Now he belongs to the ages, and we are left alone with the terrible, dull ache.
This is a devastating loss. We have lost a true legend, a revolutionary, and the greatest animation director who ever lived. Nobody else comes close, not Hayao Miyazaki, not Chuck Jones, not Walt Disney. Paku-san is the king.
I wouldn’t be writing about these movies today if not for Grave of the Fireflies, which I watched in 2001. The experience was devastating, like being run over by a truck, but I wanted to know more about the artist who created such a radical movie. Who would think to create “neo-realist” animation? Does such a concept even exist in the West? Over many years, I discovered Paku-san’s other films, from Horus, Prince of the Sun to The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Every movie was a discovery, a miracle, and an emotionally overwhelming experience.
To this day, I think Omohide Poro Poro is the greatest animated feature film ever made, and the 1970s television “trilogy” of Heidi, Girl of the Alps, Marco/3000 Leagues in Search of Mother and Anne of Green Gables stands as Takahata’s and Miyazaki’s crowning masterpieces. All of his works are masterpieces. All of them.
I was very proud to work on the DVD and Blu-Ray releases of Horus, Prince of the Sun, the 1968 Toei Doga animated feature that revolutionized Japanese animation and gave birth to “modern anime” as a species separate from the Western Disney mold. I wrote the English subtitles, the written essays, provided the production art galleries, recorded two audio commentary tracks (I’m embarrassed by my DVD recording, but proud of my Blu-Ray recording which is entirely different). I am especially proud that I fought so hard to preserve the movie’s title, as Toei insisted on using that ridiculous “Little Norse Prince” tag that never should have existed. Even today, we are still struggling to prove that animation is more than an “electric babysitter” designed solely to pacify toddlers.
Isao Takahata had such a brilliant mind, such a towering intellect, and was so knowledgeable on so many subjects. I’m glad that we in the West can see his movies, either through home video or fan translations. I hope we can one day see his many excellent books published, including his memoirs and his book on 14th Century Japanese scroll paintings.
Also, this man deserves an Oscar. The Motion Picture Academy had better give him a Lifetime Achievement Award next year. Of course, they won’t. They don’t respect animation or have any interest in learning. Just sit little Timmy in front of the idiot box and shut him up. The animation community should begin the lobbying campaign immediately and make this happen.
(Edit: This is the second draft of this post. I wrote these words in the comment section at Cartoon Brew and decided to share them here as well.)