Star man: a tribute to Noburo Ishiguro (1938-2012)

On March 20th 2012 the world of anime lost another one of its leading lights. The industry has lost several big names in recent years: Osamu Dezaki last year and Satoshi Kon the year before that. So it it was a sad day for animation when Noburo Ishiguro joined this list. You may not have known his name, but if you are into animated science fiction then you will likely have come into contact with his work. Macross, Yamato, Megazone 23 – his CV reads like a ‘best of’ list of classic sci-fi anime.

Ishiguro had worked in anime from the industry’s earliest days, and he was involved in Osamu Tezuka’s original Astro Boy in the sixties. He would stay working in animation for almost the rest of his life, with his last directing credit being 2009’s film Pattenrai. In between he would contribute to several shows that would earn him his place in the medium’s hall of fame.

It was as a director that he found his biggest success. He seemed to gravitate towards science fiction, and indeed it seems like he worked on every major anime franchise in that genre with the possible exception of Gundam.

Space Battleship Yamato was his first big hit. Retitled as Starblazers, this would also be one of the first anime to find a fanbase in the USA. Ishiguro would later direct the legendary Macross that would similarly find success stateside as the recut and edited Robotech. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say then the Ishiguro was at least partially responsible for the majority of early anime fandom in the west.

This isn’t even beginning to scratch the surface of the stuff he worked on. Orguss and Megazone 23 are shows much beloved by old school fans. The sprawling epic Legend Of The Galactic Heroes remains to this day one of the most wanted (officially) untranslated properties. He even returned to his roots by directing the 1980s remake of Astro Boy.

Away from the director’s chair, Ishiguro was also the founder of the studio Artland, that has worked on some of his big hits but also later classics such as Cyber City Oedo, The Big O, and even recent fare like Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

He was a regular guest at conventions both at home and abroad and was one of those artists who always seemed to be available to his fans. Those who encountered him at such events have described him as hugely personable individual and a generous and kindly soul.

His career featured success after success; it is only a shame that his name was not more widely known in his lifetime. This may be at least partly because his medium of choice was mainly television (and later video). Maybe if he chosen to dedicate himself to film then he would have been a household name like a Miyazaki or Oshii.

Few individuals can be said to have has such an impact on the industry as Ishiguro and he will certainly be missed. It’s hard to emphasise just how big a part he was of anime’s history and the impact of the shows he worked on, and one little article could never hope to do him justice. Yet if this article helps bring home his legacy, and encourages anyone to seek out his work, then it will have served its purpose.