The Man Behind Ghibli That Doesn’t Get Enough Respect

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YouTube essayist Steve McCarthy continues his series on Studio Ghibli with this excellent video retrospective on Isao Takahata. I am always thrilled when anyone in the West acknowledges the great Paku-san, who remains a cult figure in relation to Hayao Miyazaki. I am especially thrilled to find a film scholar who not only understands the director’s career, but also criticizes it as well. For true fans who enjoy grappling with film art, this is great viewing.

McCarthy follows Paku-san’s career from Toei to the present day, highlighting Horus, Prince of the Sun (of course), his World Masterpiece Theater trilogy of Heidi-Marco-Anne, his collaboration with Miyazaki on Future Boy Conan, his pre-Ghibli movies Jarinko Chie and Gauche the Cellist, and continuing through the Studio Ghibli era, discussing each film at length and sharing his likes and dislikes in equal measure.

I would offer one critique on this video essay. Heidi, Girl of the Alps is described as a series that was “greeted with indifference”, but the series was instead a blockbuster hit in Japan, drawing enormous television ratings and becoming a pop culture phenomenon. In addition, the series was successfully exported around the world, blazing the trail for the anime revolution of the 1970s. Whenever I visit Bogota, Colombia, I can always find a classic World Masterpiece Theater series on the local TV stations. In fact, Future Boy Conan was playing last month. In many ways, Heidi has always remained the touchstone in Takahata’s and Miyazaki’s careers.

Also, McCarthy echoes the common belief that The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is Takahata’s final movie. This is not exactly true, as the director continues to work and prepare on potential projects, but has openly admitted the difficulty in finding financial backers for any future movies. Coupled with his age, and the odds are against him. But he is not officially out, not yet, nor has he announced any retirement. True artists never really “retire,” as we have seen once again with Miyazaki.

Overall, great video. I was honestly surprised to see my name and writing in a clip, part of my “Objective Style” series that I wrote at a Minneapolis Dunn Bros coffee shop back in 2007 (after another one of my many computer accidents). The Grampa Simpson cameo is also a real hoot.

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