Isao Takahata, who died on Thursday at age 82, was long overshadowed by Studio Ghibli colleague Hayao Miyazaki, even though he was Miyazaki’s senior when they both worked together at Toei Animation in the 1960s, as well as a co-founder, together with Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki, of Ghibli in 1985. With “Pom Poko,” a 1994 animated fantasy set in the Tama Hills near Tokyo, Takahata even briefly rivaled Miyazaki as a box office force: The film was that year’s biggest domestic hit.

But Miyazaki, with his outsized personality and drive, as well as his undeniable talent, became the face of Ghibli to the world at large. If this bothered the gentle-spirited Takahata he never showed it, at least when this writer interviewed him in 1996 for The Japan Times.

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