Western audiences are not as familiar with the name of Isao Takahata (1935-2018) as they are with that of his colleague and the other co-founder of Studoi Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki. But Takahata’s work as a creator and director has also attracted a significant amount of scholarly and critical attention:

(Updated: September 30, 2021)

Books:

Colin Odell & Michelle Le Blanc.
Studio Ghibli: The films of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
Harpenden, UK: Kamera Books (1st ed.: 2009; Revised & Updated Ed.: 2015)

Book Chapters and Journal Articles:

2021

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Grajdian, Maria Mihaela. May the love be with you: From the joy of life to the transcendence of existence in Takahata Isao’s animation works. Synergy, 17(1), 29-44.

From Ponpoko: The Heisei Tanuki War (1994), through My Neighbours, the Yamadas (1999),  and until The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2013), the animation movies directed by the reputed animation director Takahata Isao (1935-2018) and released by Studio Ghibli since mid-1990s address the phenomenon of ‘life’ as a meaningful endeavour towards attaining higher levels of human awareness. This occurs either by living in accordance with the flow of history, or by enjoying every moment as it comes, or, respectively, by delving into cosmic rhythms of imponderability: every single entity of existence delivers significance and comprehension, as displayed on multiple layers in the three animation works analyzed in this paper. Thus, in a phenomenological approach inspired by Julia Kristeva’s monumental publication La
Révolution du langage poétique (1974) which views cultural products as mirroring channels of repression (Verdrängung) and desire (Begehren), the analysis draws on an anthropological framework in which the researcher functions as a dynamic, self-reflexive interface mediating between the self-ness of the theoretical structure (here: life and the quest for its significance) and the other-ness of the representation medium (here: Japanese animated works).”

2020

Yoshioka, Shiro. Road to fame: Social trajectory of Takahata IsaoArts9(3), article 81.

“This paper examines how Takahata Isao’s reputation as a filmmaker was established, focusing on the period between Horus: The Prince of the Sun (1968) and Only Yesterday (1991), using Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of “field” and “consecration”. Through detailed analysis of promotion strategies, popular and critical reception of his films, and his appearance in different types of media in the form of essays and interviews, I will discuss how Takahata and his films were “consecrated”, or came to be recognized as something respectable and deserve critical attention. Throughout the analysis the focus will be on the relationship between different “fields” rather than his films. I will contend that the process of his consecration is deeply related to that of the establishment of the field of anime and its fandom in the late 1970s, and its relationship with other fields with greater cultural capital, such as literature and live-action films as well as non-Japanese animations. The association of Takahata and his films with these fields was used by media, stakeholders in film productions including Studio Ghibli and publishing houses Tokuma shoten and Shinchōsha, as well as Takahata himself, to distinguish him and his films from other anime.”

2018

Montero, Laura. The humanization of the goddess: Takahata Isao’s Princess Kaguya.

In Lorenzo J. Torres-Hortelano (ed.). Dialectics of the goddess in Japanese audiovisual culture (pp. 91-110). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

2017

Grajdian, Maria Mihaela. Mythical serenity prayer: Ecology, ethnic humor and the praise of conviviality in the anime movie Ponpoko: The Heisei Tanuki War (1994).
In Maria-Luiza Dimitru Oancea & Ramona Mihaila (eds.). Myth, symbol and ritual: Elucidatory paths to the fantastic unreality (pp. 299-320). Bucharest: Editura Universitatii du Bucuresti.

Swale, Alistair. Memory and forgetting: Examining the treatment of traumatic historical memory in Grave of the Fireflies and The Wind RisesJapan Forum29(4), 518-536.

“Within Japanese popular culture, manga and anime have played a significant role in mediating responses to the outcome of the Pacific War. Miyazaki Hayao’s (possibly) final feature-length film, The Wind Rises, has been an important addition to the preceding body of popular media ‘texts’ that raise such themes. This article aims to address the question of how far cinematic animation can reasonably be obliged to follow the kinds of historiographical concerns that inevitably arise when engaging with Japan’s militarist past. To answer this question, considerable space is devoted to examining the historical context of what others have done in the post-war period and integrate that commentary into an analysis of how the works of Takahata Isao and Miyazaki Hayao fit amongst a succession of creative works that have been co-opted in the reshaping of historical perceptions of the Japanese at war amongst the Japanese themselves. This will also require some incidental discussion of methodological issues that arise when dealing with such cases as vehicles for understanding transformations in historical consciousness. Ultimately it is argued that Miyazaki does indeed make an important contribution to the commentary on the Japanese war experience, although it must, perhaps unavoidably, be on highly personal terms so far as The Wind Rises is concerned.”

2015

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Borlik, Todd Andrew. Carnivalesque ecoterrorism in Pom Poko. Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, 2(3), 127-133.

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Hecht, Roger W. Only Yesterday: Ecological and psychological recovery. Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, 2(3), 166-171.

2014

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Akimoto, Daisuke. Peace education through the animated film ‘Grave of the Fireflies’: Physical, psychological, and structural violence of war. Ritsumeikan Journal of Asia Pacific Studies, 33, 33-43.

2013

Ortabasi, Melek Su. (Re)animating folklore: Raccoon dogs, foxes, and other supernatural Japanese citizens in Takahata Isao’s Heisei tanuki gassen pompoko. Marvels & Tales, 27(2), 254-275.

“Takahata Isao’s animated film Heisei tanuki gassen pompoko (Tanuki Battle of the Heisei Era, 1994) is a unique demonstration of the affinity between the supernatural aspects of folklore and animation itself. Featuring anthropomorphized animals that possess the uncanny powers attributed to them by folklore, Pompoko mobilizes the medium to display the animals’ shape-shifting skills in their war against the humans who threaten their habitat. Pompoko’s visual extrapolation of folk belief allows these animals to become more than a nostalgic reification of stable Japanese identity. By forcing drastic encounters between the realistic and the fantastic, Takahata’s film questions whether the human anxieties embodied in fox and raccoon dog folklore are really a thing of the past. I argue that Pompoko, through the medium of anime, shows how folklore can become an effective ideological tool for questioning what it actually means to be a (post)modern Japanese.”

2010

Cavallaro, Dani. The nightmare of history: Belladonna of Sadness, Grave of the Fireflies and Like the Clouds, Like the Wind.

In Anime and the art of adaptation: Eight famous works from page to screen (pp. 19-37). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Shipman, Hal. Grave of the child hero.

In Joseph Steiff & Tristan Tamplin (eds.). Anime and philosophy: Wide eyed wonder (pp. 193-202). Chicago: Open Court.

Stahl, David. Victimization and “response-ability”: Remembering, representing, and working through trauma in Grave of the Fireflies.

In David Stahl & Mark Williams (eds.). Imag(in)ing the War in Japan: Representing and responding to trauma in postwar literature and film (pp. 161-202). Leiden: Brill.

2009

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Goldberg, Wendy. Transcending the victim’s history: Takahata Isao’s Grave of the Fireflies. Mechademia: An Annual Forum for Anime, Manga and the Fan Arts, 4, 39-52.

2006

Shapiro, Jerome. Ninety minutes over Tokyo: Aesthetics, narrative, and ideology in three Japanese films about the air war.

In Wilfried Wilms & William Rasch (eds.). Bombs Away! Representing the Air War over Europe and Japan (pp. 375-394). Amsterdam: Rodopi.

2001 – earlier

*** OPEN ACCESS ***
Freiberg, Freda (2001). Tombstone for Fireflies. Senses of Cinema, 14.

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Mousoulis, Bill (2000). Physicality in Tombstone for Fireflies. Senses of Cinema, 5.

Yamamoto, Fumiko (1998). Heisei Tanuki-Gassen: Pon Poko. Post Script: Essays in Film and the Humanities, 18(1), 59-67