to the accomplished director by broadcasting one of his most well-known films, Grave of the Fireflies, on national TV on 13 April. Known for its heavy content, depicting the lives of two siblings struggling to survive in the Japanese city of Kobe during World War II, anime fans knew to have the tissues nearby during the televised broadcast, but what they didn’t realise was that there was another heart-wrenching moment on the way for them, waiting to be discovered in one of the promotional posters for the film.

The poster, which has now become a hot topic on chat forums in Japan, appears to show the two main characters of Seita and Setsuko sharing a rare moment of joy while surrounded by a field of fireflies.

Instagram Photo

This particular poster has been around since the film’s release thirty years ago in 1988, so fans wouldn’t normally think twice about looking into the details of the already-familiar image. One Twitter user, however, has now caused a stir online by unveiling a hard-to-see object in the darkness, which gives the poster a whole new meaning and a poignant sadness that many fans are seeing for the very first time.

The lightened image on the right of the tweet clearly shows a warplane in the sky above the children’s heads; a striking detail that’s easy to miss on first glance in the original poster. What’s even more heartbreaking is the implications of the plane on our initial reading of the image, which @comicloverhouse mentions in his accompanying text:

“I just read a theory that the fireflies in the Grave of the Fireflies poster aren’t all insects, so I analysed the image and it’s really true. I never knew about this.”

Given that the movie contains a number of scenes showing Japan being firebombed, it becomes clear that the differently shaped lights glowing in the night sky show not only fireflies but bombs from the air raids as well.

With tens of thousands of likes and retweets for @comicloverhouse‘s tweet, Ghibli fans have been expressing their surprise at the revelation.

“Wow. I’ve seen this picture a hundred times before but never seen these details.”
“So the round lights are fireflies and the longer ones are firebombs? That’s a heartbreaking image.”
“It’s amazing that they could conceal these types of details in a poster.”
“So “fireflies” has a double meaning…”
“Is that why they use the kanji for “fire” and “dangle” to mean “fireflies” in the title?”

It’s true that the movie title in Japanese, “Hotaru no Haka“, is written out as “火垂るの墓“, which uses  (hi), the kanji for fire, and (tareru) which describes something dangling down, like a droplet of water about to fall from a leaf, to make up the word hotaru, which means firefly in Japanese. Ordinaily, hotaru is written out in its own kanji – 蛍 – so the double meaning in the title actually references the incendiary bombs, which appear on the poster.

Instagram Photo

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know how important the firefly motif is, not only to the animated scenes onscreen, but also to the storyline, with the short lives of the insects symbolising the young lives lost during war. While the firefly/firebomb reference is clear to see once it’s been pointed out, its initial subtlety and the understated subtext are great examples of the small details that make Studio Ghibli films stand out in the anime film world.

To uncover some more of the studio’s secret details, don’t forget to check out this video here, which reveals all the Easter eggs hidden inside Ghibli films!

Source: Otakomu
Featured image: Instagram/ryuzi_kobayashi

Plan to turn real-world shrine from Studio Ghibli anime into a parking lot upsets fans, residents

Shinto shrine was featured in recently deceased anime director Isao Takahata’s Pom Poko.

Last week, the anime world suffered the sad loss of Isao Takahata, one of the medium’s most respected directors and a founding member of Studio Ghibli, who passed away on April 5 at the age of 82. Though Takahata is best known for his 1988 postwar tragedy Grave of the Fireflies, his 1994 Pom Poko (also known as Heisei Era Tanuki War Pom Poko) has its own tale of sadness to weave as it follows a pack of tanuki (raccoon dogs) who, like their folklore counterparts, can speak and have magical powers.

In the film, the tanukis’ woodland home in the Tokyo suburbs is being increasingly encroached upon by human residential development, mirroring real-life expansion of the city during the period when the anime was released. Pom Poko is filled with fantastical and farcical comedy (such as tanuki swinging their famously large testicles as weapons), but also presents the conflict as a genuine life-or-death situation, with casualties on both the human and tanuki sides dryly included as a matter-of-fact consequence of the conflict.

▼ Trailer for Pom Poko

Once again opting for realism over sentimentalism, as the movie goes on the tanuki have to resign themselves to the fact that their animal concerns and coercive capabilities aren’t enough to deter the construction, and their land is redeveloped. Now, in a parallel to that, a Shinto shrine featured in Pom Poko might be being torn down in order to make room for a parking lot.

Kincho Shrine (pictured at the top of this article) is located in the town of Komatsushima, Tokushima Prefecture, on the island of Shikoku, far away from Tokyo. However, the shrine has long had a connection to tanuki. The shrine was originally constructed in 1956 using money from a donation from a film company executive who’d made a successful movie based on local tanuki folklore, and it also serves as the setting for a scene in Pom Poko, where it’s depicted as the home of a group of wise tanuki elders.

▼ Tanuki statues (and their massive balls) welcome visitors to the shrine.

While the shrine is private property, it sits on municipal land, which is part of a park. Last summer, it was announced that sections of the park would be redeveloped, with tsunami preparedness the initial impetus for the project. Part of the proposed plan, though, calls for Kincho Shrine to be demolished, and a parking lot to be put in its place.

▼ An aerial view of the area

That proposal has sparked a backlash, though, among local residents who want to preserve the shrine, who have received shouts of support online from anime fans. In March, an online petition was started to keep the shrine even after the park’s renovation, garnering roughly 2,000 signatures so far.

Luckily, the city itself is showing a willingness to be flexible on the issue, At the very least, planners say they want to leave behind a tanuki statue, and they’ve reminded everyone that while the initial proposal is to replace the shrine with a parking lot, that’s by no means finalized, and planners are still debating the exact details of the redevelopment. “The shrine itself is private property,” a member of the city’s development bureau reminded those who were upset, “and so it can’t be torn by unilateral decision.” So hopefully Kincho Shrine’s future will be less bittersweet than the ending of Pom Poko.

Source: Livedoor News/J Cast via Jin
Top image: Wikipedia/Reggaeman
Insert images: Wikipedia/Reggaeman, Wikipedia/タコノマクラ

Studio Ghibli’s co-founder, Isao Takahata, has passed away

Anime director, producer, innovator, and Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata has passed away on April 5th, newspapers have reported. He was 82. Different sources cite heart problems or lung cancer as the reason of death. Studio Ghibli is yet to confirm the reason. However, it is known that he had been frequently hospitalized since last summer.

The 2013 animation ‘The Tale of the Princess Kaguya’, a breathtakingly beautiful film animated to look like a painting, remained Takahata’s last work. He is best known for the 1988 film ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, a depiction of two orphans in second world war Japan.  His other work include films like ‘Pom Poko’ and TV series ‘Heidi: A Girl of the Alps’.

(Via Variety, Hollywoord Reporter, The Guardian)

 

The post Studio Ghibli’s co-founder, Isao Takahata, has passed away appeared first on ARAMA! JAPAN.

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Studio Ghibli co-founder and anime director Isao Takahata passes away in Tokyo

Anime veteran leaves behind a legacy of more than 50 years of landmark anime including Ghibli’s Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko, and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

Most people would say that 82 years is not a tremendously short life. And yet, in a way, it feels like the time to say good-bye to anime director and Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata has come far too soon.

Takahata passed away on April 5 at a hospital in Tokyo, succumbing to poor health and heart conditions that had been plaguing the 82-year-old anime director since last summer and causing him to be hospitalized multiple times. An unnamed personal acquaintance was quoted as saying that Takahata looked startlingly thin when they last saw him in November. “He’d always given the impression of an inquisitive child with glimmering eyes, but [in November] he looked so tired that he seemed like a completely different person.”

Entering the anime industry as an employee of Toei Doga (the precursor to Toei Animation), Takahata would go on to have a tremendously long and successful career. A few years after he started at Toei, he met a new recruit named Hayao Miyazaki, and the two would work together on a number of projects after both left the company in 1971.

▼ The Takahata-directed Grave of the Fireflies

Takahata’s breakout work, and his theatrical directorial debut, was 1968’s Horus: Prince of the Sun, an epic fantasy on which Miyazaki served as key animator. During the 1970s, Takahata directed landmark anime TV series Heidi, Girl of the Alps and Anne of Green Gables, as well as a number of episodes of Lupin III. All became, and have remained, cultural icons in Japan even outside of the anime fan community, and once again, Miyazaki was also involved with each.

Realizing by this point that the two of them had a real knack for making anime, Takahata and Miyazaki, along with producer Toshio Suzuki, founded Studio Ghibli in 1985. In the years since, Miyazaki has gone on to be synonymous with the Ghibli name in the minds of many moviegoers, but arguably the studio’s first film to earn substantial international respect was the Takahata-directed Grave of the Fireflies (originally released in Japan in 1988).

A tragic tale of two orphans struggling, and eventually failing, to survive in Japan immediately following the end of World War II, Grave of the Fireflies, although fictional, dealt with real world events, and in an unflinching manner. That gave it an immediate sense of importance and relevance, and being a Japanese-made movie about Japan provided the cachet of being a window into a foreign society, and this mix of cultural, artistic, and even educational weight. All that resulted in solemn recommendations from mainstream English-language film critics as soon as subtitled or dubbed versions became available, even as Miyazaki’s Totoro and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind struggled to find acceptance overseas beyond small circles of hardcore anime fans until the late 1990s.

▼ Takahata’s Only Yesterday

In addition to Grave of the Fireflies, Takahata directed Ghibli’s Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, My Neighbors the Yamadas, and, his final film, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, which was released in 2013. Though his films contained such fanciful elements as shapeshifting tanuki swinging their enlarged testicles as weapons and magical moon princesses, Takahata’s works are introspective and tender in comparison to Miyazaki’s bolder grand adventures, showing off Ghibli’s trademark talent in a quietly different way.

Despite his immensely impressive professional resume, Takahata spent much of his career getting little to no attention abroad. His 1970s TV work largely predates international appreciation of anime’s artistic qualities, and when Studio Ghibli did become a readily recognized name among non-anime-focused critics in the early 2000s, the primary focus was always on Miyazaki’s films, such as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo. It was really only after new fans drawn in by those started looking into the older anime of not only Ghibli, but also the studio’s key personnel, that English-language critics really started to sing Takahata’s praises in chorus.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

In a way, though, that almost seems appropriate. Takahata was borderline infamous for taking his time on projects (Miyazaki once vocally speculated that his Ghibli comrade must be “descended from sloths”), and while he developed a distinct, inimitable style, he was never the sort to draw attention to himself over the anime he created. So even if he’s no longer with us, his works, and his legacy, are still patiently waiting for anyone with a love of animation to experience.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News/Sanspo via Jin, NHK News Web
Top image: YouTube/Madman

Hayao Miyazaki Won’t Watch “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” from Ghibli Alum

Studio Ghibli mastermind Hayao Miyazaki reportedly denied an invitation to a viewing for upcoming film “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” from director Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who rose to fame with past Ghibli productions “The Secret World of Arrietty” and “When Marnie Was There“.

Based on British author Mary Stewart’s novel “The Little Broomstick“, the main selling factor of “Mary” is that a portion of the staff working on the film previously worked for world-renowned anime production house Studio Ghibli as well.

Mary” is the first film from newly formed Studio Ponoc founded by “Marnie” producer Yoshiaki Nishimura. Joining them are fellow Ghibli alumni composer Takatsugu Muramatsu and screenwriter Riko Sakaguchi. The studio has been working on their debut feature-length film for the past two and a half years.

According to CinemaToday, Yonebayashi revealed during a promotional event held last week that he had visited Studio Ghibli to show the completed film to his former coworkers, but Miyazaki refused to watch it.

Miyazaki, who is knees deep working on his (final) final film “Boro the Caterpillar“, was simply quoted as saying, “I won’t watch it.

But the famed director wasn’t devoid of any compassion to his former coworker.

You really put a lot of effort into the movie,” he told Yonebayashi, of whom Miyazaki had previously doubted for falling behind production schedule. “Good job.

However, Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki and Isao Takahata, director of Ghibli films “Grave of the Fireflies” and “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya“, did take Yonebayashi up on his gesture.

So this is the sort of movie you can make when you’re not under the influence of working at Studio Ghibli,” Suzuki reportedly remarked.

Takahata apparently took a sarcastic approach, remarking based off his own success, “It left me with a good impression. But if I liked it, I wonder if the film’s success could be in danger…

Upcoming film “Mary and the Witch’s Flower” will open in Japan on July 8 and features the theme song “RAIN” from rock band SEKAI NO OWARI.

(via Anime News Network)