Oscar-nominated Japanese anime director Isao Takahata, who co-founded Studio Ghibli and was best known for his work "Grave of the Fireflies," has died at age 82 in a Tokyo hospital, local media reported Friday.
Local media sources said Takahata's health had been declining since last summer.
Takahata's latest film, "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya," earned him an Academy nomination in 2014 for best animated feature.
It was also selected for a slot in the Directors' Fortnight sidebar to the main competition at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
However, most consider the 1988 film "Grave of the Fireflies," a moving tale of two orphans during World War II, to be his best work. Critic Roger Ebert described it as "an emotional experience so powerful that it forces a rethinking of animation," according to Variety.
Takahata and Miyazaki: Friends and rivals
Born in Mie prefecture in central Japan, Takahata started his career in animation at the Toei studio after college in 1959, where he met long-term collaborator and rival Hayao Miyazaki. He made his feature debut as a director with the 1968 "Horus: Prince of the Sun."
In 1971, Takahata together with Miyazaki, left Toei for Shin-Ei Animation studio, where he directed the animated series "Lupin the Third." He also produced the Miyazaki-directed 1984 film "The Valley of the Wind," a science-fantasy adventure that describes the relationship between nature and humans.
With Miyazaki and producer Toshio Suzuki, he co-founded in 1985 the famed Studio Ghibli, which went on to many well-known and critically acclaimed animated blockbusters.
The pair are often described by media as friends and rivals at the same time.
Takahata's first film for the studio, "Grave of the Fireflies," was released together with Miyazaki's "My Neighbor Totoro" in 1988.
Over a long and distinguished career, he produced around 20 films, including "Only Yesterday" (1991) and "Pom Poko" (1994).
He enjoyed commercial success with "Pom Poko," which drew heavily on Japanese folklore while critiquing rampant postwar development near Tokyo where the film's tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs) live, Variety reported.
He is also well-known for the animated series "Heidi, Girl of the Alps," a 1974 series based on the classic novel that he directed for Nippon Animation.
Takahata also dabbled in politics, co-signing with around 250 other film celebrities a petition against a controversial state secrets law in 2013.
Many Chinese netizens mourned Takahata's passing on Weibo after the news broke.
"Gods want to see anime, so they take Takahata away," said a user.
（With input from AFP.）