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Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata dies at 82

One of the best directors ever — of anime or otherwise

grave of the fireflies art
Grave of the Fireflies, Takahata’s best known work.
Studio Ghibli

Isao Takahata, co-founder of influential Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli, has died. He was 82.

In a statement released early Friday morning, a Studio Ghibli spokesperson said that Takahata died of lung cancer. His health began dwindling in the summer of 2017, according to Yahoo Japan.

Takahata retired from the studio in 2013, after nearly 30 years working alongside fellow founder Hayao Miyazaki and several other visionary directors. Takahata and Miyazaki were the most visible and acclaimed members of the production team, however, with Takahata producing, writing or directing some of Ghibli’s most emotionally complex films.

Chief among these is Grave of the Fireflies, likely the best known of Takahata’s work. The film is an adaptation of a memoir based on a young brother and sister’s struggle for survival during World War II. It’s both a stunning war film and one of the most devastating stories of love and loss ever committed to screen.

Other works include the masterful Only Yesterday, another coming-of-age drama. The film received its first English-language release in 2016, almost 25 years after its Japanese premiere.

Perhaps the most beautiful, if underrated, film in Takahata’s catalogue is his final film before his retirement. It released the same year as his partner Miyazaki’s so-called last Ghibli project, before Miyazaki ended his own retirement. 2013’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a sprawling adaptation of the folktale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, following the life of its titular lead through circumstances both lovely and heartbreaking.

It’s hard to find any Studio Ghibli film on a streaming service, but each of Takahata’s five feature films are available on Blu-ray and DVD. Each one is absolutely required viewing for cinephiles, with Takahata’s work representing the breadth of what anime is capable of at its best.

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