The world of big-screen animation has lost one of its most prodigious talents: Makiko Futaki, a key animator at Studio Ghibli for the last two decades, and the key animator of perhaps the most popular and influential piece of Japanese animation ever, AKIRA.
Futaki started at Studio Ghibli when she was only 23 years old. After working on some shorts and as an animator on Hayao Miyazaki’s CASTLE IN THE SKY and MY NEIGHBOR TORTORO, Futaki broke into the big leagues as key animator on AKIRA, a job which revolutionized her genre, introduced the rest of the world to Japanese animation, and convinced Miyazaki he had an employee worth keeping: Futaki would work on every other Miyazaki film between KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE and THE WIND RISES as either an animator or the key animator.
If you’ve ever had your emotions or imagination held captive by any of Miyazaki’s masterpieces, or by AKIRA, then you’ve been affected by the work of Makiko Futaki. The kind of loyalty she gave to Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli is rare in the current state of the industry, when most folks are trying to use the people ahead of them as stepping stone, and as a result, her collaborations with Miyazaki contain a contented blissfulness that aid in the animation’s ability to connect with an audience in such a profound and meaningful way. She was an exquisite talent and a terrible loss for the world of animation, but her work will resonate in the hearts and imaginations of everyone it touches.
Makiko Futaki was 57 years old. Gomeifuku wo inorimasu.