2016 has been a great year for anime, but it has also seen the sad departures of some shining luminaries of the anime world. From directors, producers, and writers to voice actors, we have lost some major figures who made great marks on the anime industry and shaped what it is today. Their memories live on in their work. Here are just a few.
Yūko Mizutani (Voice Actor)
Yūko Mizutani was a voice actress whose characters became popular icons in their own right. She played Hiromi in the legendary supokon anime series sequel Aim for the Ace 2, as well as Leina Stol from Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos. Leina was such a popular character that she broke free from the confinement of televised robot anime and had some offshoot OVAs (Leina: Wolf Sword Legend, etc.) where she was the star. Also, we cannot forget her role as the mischievous Marie from Nadia: Secret of Blue Water (and many, many more). Mizutani was probably most famous, however, for her role as Sakiko Sakura, Maruko-chan’s older sister in the long-running family anime series Chibi Maruko-chan, whom she played for 26 straight years. She passed away at the age of 51.
Tōru Ōhira (Voice Actor)
Tōru Ōhira passed away at the age of 86. Perhaps best known in the Japanese anime world as the voice of The Laughing Salesman, Ōhira was one of those legendary, multi-generation-spanning veteran voice actors who had been in the industry since the very early days of the medium. In fact, in a way he was one of the first ever voice actors in Japan, as he was the voice of Superman in the Max Fleischer animated adaptation of the comic book character from the early 1940s, which, in 1955, was the first-ever dubbed Japanese television broadcast. Technically, at the time, the voiceover was not even pre-recorded. it was all performed as a live broadcast. He also voiced Superman’s father in the 1978 movie, dubbing over Marlon Brando’s role. In anime, he is known as the voice of Hakushon Daimaō (The Genie Family), Dekapan in Osomatsu-kun, and many bad-guy roles or side characters.
Ōhira remained very prominent in Japanese dubs of Western properties, being the voice of iconic characters such as Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, and even Darth Vader. Illustrating his distinguished status in the industry as an accomplished icon, in 2013, he won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Anime Awards Ceremony of The Tokyo International Anime Festival. It was recently announced that a new Laughing Salesman anime is in the works and scheduled for a Spring 2017 broadcast. This time the role will be taken over by Genta Tesshō, another major veteran. Keep a look out for more information on the official homepage for the new series.
Shūji Iuchi (Director)
Iuchi started off as a production assistant on classic 1970s works such as Mazinger Z, and Cutey Honey, and soon after was given the opportunity to be a direction assistant on Space Battleship Yamato, later directing episodes of supokon works like New Aim for the Ace and New Star of the Giants, and science-fiction/fantasy like Galaxy Express 999 and Divine Demon-Dragon Gaiking. His work remained varied in genre in recent years, too, as he directed and storyboarded many episodes from robot anime like Gundam Build Fighters Try and idol anime such as Pretty Rhythm to slice-of-life anime such as Yakitate!! Ja-pan. His most-recognized life work, however, is likely to be Mashin Hero Wataru, which was not only his debut as chief director, but on which he worked as a storyboard artist and scenario writer. He went on to expand the franchise, directing or writing sequel/spinoff TV series, OVAs, and even novels. He was 66.
Michiyo Yasuda (Colorist)
Yasuda was a colorist and color setting director for many of the anime masterpieces that have come out of Japan for half a century. She began her career in 1958 working as a tracing artist on Toei Animation works, even before the existence of TV anime series. After working on the milestone movie The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun (a.k.a. The Little Norse Prince) in 1968, alongside Isao Takahata (it being his feature-length directorial debut) and Hayao Miyazaki, she remained close to them as color director all throughout their major Nippon Animation and Ghibli works.
From truly world-renowned TV series such as From the Apennines to the Andes, Future Boy Conan, and Anne of Green Gables through to hit movies such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Laputa: The Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, and wrapping it up with The Wind Rises in 2013, she has constantly been behind the “look” of classic anime. An NHK special, Owaranai Hito, broadcast earlier this year, captured Miyazaki’s reaction to her passing, and depicted it as one catalyst for his return from retirement. She was 77.
Makiko Futaki (Animator)
Futaki was another veteran Ghibli animator who began her career at Telecom Animation (a subsidiary of TMS Entertainment) on Hayao Miyazaki’s Sherlock Hound, and worked on famous TMS works such as Space Adventure Cobra, Jarinko Chie, and the global phenomenon Akira. She worked on most major Ghibli productions as a keyframe artist up to and including When Marnie Was There. She is noted for having animated some very memorable, emotional scenes including the first encounter between Mei and Totoro in My Neighbor Totoro, and the meeting of Pazu and Sheeta in Laputa: The Castle in the Sky. She was 58.
Masahito Yoshioka (Producer)
Masahito “Yosshii” Yoshioka passed away at the age of 56. He was a producer at TMS Entertainment and also a Visiting Professor at Digital Hollywood University. After beginning his career as production assistant on Lupin The Third Part III and TMS works based on foreign literature such as The Twins at Saint Clare’s and My Patrasche, he was a producer on a variety of TV series such as the City Hunter spinoff Angel Heart and Mushiking. However, he remains most recognized as the chief producer behind the long-running hit series Detective Conan (Case Closed) for fifteen years until 2011. His final work was Ultimate Otaku Teacher, for A-1 Pictures, which aired in 2015, but his legacy lives on with the continuing adventures of Detective Conan.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide of all who passed in 2016. You can access the full list over at Anime News Network here.