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Isao Takahata (高畑 勲 Takahata Isao) (born October 29, 1935) is one of the most famous directors of anime, or Japanese animated films.
Born in Ujiyamada (now Ise), Mie prefecture, Japan, he is a long-term colleague of Hayao Miyazaki and co-head at Studio Ghibli. His four animated films at Studio Ghibli have spanned a remarkable range of genres: war-film (Grave of the Fireflies), romantic drama (Only Yesterday), comedy (My Neighbors the Yamadas), and ecological adventure (Pom-Poko). Of these Grave of the Fireflies, in particular, is widely considered among the greatest animated films ever made.
Graduating from the University of Tokyo 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 Horus: 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.
Influences and style
Takahata has been influenced by Italian neo-realism, 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.
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 Only Yesterday 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 comes out of her window. These expressionistic sequences run counter to Takahata's realism, but are consciously used by the director to unlock the potential of the unreal medium of animation to enhance a character's emotions in a realistic drama. These scenes can be found to some degree in all of Takahata's work starting with the "forest of delusion" sequence in Horus: Prince of the Sun.
His films have had a major influence on Hayao Miyazaki, prompting animator Yasuo Otsuka to say that Miyazaki gets his sense of social responsiblity from Takahata and that without Takahata, Miyazaki would probably just be interested in comic book stuff1.
- The Littlest Warrior (Anju to Zushiōmaru), 1961
- Iron Story (Tetsu Monogatari), 1962
- The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon (Wanpaku Ōji no Daija Taiji), 1962
- The Biggest Duel in the Underworld (Ankokugai Saidai no Kettō), 1963
- Hustle Punch (TV), 1965
- Secret Little Akko (TV) (Himitsu no Akko-chan), 1969
- Horus: Prince of the Sun (Taiyō no Ōji - Horusu no Daibouken), 1968
- A-tarou the Workaholic (TV) (Mōretsu Atarō), 1969
- Apache Baseball Team (TV) (Apatchi Yakyūgun), 1971
- Lupin III (TV) (Rupan Sansei), 1971
- Panda Kopanda, 1972
- Lowest-of-the-Low Kitarou (TV) (Gegege no Kitarō), 1972
- Red-armored Suzunosuke (TV) (Akadō Suzunosuke), 1973
- Heidi, Girl of the Alps (TV) (Arupusu no Shōjo Haiji), 1974
- 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (TV) (Haha wo Tazunete Sanzen-ri), 1976
- Future Boy Conan (TV) (Mirai Shōnen Konan), 1978
- Anne of Green Gables (TV) (Akage no An), 1979
- Chie the Brat (TV) (Jarinko Chie), 1981
- Gauche the Cellist (Serohiki no Gōshu), 1982
- The Story of Yanagawa's Canals (Yanagawa Horiwari Monogatari), 1987
- Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka), 1988
- Only Yesterday (Omohide Poro Poro), 1991
- Pom Poko (Heisei Tanuki Gassen Pon Poko), 1994
- My Neighbors the Yamadas (Hōhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun), 1999
- Participated in Winter Days (Fuyu no Hi), 2003
- Horus: Prince of the Sun (Taiyou no Ouji - Horusu no Daibōken), 1968
- Nausicaä of the Valley of Wind (Kaze no Tani no Naushika), 1984
- Laputa: The Castle in the Sky (Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta), 1986
- Ocean Waves (Umi ga Kikoeru), 1993
- Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka), 1989
- My Neighbors the Yamadas (Houhokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun), 1999
- Wasteland Boy Isamu (TV) (Kouya no Shounen Isamu), 1973
- A Dog of Flanders (TV) (Furandaasu no Inu), 1975
- Seton Animal Chronicles: Jacky the Bear Cub (TV) (Shiiton Doubutsuki Kuma no Ko Jakkii), 1977
- Perrine's Story (TV) (Periinu Monogatari), 1978
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