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Isao Takahata (高畑 勲 , Takahata Isao) was a Japanese film director, animation director, producer and translator. Born on October 29, 1935, at Ise, Mie, Japan, he passed away on April 5, 2018. He was a long-term colleague of Hayao Miyazaki and co-founder of Studio Ghibli. He had been a lecturer at Nihon University College of Art, a senior researcher at the Graduate School of Humanities, Gakushuin University and received the Purple Ribbon Award.

His five animated films at Studio Ghibli have spanned a remarkable range of genres: war-film Grave of the Fireflies (1988), romantic drama Only Yesterday (1991), comedy My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999), ecological adventure Pom Poko (1994), and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2014). Of these Grave of the Fireflies, in particular, is widely considered one of the greatest animated films ever made. He produced an outline for another war film in 1989, Border 1939, but it was cancelled before entering production. He is amazing at capturing the audiences feelings and emotions.

He studied at Sophia University and graduated from the University of Tokyo with a degree in French literature course in 1959. Takahata joined the newly created Tōei Dōga animation company (Toei Animation) where a short time later he met Miyazaki, and also directed his first feature film Hols: Prince of the Sun. Ostracized within the company after the financial failure of the film (despite its artistic success), he and Miyazaki left in order to work together, and collaborated on many other films. Unlike most anime directors, Takahata doesn't draw and never worked as an animator before becoming a full-fledged director.

According to Hayao Miyazaki, "Music and study are his hobbies". He was born in the same town as fellow director Kon Ichikawa, while Japanese film giant Yasujiro Ozu was raised by his father in nearby Matsusaka.


Takahata was originally intrigued by animation after having seen the French animated cartoon feature Le Roi et l'oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird) based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. He was impressed by the film, asking "Can these kind of things be done by animation?".

While he was job hunting at his university, Takahata was tempted to join Toei Animation by a friend who knew the company wanted an assistant director at the time. For fun he took the company's entrance examination as he had been originally interested in animation. When he was notified of the informal decision, he joined the company.

The reason he decided to join the company was his thought that "If it was animation, I can be something interesting, too." However, there were more than ten people joining the company that same year, two recruited by Toei Animation side recruited and the surplus workers sent by Toei head office. Because of the competition, he had a hard time achieving the status of director.

Takahata hols prince of the sun

Takahata during production of Hols: Prince of the Sun

Takahata finally directed his first film after he was recommended for the spot by Yasuo Ōtsuka, who was both his and Hayao Miyazaki's instructor. His directorial debut was Hols: Prince of the Sun. Hols was a failure in the commercial sense. He was among the production team deemed responsible for the failure, and was accordingly demoted. He also had difficulty making a new film as the remaining staff members who had not been demoted for Hols were working on a different Toei film.

In 1971, in order to make the animated feature Pippi Longstocking, Takahata left Toei Animation with Yoichi Kotabe and Hayao Miyazaki and transferred to A production (present: SHIN-EI ANIMATION Co., Ltd.)”, an animation studio founded by his former superior, Daikichiro Kusube (楠部大吉郎 くすべ だいきちろう) They travelled to Sweden to acquire the animation rights and to hunt for locations, only to be turned away at the door by author Astrid Lindgren. Though their plan was frustrated, Miyazaki found inspiration in the fortified town of Visby, and would later set both Stockholm and Visby as the stage of Kiki's Delivery Service.

In 1971, Takahata and Miyazaki requested to direct episodes seven and onwards of the first Arsene Lupin III TV series anime,[1] due to the low ratings and, for the time, exceptionally high levels of sex and violence in the initial episodes directed by Masaaki Osumi.[2] Since the animation director was Yasuo Ōtsuka, an old acquaintance, they accepted the offer under the condition that "the names of the two people were not released, and direction was credited only to 'A production directors group.'" Unlike Miyazaki, he did not participate in the second series, though his directing in the original was well received.

Later in 1971Zuiyo Enterprise invited Takahata, Kotabe and Miyazaki to direct an animated series of the novel Heidi and all three of them took the offer. The result was Heidi, Girl of the Alps. Afterwards, when the production section of Zuiyo was established as a subsidiary company of the animated cartoon production of Zuiyo Eizo(present: Nippon Animation), they both joined the company. On the picture side, animators drew carefully the nature of Europe and a change of season, and an everyday life of people by location hunting to Switzerland in all staff. On the other hand, on the story side, Takahata made the animation version easy to accept by thinning a Christian element of the original besides the earnest Christian (especially, in the latter half).

In the case of 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother, the summary of the story followed the original, but he created many episodes and original characters because it was the story that totally did not reach 100 pages. And, he expressed the protagonist Marco as a boy of the independent spirit that did not flatter the adult too much, and adults as existence that committed the crime even if they were comparison good men. He brought the world of this anime close to the reality or more by doing so. However, Kotabe and Miyazaki felt frustration for his direction that did not let them feel pleasure even if they drew it, and they left Takahata one after the other.

In Anne of Green Gables , Takahata directed it along the original basically, but he was able to deepen an impression about Marilla and Ann by describing it as the para-parenthood which was heavier than the original.

In Jarinko Chie, じゃりん子チエ (meaning of Chie the Brat) in 1981, Yasuo Otsuka who belonged to Tokyo Movie Shinsha / Telecom Animation Film Co., Ltd. offered to Miyazaki, a colleague of Telecom, to make this comic an animated cartoon, but he refused. Therefore, Otsuka consulted Takahata, but he also expressed disapproval first. However, Takahata who had really visited Osaka which was the stage of this story felt that the world drawn on the comic was actually there. He took the request, left Nippon Animation which was on the register, and moved to Telecom. This work which paired again with Yasuo Otsuka and Yoichi Kotabe of the old acquaintance was praised and settled for a TV animation series because it got a favorable reception, and Takahata became the chief director.

In 1982, Takahata was elected the director of Little Nemo that was the work that tried to be produced so that Telecom may advance to the United States. With Miyazaki and Otsuka, who entered Telecom earlier, Takahata went to America, but the discord by the Japan-U.S. difference of the technique in the production of animation took place between the Japan side staff and the producer of the American side, Gary Kurtz (known as the producer of Star Wars). After all, Takahata would resign the direction, and also left Telecom. Miyazaki and others followed him. On the other hand, the cultural exchange was born between Japanese animator and seniors of Disney who had been cooperating in this project.

Afterwards, Takahata was invited by Miyazaki to join his animation production company Studio Ghibli after the success of Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. The first movie directed by Takahata for Ghibli was Grave of the Fireflies. The evaluation in foreign countries was high in it partly because it was taken up by Roger Ebert.

In Kiki's Delivery Service, Takahata did the music direction for Miyazaki, who did not have musical attainments.

Takahata was awarded the Special Award at the Kobe Animation Awards on November 4, 2007.

Influences and style[]

Takahata has been influenced by Italian neorealism, Jacques Prévert, and French New Wave films during the 1960s. The Bicycle Thief has been cited as specifically influencing 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother. These influences make Takahata's work different from most animation, which focus on fantasy. His films, by contrast, are realistic with expressionistic overtones.

Neo-realism's influence on his film is evident in the amount of attention to detail he takes in displaying everyday mundane events. Entire episodes of his early TV shows were devoted to looking at events such as going to church every week, having a job cleaning out bottles, or detailing the work farmers do out in fields. All of these events are shown in meticulous detail and often form a major part of his work. With the exception of Horus: Prince of the Sun (a Disney-esque musical with darker and more political overtones), Pom Poko (an environmentalist film about magical tanuki trying to save their land), and Gauche the Cellist (a film about a struggling cellist who is helped by talking forest animals), the majority of his works are dramas set in mostly realistic environments.

One of Takahatas' most praised films is Omohide Poro Poro (literally, 'Memories Like Falling Raindrops'). The film was released in 1991 in Japan to critical acclaim, and was re-titled as Only Yesterday for release to English-speaking audiences. A film aimed squarely at an adult audience, Omohide Poro Poro revolves around Taeko, a single woman working a desk job in Tokyo, who takes her annual vacation in the countryside with the family of her sister in-law to work as a farmhand. During her holiday, Taeko finds herself looking back nostalgically at her youth as a schoolgirl growing up in 1966, while simultaneously attempting to resolve her current issues with love and career.

The expressionistic influences in Takahata's work are usually marked by scenes where a character's imagination comes to life on screen. For instance, in Omohide Poro Poro, after Taeko encounters her first love she, defying gravity, runs up into and floats through the red-colored sky. The scene ends with her slowly gliding into bed and then cuts to an outside shot of her house where a giant heart emerges from her window. These expressionistic sequences run counter to Takahata's realistic storyline and animation, but are consciously used by the director to transition back and forth from realism to the unreal world of animated fantasy, thereby further enhancing the character. These scenes can be found to some degree in all of Takahata's work, beginning with the "forest of delusion" sequence in Horus: Prince of the Sun.

Takahata's films have had a major influence on Hayao Miyazaki, prompting animator Yasuo Ōtsuka to say that Miyazaki gets his sense of social responsibility from Takahata and that without Takahata, Miyazaki would probably just be interested in comic book stuff.[3]

As with Miyazaki, Takahata and Michel Ocelot are great admirers of each other's work. Ocelot names Takahata's Grave of the Fireflies and Pom Poko among his favourite films, as well as adapting and directing the Japanese dubs of his films.



  • 1963-65 狼少年ケン (Ōkamishōnen Ken) / Ken the Wolf Boy
    • Adviser, Director of several episodes (episode 6,14,19,24,32,38,45,51,58,66,72,80) (only the 6th episode is "「山下勲」Isao Yamashita" name), storyboard
  • 1965 ハッスルパンチ (Hassuru Panti) / Hustle Punch
    • Director of the opening theme
  • 1969-70 ひみつのアッコちゃん(Himitsu no Akko-chan) / Secret Little Akko
    • Based on the comics for girls by Fujio Akatsuka (赤塚不二夫)
    • Assistant Director
  • 1968-69 GeGeGe no Kitaro (the first series) / ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 (GeGeGe no Kitarō) / Lowest-of-the-Low Kitarō, Kitarō of GeGeGe
    • Based on the horror comics by Shigeru Mizuki (水木しげる)
    • Storyboard / Director (episode 62)
  • 1969-70 もーれつア太郎 (Mōretsu Atarō) / A-tarō the Workaholic
    • Based on the comedy comics by Fujio Akatsuka (赤塚不二夫)
    • Storyboard / Director (episode 10,14,36,44,51,59,71,77,90), director of opening theme (episode 70–90)
  • 1971-72 GeGeGe no Kitaro (the second series) / ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 (Gegege no Kitarō)
    • Storyboard / Director (episode 5), director of opening and ending theme
  • 1971-72 アパッチ野球軍 (Apatchi Yakyūgun) / Apache Baseball Team
    • Based on the comics by original: "Kobako Hanato (花登筐)" / illustrating: "Sachio Umemoto (梅本さちお)"
    • Storyboard / Director (episode 2,12,17)
  • 1971 長靴下のピッピ 世界一強い女の子 (Nagakutsushita no Pippi/sekai-ichi tsuyoi on-na-no-ko) / Pippi Longstocking, the Strongest Girl in the World(temporary title)[4]
    • Chief Director, however, since acquisition of the right to make anime went wrong, this project shifted to the movie “Panda! Go, Panda!”.
  • 1971 Arsene Lupin III (ルパン三世, Rupan Sansei)
    • Based on the comics by Monkey Punch (モンキー・パンチ)
    • Correction of direction (Episode 4-12, there is an episode largely changed, and is an episode that was hardly changed) / Director (episode 13-23, direct jointly with Hayao Miyazaki by "A production" name)
  • 1972-73 赤胴鈴之助 (Akadō Suzunosuke) / Red-cuirass Suzu-no-suke
    • Based on the jidaigeki comics featuring sword fighting by Eiichi Fukui (福井英一) and Thunayoshi Takeuchi (武内つなよし)
    • Acting chief director
  • 1973-74 荒野の少年イサム (Kouya no Shounen Isamu) / Isamu, Boy in the wilderness
    • Based on the Western comics by original: "Soji Yamakawa (山川惣治)" / illustrating: "Noboru Kawasaki (川崎のぼる)"
    • Storyboard (episode 15,18), director (episode 15)
  • 1974 Heidi, Girl of the Alps / (アルプスの少女ハイジ, Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji)
    • Based on the novel of Johanna Spyri
    • Chief Director / storyboard (episode 1-3)
  • 1975 A Dog of Flanders / (フランダースの犬, Furandaasu no Inu)
    • Based on the novel of Ouida
    • Storyboard (episode 15)
  • 1976 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother / (母をたずねて三千里, Haha wo Tazunete Sanzen-ri)
    • Based on one episode in the novel Cuore by Edmondo De Amicis
    • Chief Director, storyboard (episode 1,2,4,5,7)
  • 1977 アルプスの音楽少女 ネッティのふしぎな物語, (Arupusu no Ongaku Shoujo Netti no Fushigi na Monogatari) / The Wonderful Story of Nettie, Musical Girl of the Alps
    • TV Special; storyboard and director, animated sequences only
  • 1977 シートン動物記 くまの子ジャッキー, (Shiiton Doubutsuki Kuma no Ko Jakkii) / Seton Animal Chronicles: Jacky the Bear Cub
    • Based on Ernest Thompson Seton’s works
    • Storyboard (episode 5,8)
  • 1978 ペリーヌ物語, Perrine Monogatari (Periinu Monogatari) / Perrine Story
    • Based on the French novel, En Famille (meaning is “In Family”) by Hector Malot
    • Storyboard (episode 3,6)
  • 1978 Future Boy Conan (未来少年コナン, Mirai Shōnen Konan)
    • Based on post-apocalyptic science fiction novel "The Incredible Tide" written by Alexander Key
    • Storyboard (episode 7,13,20) / storyboard and director (episode 9, 10 with Hayao Miyazaki)
  • 1979 Anne of Green Gables, (赤毛のアン, Akage no An) / Anne of red hair
    • Based on the novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery
    • Chief Director, scriptwriter (episode 1-4,6,8,10,12,13,17,18,20,23,25-44,47-50/ 36 in total), storyboard (episode 1-4,29)
  • 1981-83 じゃりん子チエ (Jarinko Chie) (Chie the Brat)
    • Based on the downtown humanity comics by Etsumi Haruki はるき悦巳 (circulation is 30 million)
    • Chief Director, storyboard and director (episode 2・6・11 stories,「武元哲」"Tetsu Takemoto" name 〔originates in the name of father of Chie〕), and original bill for composition of opening theme


Translator and Director of Japanese Dubs / Subtitles for Ghibli Museum Library films[]

  • Les Triplettes de Belleville (ベルヴィル・ランデブー Beruviru Randebu)
  • Le Roi et l'oiseau (王と鳥 Ō to Tori)
  • Moya Iyubov (春のめざめ Haru no Mezame)

Films by Michel Ocelot[]

  • Kirikou et la Sorcière (キリクと魔女 Kiriku to Majo)
  • Princes et princesses (プリンス&プリンセス Purinsu ando Purinsesu)
  • Azur et Asmar (アズールとアスマール Azūru to Asumāru)

References and Notes[]

  1. Arsene Lupin III //
  2. Conversations on Ghibli: Movie Night - Arsene Lupin III 1x01
  3. Ōtsuka Yasuo no Ugokasu Yorokobi DVD. Studio Ghibli. 2004.
  4. This was originally a project for the TV series. To make this work an animated cartoon, three people (Isao Takahata, Hayao Miyazaki, and Yoichi Kotabe) transferred the register from major Toei Animation to A production of the small-scale(at that time). Director: Isao Takahata, character design / animation director: Yoichi Kotabe, scene setting / screen constitution: Hayao Miyazaki. However, the permission of the author had not been finally granted and the plan were frustrated. therefore the unfinished film was diverted to Panda! Go, Panda!.
  5. He planned to become a supervisor on a Japanese side, but he secedes from the project with Hayao Miyazaki by the dissension with an American side. And, they have resigned "Telecom animation film" of the affiliated company.
  6. When the producer's work was requested, Takahata held the complicated feeling for his working for the movie of Miyazaki who drew pictures for works of Takabata before at first. However, he undertook the work finally by the persuasion of Toshio Suzuki, "Do not you help a troubled friend?"

External links[]

  • Isao Takahata information at
  • Isao Takahata The Ultimate Ghibli Collection Site
  • Isao Takahata Interview on a Personal Conversation with Isao Takahata