Studio Ghibli’s Isao Takahata Was “Notoriously Difficult” to Work With

Toshio Suzuki, one part of the founding trio of Studio Ghibli, has revealed that working with Isao Takahata “destroyed so many people” in a partly translated section of text from The Ghibli Textbook #19. The book, part of a series of deep-dives into specific Studio Ghibli movies, recounts the work ethic of director Isao Takahata during the creation of his final film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

Through the book, Toshio Suzuki, who acted as the producer on many Studio Ghibli films, recalls a conversation he had with Yoshifumi Kondo, who worked on Takahata’s hit war story Grave of the Fireflies, following the completion of Whisper of the Heart released seven years later. The conversation is said to have gone on for two hours, with Kondo eventually saying that Takahata had “tried to kill him.” It is believed that Takahata frequently overworked staff with Kondo said to “tremble” at the thought of him.

According to Anime News Network, who translated the original excerpt published by Bunshun Online, an interview included within the book has Suzuki claim how Takahata was “notoriously difficult to work with” and would “angrily lash out” at co-workers. The director, writer, and producer worked on countless series and movies across both Studio Ghibli and Toei Animation from the 60s to his eventual death from lung cancer in April 2018, but his work ethic is now considered to have indirectly caused the death of Yoshifumi Kondo.

Kondo, who stepped into the director’s seat for the second time on Whisper of the Heart following his directorial debut film Only Yesterday, fell ill and died at the age of 47, one year after the 1997 release of one of the studio’s best-known films Princess Mononoke. During his cremation, another Ghibli staffer attending the ceremony, named as S-San, said “It was Paku-san that killed Kon-chan, wasn’t it?” to which Takahata is understood to have quietly nodded in response. Paku-san was Takahata’s nickname, with Kon-chan referring to Yoshifumi Kondo.

“You are overworked and exhausted. You have to prepare for yourself to break,” said Suzuki, painting a bleak picture of working in one of Japan’s best-known animation houses.

Featured Image Credit:  Jean-Pierre Clatot / Stringer / Getty Images