Posted by Elise Jost @elise
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Elise Jost

After the retirement of animation master Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has lost another one of its finest members; Michiyo Yasuda, animator and color designer at Ghibli, has passed away at 77. This woman, who had originally picked the creative field as a way to avoid more standard jobs, is behind the colors and the moods of most of Miyazaki's masterpieces.

'Color Has A Meaning'

'Ponyo' / Studio Ghibli
'Ponyo' / Studio Ghibli

While Yasuko Shibaguchi wrote a book about her work in Japanese in 1997, Yasuda has been the object of few reportages in English. The best insight into her work was probably her interview with the LA Times in 2009, during which she described her closeness to Miyazaki and the thought behind her process:

"What I like best is when I am building up the colors in my head, thinking of how to get the tone worked out. Color has a meaning, and it makes the film more easily understood. Colors and pictures can enhance what the situation is on screen."

Speaking of Ponyo, she expanded on the feel the colors had underwater:

"Colors vary from the basic ones to the colors when the character is in the water. I want to show the audience how you see or feel the color in the water. The colors of the water vary from bright to the deep, dark sea. In choosing colors for the sea — under the sea or the water itself — I hoped that the character of Ponyo, her true love, Sosuke, and the viewers would all see and feel the beauty of nature in the film."

Like Miyazaki told the Daily News, it was people's mistreatment of nature that inspired him to create Ponyo, so it's fascinating to see how much thought went into transcribing the beautiful fragility of our environment.

"I saw how people have polluted the sea, and came back home really angry and irritated."

Did You Know All The Miyazaki Movies Yasuda Worked On?

It's certainly that thoroughness that has allowed Yasuda to collaborate on almost each of Miyazaki's movies, from Nausicaä to The Wind Rises — which they both came out of retirement for — as well as other Ghibli gems. While the following list doesn't include the entirety of her work, it shows the extent of her talent:

  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, 1984
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
  • Castle in the Sky, 1986
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
  • Grave of the Fireflies, 1988
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
  • My Neighbor Totoro, 1988
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
  • Kiki's Delivery Service, 1989
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
  • Porco Rosso, 1992
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
  • Princess Mononoke, 1997
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
  • Spirited Away, 2001
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
  • Howl's Moving Castle, 2004
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
  • Ponyo, 2008
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli
  • The Wind Rises, 2013
Studio Ghibli
Studio Ghibli

Rest in peace, Yasuda.

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[Sources: LA Times, Daily News]