Yasuo Otsuka, an artist who helped shape the contemporary anime industry with his work on landmark titles like Tale of the White Serpent, Lupin III and Future Boy Conan and mentorship of other acclaimed creators, died Monday morning, March 15, at the age of 89. News of his passing was shared by Studio Ghibli co-founder/producer Toshio Suzuki during the closing awards ceremony at the Tokyo Anime Awards Festival. Suzuki was accepting an honor for career achievement.
Born July 11, 1931 in Shimane Prefecture, Otsuka discovered a passion for drawing at an early age, and entered the burgeoning Japanese anime industry in 1956 when he answered a newspaper ad for animators at Japan Animated Films — which soon after was bought out and became Toei Animation. Over his career at Toei, Otsuka helped train future Ghibli co-founders Suzuki and Isao Takahata, and was Hayao Miyazaki’s supervisor when the future Oscar winner was just starting out in the 1960s. In addition to his first gig on White Serpent, his credits at Toei included Magic Boy and The Wonderful World of Puss ‘n Boots. Otsuka also served as general secretary of the studio’s labor union.
In 1968, he went over to A Production (now Shin-Ei Animation). In the following years, he helped bring to life the first Lupin series, Lupin the Third Part I, and features The Castle of Cagliostro and Takahata’s Panda! Go, Panda!, produced by Tokyo Movie Shinsha, before joining Telecom Animation Film (part of TMS) in 1979. Otsuka reconnected with Miyazaki on his former mentee’s 1984 feature Future Boy Conan (1984), and continued to lend his talents to countless series and films into the 2000s — such as Chie the Brat, Sherlock Hound, Little Nemo and more Lupin adventures — before deciding to finally retire from animation.
He remained creative and productive, however, illustrating and publishing books about anime and his pet subject: military vehicles.
In addition to on-the-job mentorship, Otsuka helped shape future generations of artists as a teacher at the Toei Animation Research Institute and the Yoyogi Animation Academy. The ranks of anime masters who have emerged from under his wing include directors Yoshifumi Kondo, Gisaburo Sugii and character designer Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (best known for the hit Evangelion franchise).
[Source: Movie Walker via Crunchyroll]