Studio Ghibli Color Designer Michiyo Yasuda Has Died

[Image via Studio Ghibli]
[Image via Studio Ghibli]
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One of the most memorable, evocative features of Studio Ghibli films is their use of color. The woman responsible for that has passed away. She was 77.

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Michiyo Yasuda collaborated with Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata long before they established Studio Ghibli, working on films like 1972's Panda! Go, Panda! and as a color designer on Miyazaki’s 1976 television series 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother. After doing Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind at Topcraft, she headed up the color department at the then newly-formed Studio Ghibli.

[Image via Asahi News]
[Image via Asahi News]
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Below is a small slice of how she could use color:

Blue

Red

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Yellow

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Green

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Purple

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Pink

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According to The Mainichi and Asahi News, Yasuda passed away on October 5 due to an illness. She retired in 2008, but returned to work on 2013's The Wind Rises, her last film. 

At the bottom of this old Japanese magazine scan, it says that staffers said she was “scarier than Miyazaki,” but adds that actually, she was an incredibly kind person. 

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[Image via 10JP]
[Image via 10JP]

In 2009, Yasuda talked about her process with The Los Angeles Times, saying “When the production starts, I choose the colors for each character. Colors don’t have a specific meaning—I just choose which color fits each character. The reason Ponyo is pink—or red—is because she’s based on a red goldfish. In the scene where Ponyo is running on the waves, the color of the fish that transform into waves, I found that color on my first try. For that, I chose a color that can be both the fish and the sea simultaneously.”

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[Image via Studio Ghibli]
[Image via Studio Ghibli]

“What I like best is when I am building up the colors in my head, thinking of how to get the tone worked out,” she says. “Color has a meaning, and it makes the film more easily understood. Colors and pictures can enhance what the situation is on screen.”

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They sure can. And thanks to Yasuda, Studio Ghibli’s films are the better for it.

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

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DISCUSSION

Colouring doesn’t get the props it deserves. When it’s done well, it’s something that’s never really noticed, unless it’s a high contrast shot. More passive scenes and images are often just consumed without the same consideration that line art or animation would get.