Isao Takahata (1935- ), alongside Hayao Miyazaki, is one of the founding directors of Studio Ghibli, the anime studio that is best known in America. He began his career at Toei Animation on a whim and soon began working as an animator, assistant director, and full director before moving on to other anime studios, including A Production, Nippon Animation, and Tokyo Movie Shinsha. He eventually began working with Miyazaki at Studio Ghibli, where he has worked since 1985 and recently released the film The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013).
At Media and Reserve Services, we have recently begun expanding our Browsing anime collection. Previously, we had the major works from Studio Ghibli and Satoshi Kon, as well as popular anime series like Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-6) and Cowboy Bebop (1998), but there has definitely been room for growth. During this expansion, we have focused on collecting some fan-favorite shows, like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (2009-10), but we have also paid attention to the major creators of anime. We currently have a display across from the desk as an introduction to our expanded collection, and this blog series will focus on discussing the major creators whose works we’ve added to our collection.
As any anime fan will tell you, anime’s much more than a genre. Anime, or Japanese animation, is a complete visual medium, with all of the variety and experimentation and repetition than any medium has. If you ask most Americans, they’ll probably have heard of a few big hitters, like Hayao Miyazaki, who won an Oscar for Spirited Away (2003), or Pokémon, which began running on American TV in 1998 and hasn’t stopped since, or maybe even Akira (1988), which was one of the first anime films to see a theatrical release in America. Outside of a select few, though, American appreciation of anime in its many forms is largely confined to a small but fervent fanbase. Despite this lack of mainstream attention, anime is still an important part of film and television, which is why we’ve focused on developing our collection.
There are several ways to approach anime as a whole. Generally, anime fandom focuses on the different demographics within anime–is it for men or women, boys or girls, or general audiences?–or on major genres, like magical girls or giant robots. Though these perspectives work well for most current TV anime, they leave many holes through which more complex films can fall, like Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies (1988), which addresses the struggle to survive during the firebombings of Kobe during World War II. Grave of the Fireflies is a historical drama that’s difficult to pigeonhole regarding its target audience, since its main characters are children, but it addresses very mature themes that are difficult for even adults to come to terms with. Some TV anime series are just as complex, like Revolutionary Girl Utena (1997), which appears to be a fantasy series for teenage girls but explores themes of identity, sexuality, and agency in increasingly abstract ways.
Because of the complexities inherent in great anime, this blog series will approach the medium from a chronological and thematic perspective, addressing one or two major players within anime per blog post. Most of the posts will look at directors, like Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, while others will look at important studios, animators, manga authors, and character designers. Due to the breadth of anime and the amount that has not been released for American audiences, this series will by no means be comprehensive, but it will cover most of the big names within the industry, beginning with Osamu Tezuka (best known for Astro Boy (1963)). I look forward to seeing you next time!