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Studio Ghibli animator Makiko Futaki has died

One of the key animators behind Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle has passed away, leaving an eternally enchanting legacy

The Japanese animating powerhouse has lost one of its most talented artists, Makiko Futaki, who passed away this month at 57-years-old.

Futaki’s work spans the Ghibli oeuvre, working closely with director Hayao Miyazaki on the production of acclaimed works such as My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. She worked with them from 1981 until the end of her life. As well as her contribution to the canon of Ghibli, Futaki was a key animator on cyberpunk manga Akira, a cult 1988 film set in a dystopian Tokyo.

The final film the artist worked on was When Marnie Was There, which will be released in the UK for the first time ever this June. It’s potentially the cinematic swansong of the animating house, given key directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata’s retirement in 2014.

Futaki well and truly let her mark on the world of creative animation, helping to set the bar for beautifully and delicately crafted pieces of film. Spirited Away won an Oscar in 2003; the dreamy film featuring a curious otherworld inhabited by fantastical creatures and a reluctant little girl named Chihiro, on a mission to save her parents who’d been turned into pigs. It was also the highest grossing Japanese film ever. Princess Mononoke, the epic story of Emishi warrior Ashitaka’s struggle in the face-off between humans and forest gods, was pivotal for its use of 3D rendering. It was also the highest grossing Japanese film of 1997, only knocked off the top spot by Titanic.

Read our retrospective on Ghibli's ability to inspire as an animating giant, and watch the trailer for Futaki’s last piece of work, When Marnie was There, below: