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A Sad Day for Studio Ghibli Fans

A Sad Day for Studio Ghibli Fans
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Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle

October 5 was marked as an emotional day for Studio Ghibli fans as the iconic colourist and animator, Michiyo Yasuda, sadly passed away. Yasuda was responsible for bringing some of our favourite characters to life on-screen, including Chihiro, from the Oscar-winning Spirited Away, Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl, from Howl’s Moving Castle. It is no secret that she will be greatly missed.

You may not have heard of her, yet Yasuda was an exceptional colourist and animator and many people are unaware of the fact that she created the technique of outlining animations in different colours to create atmosphere in her movies. She said herself that, “Colour has a meaning, and it makes the film more easily understood. Colours and pictures can enhance what the situation is on screen.” It is true that the beauty of colour in animated films is generally underrated and when it’s done well it so rarely gets the praise it deserves.

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The colour red in Studio Ghibli classics [image from hipertextual.com]

She was a trail-blazer in her field and had the ability to emphasize the important messages of the film through her artwork. She worked as a colour supervisor on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, which sends a vital message about the growing concern of deforestation. Although not technically a Studio Ghibli film (Nausicaä was released one year prior to the creation of Studio Ghibli), we can still count it as one of the classics as it was the first film to prove that Hayao Miyazaki and Michiyo Yasuda, when working together, were a force to be reckoned with. Studio Ghibli has often been named the ‘Disney’ of Japan, as it inspires and invokes magic in our hearts. This title has definitely lived up to the expectation, and more so, with the assistance of their exceptional colourist, and we can only hope that Studio Ghibli will continue to do so as time goes on. The Disney rereleases of their films even have blockbuster names that you will recognise from Western cinema, such as Patrick Stewart, Shia LaBeouf, Uma Thurman, Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway.

The last feature-length film Yasuda worked on was titled Ponyo, a beautiful story of a boy falling in love with the daughter of a masterful wizard and sea goddess. Although markedly not one of Miyazaki’s best, it has been hailed as “a visually stunning fairy-tale” by the Rotten Tomatoes website, giving credit to the chief colour designer, Michiyo Yasuda.

Intriguingly, a Museum of Studio Ghibli does exist, and lies in Mitaka, Tokyo after its recent upgrade and refurbishment. Annually there is a new exhibition and this year marks the 15th anniversary of the museum. Perhaps after this recent news of the passing away of Miyazaki’s long-standing colleague and friend, the Executive Director will create a unique instalment for the museum in tribute to Yasuda; possibly even one that will be as heart-warming and aesthetically pleasing as her artwork is to Studio Ghibli’s viewers.

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