ByTom Chapman, writer at
tweet: tomtomchap Warden of the North - bearded, tattooed and square eyed 'til the end
Tom Chapman

The animation world has suffered a crushing blow as artist Makiko Futaki passed away in Tokyo after a battling a mysterious illness. Responsible for creating the likes of Kiki, Sophie and the Princess Mononoke, the anime world has more than a few memories to thank the legendary animator for.

For over 30 years Futaki worked for anime powerhouse, Studio Ghibli, but probably her best known work is as being one of the key animators on 1988's cyberpunk manga, Akira. Depicting a dystopian Tokyo in 2019, the film gained a cult following and is claimed to be one of greatest animated and science fiction movies of all time. A live-action version of the film has been in development for years, but Hollywood is yet to get it off the ground.

Born in 1957, Futaki started life animating cine-calligraphy films at the Private Animation Festival (PAF), before working in Japan's highly competitive animation industry. Her break came as an in-between animator In 1979 on an episode of Lupin III. She would then go on to develop a blossoming relationship with Ghibli co-founders Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki. Futaki first worked with Takahata on Jarinko Chie in 1981 and was hired due to her impressive work, she then met Miyazaki on Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in 1984 and went from there.

Working as a freelance animator, Futaki was behind most of Ghibli's works - from Spirited Away to Howl's Moving Castle, she had a hand in many iconic scenes. Ironically her last work was the factory's final feature, Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s critically acclaimed When Marnie Was There. Aside from Ghibli, Futaki was an animator for Royal Space Force – The Wings of Honnêamise and illustrated the covers of the covers of Nahoko Uehashi‘s Moribito novels. Her work added depth and life to some of Japan's most loved characters - just check out the video below to remember the legacy of Makiko Futaki.

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