Makiko Futaki

Jordan Scott remembers Studio Ghibli artist Makiko Futaki, who passed away last month at 57 years old.

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A few weeks ago I learnt belatedly, and from the surprising source of a relative’s Twitter feed, of the extremely sad news of the death of animator and illustrator FUTAKI Makiko (二木真希子), which was announced on the 16th of May.

An independent, amateur filmmaker in her own right before being recruited by Telecom Animation Film (where she first worked with TAKAHATA Isao, MIYAZAKI Hayao and such other future Ghibli regulars as TANAKA Atsuko), her subsequent freelance career has encompassed such films as Sugii’s Night on the Galactic Railroad, Oshii’s Angel’s Egg and Ōtomo’s AKIRA but I’m sure will be forever defined by her work on Studio Ghibli’s productions – and them by it.

She became their go-to person for sequences in which the human characters take a back seat to foliage, birds, minibeasts, water and wind – and the impact of that last one on all the previous, the studio’s only feature-length theatrical releases without her distinctive rendering of these (Grave of the Fireflies, The Cat Returns, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya) being from when she was particularly heavily involved in a simultaneously-produced Miyazaki project (My Neighbour Totoro, Mei and the Kitten Bus, The Wind Rises).

Extremely sad that there will be no further sequences from the mind and hands that wrought some of the most iconic (most of all probably being a draw between inside the camphor tree and the tree-growing in Totoro) and some personal favourites (my top single moment being the wild geese catching a gust of wind in Kiki) of the last 30 plus years of cinema. Very heartening news, considering those outside the industry have to glean what they can from mentions in books and production blogs to identify animators’ work, that this is being reported on beyond the rarified confines of animator-reverence.

Sources and further reading and viewing

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