Yasuo Otsuka, Anime Pioneer, Passes at Age 89

Yasuo Otsuka, Anime Pioneer, Passes at Age 89 1
| Mar 16, 2021

Legendary anime animator Yasuo Otsuka, who mentored Hayao Miyazaki and many others, died yesterday at the age of 89.

Studio Ghibli producer and co-founder Toshio Suzuki announced the news at the Tokyo Anime Award Festival yesterday, during his acceptance speech for an achievement award. “”The person who has helped me get here the most is Yasuo Otsuka-san, who passed away this morning,” said Suzuki, “which, for me, made today deeply meaningful. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to him. May he rest in peace.” 

From The Start Of His Animation Career At Toei Animation In 1956, Yasuo Otsuda Was A Mentor To Many Big Names In Anime, Including Studio Ghibli'S Founders.
From the start of his animation career at Toei Animation in 1956, Yasuo Otsuda was a mentor to many big names in anime, including Studio Ghibli’s founders. (TMS Entertainment)

Otsuka was born June 11, 1931 in Shimane Prefecture. An avid artist as a child, he joined Toei Studios in 1956 and, under the tutelage of Yasuji Mori, worked on The Tale of the White Serpent, the first anime feature film in colour. He worked next on Magic Boy, which became the first anime film released in the United States in 1961. In 1969, he was a key animator on The Magical Adventures of Puss ‘n Boots, whose protagonist, Pero, would become the studio’s official mascot. Otsuka worked alongside Miyazaki and other soon-to-be legendary animators on the project, including Reiko Okuyama and her husband Yōichi Kotabe.

Later, Otsuka would work on Lupin the Third for Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, another of his trainees. Miyazaki, Takahata, and Suzuki founded Studio Ghibli in 1985, where he would serve as a mentor. He also advised at the Toei Animation Research Institute and TMS Entertainment, influencing the likes of Neon Genesis Evangelion character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and Whisper of the Heart director Yoshifumi Kondo. He retired in 2007, with his final credit being the Lupin the Third TV special Elusiveness of the Fog.

From his work directly on some of anime’s biggest early achievements, to the impact he had upon the subsequent generations of animators through the formation and legacy of Studio Ghibli alone, Yasuo Otsuka was one of the most influential creators in anime and animation as a whole.