Last week saw the passing of one of the greatest anime directors of all time, Ishiguro Noboru. I’m not an expert on Ishiguro, so I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk as if I am keenly aware of his entire history. Instead, I would like to just talk about his impact on a more personal level.
Ishiguro’s list of influential works is almost second to none, and I know from personal experience that his finest works stand the test of time in a way that few can. Back in 2004, I was a college student who finally managed to get all of the original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. The show was so utterly engrossing that I managed to finish all 36 episodes in two nights. During that time, I felt myself moving from cheering for Minmay to cheering for Misa; the way the show had developed and grown its characters amidst the backdrop of pop-songs-as-simple-ideals and war made it feel like I might never experience that kind of thrill burning through a show again. Then came late Autumn 2008, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes.
At a daunting 110 episodes, it wasn’t a show that was really possible to marathon in a short period, but I still found myself often unable to stop. This wouldn’t have been any sort of a problem except at the time I was also studying for my Level 2 Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Was it worth it to cut into my study time so much? Well, the fact that I managed to pass probably colors my reflection, but again I was treated to one of the most well-crafted, intelligent, and hopeful pieces of fiction I’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy. I know Macross and LOGH aren’t Ishiguro’s only works, and there are even people who hold them far more dear than I do, but together they shape much of my views of the man.
I first had the opportunity to talk to Ishiguro as part of a press conference at Otakon 2009, and asked him a question about Nagahama Tadao, director of Combattler V, Voltes V, and Daimos. The way I framed my question was that since Nagahama had passed away decades prior, the only way to really know about him was to ask those who had worked with him, which included Ishiguro. Reflecting on this question, I realize that I had mentally placed the idea of Ishiguro dying far away from Nagahama’s own passing.
Then at Otakon 2011, I attended a panel which had both Ishiguro and Shinkai Makoto (5cm per Second, Place Promised in Our Early Days), and seeing the significant age gap between the old veteran and the newer talent and how that difference also meant the difference between cel and digital animation, I asked if Shinkai had any advice for Ishiguro. I caused a fair amount of light-hearted controversy for suggesting that the younger Shinkai could advise Ishiguro on the craft in which he made his name, but Ishiguro was more than open to it. For a man who was still looking for his next anime to work on, the hierarchy of age didn’t matter to him.
One question about the past and the old, one question about the future and the young, both assuming the man would live for many more years to come. Funny how things work.
I hope Angel Scandies makes it somehow.