Makiko Futaki

Makiko Futaki (二木真希子 Futaki Makiko, June 19, 1958 – May 13, 2016) was a Japanese animator best known for her contributions to Studio Ghibli on films such as My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), and Spirited Away (2001).[citation needed] She is also known for her role as a key animator on the cult classic film, Akira (1988), and her early work with studio Gainax on Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise (1987).[citation needed] Hayao Miyazaki, the founder of Studio Ghibli, praised her talents as an artist calling her both a valuable asset and someone he can trust to execute his vision.[1] She died on May 13, 2016 due to an unknown illness at a Tokyo hospital.

Makiko Futaki
Born(1958-06-19)June 19, 1958
DiedMay 13, 2016(2016-05-13) (aged 57)
Years active1979–2014
EmployerStudio Ghibli (1981–2016)


In college, Futaki began to gain recognition as an animator for the cine-calligraphy style films she presented at the amateur PAF Animation Festival.[2] Cine-calligraphy is a technique initially developed by Norman McLaren, which involved scratching images directly onto the film stock. In the case of Futaki, this was done by drawing on 8-millimeter film.[2] Despite her young age, this demonstrated great artistic vision and talent as an animator.[2]

She began with a minor role doing in-between animation on Hayao Miyazaki's directorial debut film, Lupin the III: The Castle of Cagliostro, in 1979. However, it was not until she met Isao Takahata, co-founder of Studio Ghibli, and impressed him with her work on Jarinko Chie that she would be recruited by the studio in 1981.[3] She continued by doing partial work on most of the first few Studio Ghibli movies while still working on other feature projects with different studios. Her work as a key animator on Akira, which received critical acclaim both nationally and internationally, is what prompted Miyazaki to adopt her as a full-time staff member.[4] She had worked on every single Ghibli film since 1998 with her final contribution being on 2014's When Marnie Was There.

Artistic style and influencesEdit

Futaki expressed a particular interest in nature as well as an empathy for animals, and this has been reflected in her animation style.[1] As a key animator, she was tasked with creating detailed frames of climactic moments for in-between animators to use later as a basis to structure the scene.[5] This also included drawing facial expressions and choreographing complex action scenes.[5] She was responsible for animating scenes, such as the meeting between Mei and Totoro in My Neighbor Totoro, the rooftop meeting between Pazu and Sheeta in Castle in the Sky, and the opening scene in Kiki's Delivery Service.[6] While she specialized in, and excelled at drawing scenes of natural harmony with Ghibli, she also showed adaptability in her style notably with her role in creating the Cyberpunk world of Akira.

Despite her talents, there have also been various barriers that kept Futaki from working extensively within the animation industry. Some of this can be attributed to the traditional expectations of women in Japan and how this limits the opportunities offered to them in this medium.[7] Additionally, Futaki's particularly time-consuming and detailed approach to drawing frames, as well as her niche drawing specialty, has excluded her from the faster-paced animation industry. Myazaki further commented on the obstacles she faced in the Japanese animation industry.

"Unfortunately there are not many avenues for Futaki-san to express her talent in Japan's present animation world. Depiction of plants are easy to avoid. Also, the piecework payment structure that is set at so much per second makes it difficult for her to be fairly compensated for her efforts"[1]

Work outside of filmEdit

Miyazaki stated that he is normally opposed to having his animators take on side projects while working on a film. However, he also noted that he makes an exception with Futaki. He actively encouraged her to pursue different mediums.[1] He further stated that "this is because I don't think her sweeping and deep interest in the world and in living beings can be expressed truly through animation."[1] Despite this encouragement, Futaki has kept her work outside of the animation medium to a minimum.

The Tree in the Middle of the World (1989)

A children book written and illustrated exclusively by Futaki and inspired by her trip to Yakushima when she was doing research for My Neighbor Totoro.[8] It follows the story of a young girl named Cici and her quest to climb the great tree.[8] This book took over a year to complete because of her commitments to other films and has yet to be released outside of Japan.[1]

Moribito series (1996 - 2012)

Futaki was one of three artists, along with Miho Satake and Yuko Shimizu, that provided illustrations for Moribito. a fantasy novel series by Japanese author Nahoko Uehashi.[9] The series follows Balsa, a bodyguard for hire, who saves a young boy from the river and has her destiny intertwine with his. The series has received praise for its mix of both Western modes of storytelling and Japanese history.


Year Title Contribution Studio
1979 Lupin the III: The Castle of Cagliostro In-Between Animations Tokyo Movie Shinsha
1981 Jarinko Chie In-Between Animations Tokyo Movie Shinsha & Toho
1982 Space Adventure Cobra: The Movie Animation Toho
1984 Sherlock Hound: The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle Key animation Tokyo Movie Shinsha
1984 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Key Animation (uncredited) Top Craft
1985 Angel's Egg Key Animation Tokuma Shoten & Studio DEEN
1985 Night on the Galactic Railroad Key animation Group TAC & Nippon Herald
1986 Castle in the Sky Key animation Studio Ghibli
1987 Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise Key animation Gainax
1988 Akira Key animation Akira Committee Company Ltd.
1988 My Neighbor Totoro Key animation Studio Ghibli
1989 Kiki's Delivery Service Key animation Studio Ghibli
1991 Only Yesterday Key animation Studio Ghibli
1992 Porco Rosso Key animation Studio Ghibli
1994 Pom Poko Key animation Studio Ghibli
1995 Whisper of the Heart Key animation Studio Ghibli
1997 Princess Mononoke Key animation Studio Ghibli
1999 My Neighbors the Yamadas Key animation Studio Ghibli
2001 Spirited Away Key animation Studio Ghibli
2004 Howl's Moving Castle Key animation Studio Ghibli
2006 Tales from Earthsea Assistant Animation Director Studio Ghibli
2008 Ponyo Key animation Studio Ghibli
2011 From Up On Poppy Hill Key animation Studio Ghibli
2012 The Secret World of Arrietty Key Animation Studio Ghibli
2013 The Wind Rises Key animation Studio Ghibli
2014 When Marnie Was There Key Animation Studio Ghibli
TV series, OVAs, and ONAs
Year Title Contribution Notes Studio
1979 Lupin the Third Part II In-Between Animations[2] Episode 153 Tokyo Movie Shinsha
1984 Sherlock Hound Key animation episodes 5, 10-11 Tokyo Movie Shinsha
1987 Devilman: The Birth (OAV) Key animation Episode 1 King Records
1987 Twilight Q (OAV) Key animation Episode 2 Studio DEEN
1989 Gosenzo-sama Banbanzai! (OAV) Key animation episode 6 Studio Pierrot
1991 The Trapp Family Story Key animation Episode 24 Nippon Animation
2003 Mei and the Baby Cat Bus Animation Director Short film shown exclusively at the Studio Ghibli Museum Studio Ghibli
2006 Mon Mon the Water Spider Key animation Short film shown exclusively at the Studio Ghibli Museum[10] Studio Ghibli


  1. ^ a b c d e f Miyazaki, Hayao (2014). Starting Point, 1979-1996. Translated by Cary, Beth; Schodt, Frederik. United-States: VIZ Media LLC. p. 199. ISBN 978-1421561042.
  2. ^ a b c d Ettinger, Ben (March 28, 2007). "The women behind Ghibli". Anipages. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  3. ^ Anand, Jessie (December 13, 2016). "Biography: Makiko Futaki – Animator". The Heroin Collective. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Horton, H. Perry (May 31, 2016). "Saying Goodbye to a Brilliant Artist: Makiko Futaki (Akira, Studio Ghibli) Has Passed Away". Film School Rejects. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Washi (January 18, 2011). "Anime Production – Detailed Guide to How Anime is Made and the Talent Behind it!". Washi's Blog. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
  6. ^ Miyazaki, Hayao (2014). Starting Point, 1979-1996. United-States: VIZ Media LLC. p. 198. ISBN 978-1421561042.
  7. ^ Hedgsworth, Nina (2015). "Makiko Futaki, l'héroïne (presque) inconnue du studio Ghibli". Deuxieme Page. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Morrow, Avery (November 5, 2012). "The Tree in the Middle of the World". Internet Fancy. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  9. ^ Yee, Wai (May 26, 2016). "In Memoriam: Makiko Futaki, Animator". Eastern Kicks. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  10. ^ Anime News Network (2005-11-03). "New Ghibli Museum Shorts Announced". Anime News Network. Retrieved January 31, 2017.

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