Whereas CNN seems to have "Breaking News" almost every minute, it isn't everyday that TV Japan allows NHK to cut in suddenly for a breaking news story. But that is what happened last night between Sanma Akashiya's "Honmadekka!? TV" from Fuji-TV and the new NHK morning serial "Hanbun, Aoi". No commercials came in...just a sober-sided announcer to break the news that animator Isao Takahata（高畑勲）had passed away earlier on Thursday.
The name is familiar although to be honest, I wouldn't have immediately been able to identify his works just from hearing Takahata's name such as would have been the case with Hayao Miyazaki（宮崎駿）. However, I do know his harrowing "Hotaru no Haka"（火垂るの墓...Grave of the Fireflies）which is most likely his best work. Even to this day, I can't bear to watch a lot of the scenes from that movie and even when I was reading the synopsis on Wikipedia after hearing about his death, I couldn't help but get lumpy in the throat. There was a variety show in Japan that I was watching in which a group of the most hardened martial art students was asked to watch the movie in a room and pretty much everyone ended up as puddles of brine.
I was not aware that Takahata had earlier directed the TV anime "Alps no Shojo Heidi"（アルプスの少女ハイジ...Heidi, Girl of the Alps）back in 1974 but that show is familiar to me since I remember the climactic scene where Heidi's best friend Clara was actually able to stand up from her wheelchair. Cue tears.
The other thing I remember from "Heidi" is the opening theme song titled "Oshiete" (Teach Me) as sung by Kayo Ishuu（伊集加代子）with Nelly Schwarz providing the yodels. Bouncy and joyful thanks to composer Takeo Watanabe（渡辺岳夫）, the lyrics by Eriko Kishida（岸田衿子）reflect the main character's curiosity for things ranging from why whistles can be heard from so far away to where the winds go.
The single sold 1.2 million records in Japan alone and apparently even in Europe, "Oshiete" became a million-seller there as well according to Hidetoshi Kimura's（木村英俊）"The Anime Song ~ Hit wa Koushite Tsukurareta"（THEアニメ・ソング―ヒットはこうして作られた...The Hits Were Created This Way）. It even won a special award at the 1974 2nd FNS Music Festival held annually in December.