Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki revealed on Monday at the 2021 Tokyo Anime Award Festival that animator Yasuo Otsuka had passed away that day. He was 89.
Suzuki thanked his mentor in his speech, saying, "The person who has helped me get here the most is Yasuo Otsuka-san, who passed away this morning, which, for me, made today deeply meaningful. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to him. May he rests in peace."
Yasuo Otsuka not only mentored Suzuki but was Hayao Miyazaki's direct supervisor when Miyazaki first started in anime at Toei Animation in the 1960s. Otsuka helped guide Miyazaki, and Isao Takahata, through the early stages of their careers, eventually becoming a mentor to all budding animators at Studio Ghibli as well as the Toei Animation Research Institute before he retired from it in 2007. He also taught at the Yoyogi Animation Academy in the 1990s, where many graduates have gone on to make names for themselves in the industry.
Otsuka was born on July 11, 1931, in Shimane Prefecture. In 1956, Otsuka saw an advertisement in Yomiuri Shinbun where Toei was asking for applications for animators. After passing the test, Otsuka worked with Yasuji Mori and Akira Daikubara on the Tale of the White Serpent and learnt their approaches. Wanting to learn more animation theory, he began to seek out textbooks and was shown a textbook on US animation written by Preston Blair. After working on Magic Boy in 1959, his animation of a skeleton was unintentionally considered comical due to its realism. This led to comical bad guy characters becoming Otsuka's speciality. He came to believe that genuine realism doesn't suit animation and "constructed realism" is more suitable.
Hayao Miyazaki compared Otsuka to Kenichi Enomoto in the use of this approach. After completion of his next film The Wonderful World of Puss 'n Boots, Otsuka left Toei to join A Production.
Yasuo Otsuka’s credits include the landmark Tale of the White Serpent as his first work, Magic Boy in 1959, and then The Wonderful World of Puss 'n Boots, where Toei Animation gets its mascot character. Otsuka also worked on the first Lupin series Lupin the Third Part I (among many others), The Castle of Cagliostro anime film, Takahata's Panda! Go, Panda!, Miyazaki's Future Boy Conan, as well as countless other anime series and films, well into the 2000s.
In his later years, Otsuka helped foster future generations of animators as an instructor at Tokyo's Yoyogi Animation Academy. He received an Association's Special Award for lifetime achievement at the 42nd annual Japan Academy Prizes in 2019.
Source: Movie Walker