Ghibli Art Director Nizô Yamamoto Dies Age 70
Nizô Yamamoto, an acclaimed animation art director and background artist whose warmly realistic work can be seen in many iconic Studio Ghibli films, died Saturday, August 19 at age 70 due to stomach cancer. His signature style often featured sweeping horizons overhung with picturesque clouds — easily identified as Nizô-gumo (Nizô Clouds) by his admirers.
Born in Gotō City, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan on June 27, 1953, Yamamoto studied architecture in high school before pursuing fine art training in Tokyo, where he began drawing anime background art while still a student. His first projects as art director were the series Attack on Tomorrow and Future Boy Conan, where he worked alongside directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
Beginning his career as an art director with the TV animation “Future Boy Conan,” Yamamoto played a pivotal role in shaping the visuals of Studio Ghibli hits such as director Hayao Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke.”
A celebrated artist, Yamamoto’s work was presented in a touring exhibition through Japan which attracted over 900,000 visitors. A museum dedicated to his work, life and legacy — Clouds Over Goto: Nizo Yamamoto Art Museum — was established in Gotō in 2018. The artis worked on a series of landscapes from his birthplace from 2010 to 2021, and had been working on a 120-page manga depicting local folktales until mere days before his passing; he was reportedly one page from finishing the graphic novel.
Yamamoto is survived by his son Takao, who shared the news of his father’s death on social media. In the post, Takao said that Yamamoto continued working until just a few days before his death.
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