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Connecting With Studio Ghibli and Its Late Co-Founder, Isao Takahata

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Connecting With Studio Ghibli and Its Late Co-Founder, Isao Takahata

Joyce Lam ’19 shares a deep connection with Takahata’s 'Grave of the Fireflies.'

Joyce Lam ’19 shares a deep connection with Takahata’s 'Grave of the Fireflies.'

Jessin Wang

Joyce Lam ’19 shares a deep connection with Takahata’s 'Grave of the Fireflies.'

Jessin Wang

Jessin Wang

Joyce Lam ’19 shares a deep connection with Takahata’s 'Grave of the Fireflies.'

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Isao Takahata, a film director who co-founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki in 1985, has produced multiple wonderfully animated films that gives life to both mythological creatures and the crevices of real-life events. Unfortunately, on April 5th, 2018, Takahata passed away due to lung cancer, marking the end of his legacy.

Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki have created countless of films aimed at young adults. Their productions have reached international acclaim due to their depth of their character backgrounds and their notably semi-realistic animation style. Some of their more memorable films such as ‘Spirited Away’ and ‘Princess Mononoke’ were directed by Miyazaki, whose films have reached international aficionados due to their lushly animated fairy tales.

Takahata’s films, on the other hand, explore animations on a different spectrum. He offers a more traditional style of animation while his films are rooted in Japanese culture, mythology, history, and folklore. Takahata experimented with surreal, breathy visuals in ‘The Legend of Princess Kaguya’ and delved into weird and grotesque comedy in ‘Pom Poko.’ He also explored the depths of grief in a way that Miyazaki never dared to touch in his animated war masterpiece, ‘Grave of the Fireflies.’ Many of his films, while directed towards a more mature audience, resonate strongly with young people.

One of his most popular works, ‘Grave of the Fireflies,’ reached the hearts of many teenagers with its intense plot line. The film brings to life a story of two orphans, named Seita and Setsuko, and their struggle to survive in the final months of World War Two. With their parents gone and nothing to live on, the two kids scramble to find a way to live as their situation continues to collapse. The heartfelt film tugs at the heartstrings of many students, especially those whose family members have been involved in the war themselves, directly or otherwise.

“When I was little, my father told me stories about having been involved in the war, fighting against the Japanese. Though I don’t completely understand what happened, I can only feel happiness that he’s still alive, despite all of the hardships that he faced,” said Joyce Lin ’20.

Takahata’s film, ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya,’ another incredibly popular film, tells the tale of a little girl who was found in a glowing bamboo shoot by an old bamboo cutter, Sanuki no Miyatsuko. Miyatsuko brings the girl, whom he and his wife named “Princess,” home, and they raise her as their own. Upon finding gold in the same bamboo that he found the little girl, he believes that she has a component of divine royalty within her, thus relocating the family to the state capital, determined to make her a proper princess. She grows to be a beautiful women, attracting suitors left and right. However, after the Emperor made his advances towards the princess, she silently prays to the moon for help. The moon responds and promises to take her back; however, the princess is reluctant to leave due to the close relationships that she has developed over time. She is eventually forced to return. In the final scene of the film, the viewer is left with tears in her eyes, as she reminiscences over the memories that Princess made growing up on earth.

As a story ultimately about the pain of leaving your loved ones behind, many students are left deep in thought, particularly about how the film reaches out to their own personal stories. “I left China not too long ago, and although I can visit in the future, I felt torn leaving my family members and friends behind,” said Cynthia Wu ’19.

“When I was little, my father told me stories about having been involved in the war, fighting against the Japanese. Though I don’t completely understand what happened, I can only feel happiness that he’s still alive, despite all of the hardships that he faced,” said Joyce Lin ’20.

Despite his passing away, Isao Takahata continues to make a deep connection with every viewer. With profound messages that speak to the heart, many students continue to recount the vivid scenery that displays itself throughout Takahata’s films. The simple yet breathtaking scenes from ‘The Tale of Princess Kaguya’ and the raw emotions displayed within ‘The Grave of the Fireflies’ sanctions a period of remembrance of the pain that comes with beauty.

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Connecting With Studio Ghibli and Its Late Co-Founder, Isao Takahata