Studio Ghibli Co-Founder Isao Takahata Dies at 82

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Isao Takahata

The 'Grave of the Fireflies' director died Thursday in a Tokyo hospital after his health had detoriarted last summer.

Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata died Thursday in a Tokyo hospital. He had been repeatedly hospitalized since last summer. The cause of death has yet to be confirmed, with reports citing heart trouble or lung cancer. Takahata was 82.

He is probably best known for his first film at Ghibli, the critically acclaimed Grave of the Fireflies (1988), a tale of two children struggling to survive at the end of World War II. Takahata himself survived heavy U.S. bombing of Okayama City when he was 9 years old.

After graduating from the elite University of Tokyo with a degree in French literature, Takahata first met Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki at Toei Animation. They would later launch Ghibli along with Toshio Suzuki in 1985.

Takahata's directorial debut in 1961, The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun was a box-office flop, leading to a loss of status at Toei and Takahata eventually leaving the company.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, Takahata's fifth and final for Ghibli, was one of the most expensive Japanese films made, anime or live-action, with a budget of around $50 million. Although it was nominated for best animated feature at the 2015 Oscars, it failed to recoup its production budget after it was released in Japan in November 2013 (and the following year in the U.S.). With Miyazaki having announced his retirement two months before, the future of filmmaking at Ghibli was thrown into doubt.

Miyazaki announced last year he was again coming out of retirement, with his next feature, How Do You Live?, slated for a 2020 release.