Isao Takahata - the second pillar of the Ghibli (Topic)

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Isao Takahata - the second pillar of the Ghibli


Studio Ghibli has always been associated with Hayao Miyazaki, as he is its co-founder and the author of all of her most disruptive paintings. But if you are familiar with the studio a little more than an ordinary viewer, and have watched not only its most iconic paintings, you know that everything is not limited to Miyazaki's projects. And the second co-founder of the studio, the director of individual films, as well as the producer of many of Hayao's own films, was Isao Takahata. He may be known to many as the author of one of the most tragic anime - "The Tomb of the Fireflies". Today we will talk about who Isao Takahata is and try to shed some light on the second main person in Ghibli, as well as his work.

Before Ghibli

Takahata was born in 1935 in Ujiyamada, Mie Prefecture, and was the youngest of seven brothers and sisters. As a child, Takahata faced the horror of war, surviving the destruction and US air raids on his hometown. His childhood war experiences later became an inspiration for Tomb of the Fireflies.

But even with such a harsh childhood, and the gloominess of his most famous painting, Takahata's works retain carelessness and even childish enchanting naivety, but at the same time they do not go far from our everyday life, which distinguishes him from Miyazaki himself, who always creates fairy tales.

Prior to founding Studio Ghibli, Miyazaki and Takahata worked on several films, including Horus: Prince of the Sun, Heidi: Girl of the Alps, and two Panda shorts! Go, Panda! and Panda! Go, Panda! The Rainy Day Circus in 72nd and 73rd year. After that, even Takahata himself was the director of TV series and behind his authorship came out such anime as Future Boy Conan and the adaptation of the Canadian bestseller of the early twentieth century Anne of Green Gables.


Prior to becoming part of Ghibli in 1985, Takahata made two more films, Jarinko Chie (1981) and Gauche The Cellist (1982). The work he has done at Jarinko Chie shows his love for detail and workmanship. In general, all his subsequent works, from Jarinko Chie to Only Yesterday, demonstrate an unusual pace of narration in the genre of everyday life. Takahata in his work prior to 1985 had already shown considerable talent for writing compelling stories, perhaps growing up even earlier than Miyazaki.

Years at Ghibli

Since we have talked about the "Tomb of the Fireflies" more than once, here in a retrospective of Isao Takahata we will tell you about his other works created during his work at Ghibli.


Only Yesterday

After the success of his first military and autobiographical film, he begins work on his next film, Only Yesterday. A nostalgic tale of 27-year-old Taeko, whose journey to the countryside prompts her to remember her childhood and the choices she has made since then.

There is an irresistible sense of realism in this film that not only recalls Takahata's earlier work, but also sets it apart from Miyazaki's fantasy landscapes.

The pace of his work is that it feels as if there is no specific story in it, as if we burst into a certain segment of Taeko's life and observe what is happening with her eyes. And if you ask what this film is about, I would rather say that about a girl who went to help her parents with saffron picking and rethought her life a lot.

Pom Poko

Subsequently, he continued to tell a non-linear story that jumps from event to event, allowing viewers to figure it out for themselves. His next project was a painting by Pom Poko about the raccoon dogs tanuke who resist deforestation. At its core, this piece refers to Princess Mononoke.


However, his approach is very different in that Pom Poko conveys the story with voice-over and relies more on unusual humor than on seriousness.

And although it seems that this is a children's work, its pace, presentation, humor are more focused on an adult audience than on children. Of course, Miyazaki's films like Princess Mononoke or Porco Rosso are not particularly childish, but the fact is that Hayao himself called himself a purely childish creator who had breaks for films for adults.

My Neighbors The Yamadas

"My Neighbors Yamadas" is an adaptation of Hisaichi Ishii's manga that demonstrates the director's aesthetic and stylistic adaptations. Takahata preserves simplified manga drawings, but still makes them look good.


Despite all this, he focuses on the development of the characters and their various everyday antics, which return his work to the familiar formula of episodes of life and everyday life.

The Tale of Princess Kaguya

The crown of his creation can be called The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which is a free adaptation of the ancient Japanese myth "The Tale of the Bamboo Garden." The plot tells about a girl who was found inside a glowing bamboo shoot. Her parents find her and decide to adopt her, and they call her a princess because of the ceremonial clothes she was wearing.


Soon, “Little Bamboo,” as her friends call her, is faced with love, growing up, society's expectations and the demand to find out her supernatural origins, all of which come together in an adorable animation form.

In almost everything, the film visually stands out from other Ghibli paintings, especially in the style set by Hayao Miyazaki himself. The entire film looks like a traditional Japanese watercolor painting revived. This gives the impression that we are watching a very old animated film, but old in a good way. It makes sense in terms of history and its roots.

Moreover, if it had been drawn in the traditional Ghibli style, it would not have had such an effect. This is why this adaptation is so good. Takahata himself said that the work always dictates the style, and this was in some way his credo. Takahata's free-form visual style is driven by his commitment to always respect the source material and ensure that the form matches the content.

Isao Takahata's Influence

Although his paintings were not as successful as Miyazaki's films, and even less so loud, perhaps the main thing is that Isao Takahata showed with his work that adults can also enjoy Ghibli films. Indeed, despite the fact that I am sure many of you are very fond of revisiting, for example, Totoro in adulthood, most of Hayao's paintings were directed not at adults, but at children, when the target audience of Takakhta was always an adult.


Isao Takahata died of lung cancer in 2018.

The Topic of Article: Isao Takahata - the second pillar of the Ghibli.
Author: Jake Pinkman