- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2018

The co-founder of Japanese animation giant Studio Ghibli and one of its two most important auteurs has died. Isao Takahata was 82.

Mr. Takahata, whose best-known film is “Grave of the Fireflies,” died at his home after nearly a year in declining health with heart issues, Yahoo Japan reported.

Along with Hayao Miyazaki, Mr. Takahata co-founded Ghibli in 1985 after a career at Toei animation.

The pair used a distinctive hand-drawn style, complete with stylized bodies and gestures, that they kept through decades in which computers took over much of the work of animation. Ghibli retained that signature “look” even when it began using computers.

Besides the war drama “Grave of the Fireflies,” Mr. Takahata’s best-known works as a director, all animated, spanned from the ecological drama “Pom Poko” to the comedy “My Neighbors the Yamadas.”

Film critic Roger Ebert devoted a “Great Movies” column to “Fireflies,” the first Japanese “anime” film to be so canonized. It follows a brother and sister made homeless by the American bombing in the late stages of World War II.

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“Yes, it’s a cartoon, and the kids have eyes like saucers, but it belongs on any list of the greatest war films ever made,” Mr. Ebert said, approvingly citing critic Ernest Rister’s comparison to “Schindler’s List” and praise as “the most profoundly human animated film I’ve ever seen.”

Mr. Takahata’s final film was “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” from 2013, which nabbed him his only nomination for Best Animated Film at the U.S. Academy Awards.

Critic Noel Murray, writing at The Dissolve, said that while the story often bogs down “the animation is so gorgeous that any given frame could pass for a masterwork.

“Kaguya has the muted color palette and loose brush strokes of old Japanese paintings, and an attention to the details of movement that can make an audience see a frog hopping or a kitten playing in a whole new way,” he wrote.

• Victor Morton can be reached at vmorton@washingtontimes.com.

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