Isao Takahata, eternal firefly

Isao Takahata passed away in April. His obituary at the Guardian reminds us of his seminal role in founding Studio Ghibli:

Takahata returned to feature directing with Chie the Brat (1981) and an adaptation of Kenji Miyazawa’s Gauche the Cellist (1982), while working as a producer on Miyazaki’s breakthrough animated version of his own manga, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984).

The film’s huge success led to the establishment of Studio Ghibli, the name, due to Miyazaki’s love of aviation, taken from an Italian second world war plane, with Takahata producing Miyazaki’s first work for the new enterprise, Castle in the Sky (1986).

Of course, his masterpiece was the partly autobiographical (!!!) Grave of the Fireflies, which was released as a double feature with Totoro, a sentence that still amazes me when I type it out. TOR recently had a must-read historical look at the intertwined history of Totoro and Fireflies, and the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster effect combining them must have had on audiences. Bonus, it intriduces a great theory that I am instantly adopting as headcanon:

So about that Camphor tree…In Grave, Seita lies to Setsuko about their mother’s death for a while, hoping to give her the news in a gentle way. She finds out anyway, and he tries to soften the blow by lying again, this time telling her that their mother is buried beneath a lovely Camphor tree, and that they’ll visit her after the war. (In reality, their mother’s ashes are in a box that Seita carries with him, and seems to lose, before the film ends.) Guess what kind of tree Totoro lives in? Yeah, it’s a Camphor. And Totoro just happens to be accompanied by a middle-sized Totoro, and a small Totoro. And the small Totoro just happens to be the one that attracts Mei’s attention in the first place.

So I’ve just decided that the Grave of the Fireflies characters were all reincarnated as Totoros. Big Totoro is Mother, the Middle Totoro, always the caretaker, forever collecting acorns for Baby, is clearly Seita, and Baby Totoro is Setsuko—the one who first befriends a little girl who’s the same age she was when she died.

And if I’ve just ruined My Neighbor Totoro for you I’m sorry, but how much better is Grave of the Fireflies now? If you watch the movie believing that they all get to be Totoros in the end, you might just get through it.

Prayers for Steven DenBeste

via Ubu, SDB has been out of contact for over a week, since the big storm. An escalating investigation by the Otakusphere led to this by Brickmuppet:

A few minutes ago I was contacted by the Beaverton police. My information was quite limited and so there were three addresses that could have been Steven’s. As it happened, the second was Steven’s family. The officer had offered to escort them to Steven’s house, but they said they would handle things in the family and declined further assistance. That is all I know at this time, and, as I’m not family, it’s all I am likely to discover.
It does not sound at all good.

Follow here.

UPDATE: Steven has passed away. Indeed we belong to God and to Him indeed we return. Expressions of sorrow by Pete, Ubu, Brickmuppet, Ed Morrissey, Bill Quick, and others at the thread on Chizumatic. Please share links to other tributes in comments.

Like everyone else, I encountered Steven via his blog, USS Clueless, and appreciated the depth of his analyses even as I disagreed with nearly everything he wrote. He was an incredible writer with a gift for condensing complex ideas into teachable form. He forced me to be more rigorous and think through my positions, strengthening me and making me a better writer and blogger about politics. In a strange way he was akin to a mentor, despite our differences.

And then he retired and became an anime blogger, which opened up an entirely new vista, for myself and also my children. Steven’s recommendations of Bottle Fairy, Someday’s Dreamers, and Sugar Snow Fairy truly delighted my kids and enriched them. His recommendations of darker, sometimes offbeat fare such as Kino and Haibane Renmei resonated with me, to the extent that I named the blog after the latter, which is a honest example of something that truly blew my mind. And Steven plied me with his fair share of guilty pleasures, of which Ranma is easily the standard bearer 🙂

Steven was a kind soul whose opinions and passions were grounded in his essential humanism. I wish I’d had the chance to tell him at least once what he meant to me and how much I appreciated him.

Kid-friendly anime – suggestions wanted

an anime Family
A few years ago, I posted a few guidelines for in kid-friendly anime, and we had a really good discussion. That was long ago enough that I wanted to open the floor again to see if I could solicit more suggestions and ideas. As a reminder, here were my three basic requirements:

1. No fan service.
2. Young characters.
3a. A moral lesson or example of personal growth,
and/or
3b. A sense of wonder.

(see the older post for more detailed explanations of what I mean by each of these)

I know that in the past 6 years there has been a LOT of new anime released and I have had barely time to catch up with my own backlog from back then let alone make any headway on new titles. But I am resolved to watch anime with my kids instead of just for myself. So please do spread this post around and help me build up a great list for posterity. Old anime, new anime, whatever – just please keep the suggestions flowing.

My girls are now ages 9 and 4. It’s amazing to me that when I wrote the old post, my elder daughter was only three! Time, etc…