On Saturday, November 3, the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications awarded the Fall 2018 Medal of Honor Purple Ribbon to director Keiichi Hara. The biannual award commemorates people who made significant developments, improvements, or accomplishments in academics and the arts. The Japanese government publicly announced the award recipients on Monday, November 5.

While the awards occur twice a year, one of the ceremonies always falls on Culture Day, November 3. During each ceremony, about 4,000 total awards are presented in several disciplines, and all awards go to recipients over the age of 55. Keiichi Hara is on the younger end of this spectrum, born in July 1959. His first credit in animation direction took place on classic children’s anime DORAEMON. As a result, the well-loved series set him up for a career in fan-favorites!

Hara Earns his Place Among the Greats

Hara began working in anime production in the 1980s. His most recent big-name project was 2015 anime film MISS HOKUSAI. The movie is the adaptation of Hinako Sugiura’s historical manga of the same name. Originally, the comic featured episodic tales of artist O-Ei, who works in her father’s studio in Edo. Director Hara’s film focused in on O-Ei’s story and the role of her younger sister O-Nao. MISS HOKUSAI soon received critical acclaim. In fact, it won Hara quite a few awards. Critics and fans alike raved about the movie’s gorgeous animation and poetic, potent storytelling.

Keiichi Hara holding up an autographed poster for SUMMER DAYS WITH COO.
Keiichi Hara holding up a poster for SUMMER DAYS WITH COO. | Image: Wikipedia

However, you can’t win a Purple Ribbon Medal for working on just one movie. Director Hara has a number of accolades to his name. He worked for years on the anime CRAYON SHIN-CHAN and gained fame for its movie BRILLIANT! THE GREAT BATTLE OF THE WARRING STATES. Then, in 2007, he impressed the world again with SUMMER DAYS WITH COO. Poignant film COLORFUL won Hara two awards at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival. Finally, before MISS HOKUSAI, Hara directed his first live-action film: a 2013 biography of filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita. Each project he worked on became a cinematic success. His contributions extend far past only MISS HOKUSAI. Now, he has a Medal of Honor to recognize that fact.

Credit Where Credit is Due

Including Director Hara, a total of 18 people received the Medal this month. Some of the other recipients include actor Hiroyuki Sanada, author Mariko Hayashi, and shogi champion Yoshiharu Hanyu. Director Hara also shares his award with anime fans everywhere (figuratively, of course!). Surprisingly, very few Medals are given to people who work in creating anime. The last anime creator was AKIRA manga and film creator Katsuhiro Otomo in Fall 2013. Otomo bridged an even longer gap, as the previous anime creator recognized was Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata in 1999.

Still, the Medal recognizes the talents of people involved in the anime creation process. For example, famous composer Joe Hisaishi received a Purple Ribbon in 2009. He is well-known for his musical contributions to Studio Ghibli films. Enka singer Harumi Miyako received the award in 2010. She notably contributed her voice to the anime film ONLY YESTERDAY. Of course, plenty of manga creators have earned the Purple Ribbon as well. Perhaps you’d recall OSOMATSU-KUN creator Fujio Akatsuka, ASHITA NO JOE artist Tetsuya Chiba, and SPACE FIGHTER CAPTAIN HARLOCK writer Leiji Matsumoto. Even the father of Hatsune Miku, Hiroyuki Ito, received the slightly different Blue Ribbon Medal. In short, it’s impossible to ignore the creators of the content we all love.

The promotional image from Keiichi Hara's new film, picturing a girl and her bicycle.
The promotional image for Hara’s unnamed new work. | Image: NewsWalker

Speaking of content we love, Keiichi Hara announced at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2017 that he is currently working on a new project. The film will involve a female protagonist and adventures in other worlds. Hence, Hara considers it be his first full-blown fantasy. Production is meant to be completed this year. Knowing Hara’s work, we should be able to expect some amazing things from this upcoming project!

Featured image from Netflix.

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