Anime fans around the world were disappointed in February when The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which all signs point to being the final directorial effort from veteran filmmaker Isao Takahata, failed to capture the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Still, it’s unlikely the low-key Takahata himself got too worked up over the result, given the many accolades he’s received over his almost 50-year career. Besides, this week Takahata had another honor bestowed upon him, as he was given the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government.
The prestigious award, which translates to Order of Arts and Letters, was formally given to Takahata on April 7. Recipients are recognized for their contributions to the arts, and there’s little room to argue that Takahata hasn’t advanced the field of animated film through his work directing such Studio Ghibli classics as the reflective Only Yesterday, imaginative Pom Poko, experimental Tale of Princess Kaguya, and heartrending Grave of the Fireflies.
▼ Takahata is truly one of the few directors whose talents are broad enough to handle both a tragic tale of children struggling to survive in the closing days of World War II and an unflinching depiction of anthropomorphized tanuki fighting off property developers using their giant testicles.
Takahata also served as producer for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky Laputa, respectively the film that paved the way for Ghibli’s formation and the first feature released under the name of the newly formed organization.
But it seems as though Takahata wasn’t chosen by the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres selection committee only for his roles in animation production. A graduate of Tokyo University’s French Literature Department, Takahata has also been involved with Japanese translations of a number of pieces of French animation for the Ghibli Museum, as well as transitions of the works of French poet Jacques Prévert.
Takahata was given the second of the award’s three levels, Officier (“Officer”). He becomes the eighth Japanese recipient of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, joining an exclusive circle that not even Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki is a member of. Previous Japanese nationals who have won the award include actor and media personality Beat Takeshi, Akira manga creator and director Katsuhiro Otomo, and Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda designer Shigeru Miyamoto.