Studio Ghibli And ‘Akira’ Animator Makiko Futaki Has Passed Away At 57

It is with a heavy heart that we pass along the news that longtime Studio Ghibli animator Makiko Futaki passed away earlier this month on May 13 from an unspecified illness. She was 57 years old.

Makiko is best known for her work in all of Studio Ghibli legend Hayao Miyazaki’s films, including My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and more. Before becoming a fixture on Miyazaki’s projects, she was a key animator for the formative 1988 classic Akira.

The passing of Futaki is another unfortunate loss not just for the world, but for Studio Ghibli, which is still struggling to find its way after the retirement in 2013 of co-founder and director Hayao Miyazaki. The 72-year-old Miyazaki was behind many of the animation company’s biggest hits, and the studio shut down its feature length department for nearly two years after his departure. Ghibli’s first feature length film since then, The Red Turtle, comes out on June 29.

Futaki’s first job with Studio Ghibli was back in 1981, and she has worked closely with the animation company ever since. So it is only fitting that the last work of Makiko Futaki was the 2014 Studio Ghibli release When Marnie Was There, the final feature length release planned by the studio before Hayao Miyazaki left.