A big Happy Birthday to the great Yasuo Otsuka, who turned 80 on Monday. The animation legend is one of the giants of anime, both as an animator and teacher. We may remember him as the older mentor to Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, but Otsuka-san has a magnificent career and legacy all his own. Every anime lover should be deeply familiar with his work.
I'd like to take this time to plug, once again, the fantastic 2004 Studio Ghibli documentary DVD, Yasuo Otsuka's Joy in Motion. It's the best movie about the craft of animation that I've ever seen, and it's a valuable insight into one of the most pivotal figures in Japan's postwar anime era. If there's ever a movie to import and add to your DVD collection, it's this one. Add in Takahata's The Story of Yanagawa Waterways while you're at it, and you'll have two essential documentary films. The above screenshot comes from Joy in Motion, showing a young Otsuka-san in the 1960s, during the production of Horus, Prince of the Sun.
Reader Christian Heymans writes about Yasuo Otsuka, and he shared his insights in an email to me. I wanted to share it with everyone here:
I have been interested in Ghibli (and pre Ghibli) for many years. It probably started when I had seen Mirai Shonen Conan on an Italian TV channel during the Eighties.
Some years ago, I had the chance to meet the master Yasuo Otsuka at the festival of Annecy in France, one afternoon after he finished to arranged an exhibition in the main hall. The guy was really kind, we started to talk and ended up going for a drink where we of course mainly talked about animation (I have to add that Otsuka is one of the few japanese animators who is fluent in english-he can also speak Chinese!). So there I was, a young belgian animation student, talking a drink with anime legend Yasuo Otsuka. I asked him what was his main advice to a young animator and he answered me that animation, it's all about details. Otsuka was very down to earth, kind, open and you could understand why he is considered a 'natural teacher'.
Well, I noticed that Mister Otsuka is turning 80 tomorrow, since he was born on July the 11th 1931. I thought that maybe it would be nice to send him a Happy Birthday message through the Ghibli Blog, and maybe you were already planning on doing that! Anyway, I 'm just telling you : )