Isao Takahata has long been overshadowed by longtime colleague and Studio Ghibli cofounder Hayao Miyazaki. The younger man (Takahata is 78, Miyazaki 72) has had more and bigger hits, including his latest, the World War II-themed “Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises),” while Takahata’s last feature animation, the 1999 family comedy “Hohokekyo Tonari no Yamada-kun (My Neighbors the Yamadas),” was a rare Ghibli box-office disappointment.
And yet Takahata is every bit the anime master that Miyazaki has been widely proclaimed to be, if one with a different style and concerns. His Ghilbi films tend to be more realistic than Miyazaki’s, beginning with 1988’s “Hotaru no Haka (Grave of the Fireflies),” an unsparing drama about children struggling to survive in the destruction and chaos that enveloped Japan toward the end of WWII. It is the most emotionally devastating Japanese film I have ever seen, while being free of the cloying sentimentality that is a prerequisite for commercial tearjerkers here.
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