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Nizo Yamamoto (1953-2023)

Some very sad news broke in the animation community over the weekend. Nizo Yamamoto, a key figure in the history of Studio Ghibli passed away from cancer at the age of 70. Yamamoto worked as an art director and was well known for his stunningly painted backgrounds.

Yamamoto was born in Goto City in the Nagazaki Prefecture in June 1953. He studied architecture at school and then attended art school in Tokyo. While he was still studying he got his start painting backgrounds for anime.

He was first promoted to art director on the early Hayo Miyazaki and Isao Takahata TV series Future Boy Conan. This working relationship proved very fruitful over the years. Yamamoto would go on to work as art director on many of Ghibli's Films including Laputa: Castle In The Sky, Grave Of The Fireflies, Princess Mononoke and more.

He also had a very successful career outside of Ghibli and contributed to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Magnetic Rose (Satoshi Kon's segment in the anthology Memories), Cyber City Oedo 808, Perfect Blue,  Weathering With You, Adieu Galaxy Express 999 and Mai Mai Miracle among others.

A touring exhibition of Yamamoto's work drew 900,000 visitors from across Japan. A museum in his home town was also named in his honour.

Yamamoto also worked on personal projects, and between 2010 and 2021 he completed Goto Huakkei, an art collection that depicts the landscapes of his birthplace. He was also working on a manga about a Goto folk tale that he was just one page away from completing.

Rest in peace, Yamamoto-San.