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In New Book, Ghibli's Suzuki Reveals Isao Takahata as Notoriously Difficult Director

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge
Claims character designer and animation director Yoshifumi Kondō death was due to Takahata's work expectations

Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki revealed another side of his long-time work partner and director Isao Takahata. The book, The Ghibli Textbook #19: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Ghibli no Kyōkasho 19 Kaguya-hime no Monogatari), delves into the production of Takahata's last film and his artistic legacy. In an interview published within the book, Suzuki reveals that Takahata was notoriously difficult to work with, would angrily lash out at his subordinates, and that his work demands indirectly caused the death of character designer and animation director Yoshifumi Kondō.

Suzuki characterized Takahata as a person who let work trump everything else even when it "destroyed so many people." Grave of the Fireflies character designer and animation director Yoshifumi Kondō is one such person. Suzuki visited Kondō in Sendai after he had finished work on Whisper of the Heart. They had a two-hour conversation where Kondō told Suzuki that Takahata had "tried to kill him" and that even thinking about Takahata would cause Kondō to tremble.

Kondō fell ill at the age of 47 and died in 1998, after his work on Princess Mononoke. Suzuki, Miyazaki, Takahata, and another animator that Suzuki refers to as "S-san" all attended his cremation. S-san had worked with Takahata and Miyazaki since their time at Toei Animation. During the cremation, Suzuki says that S-san said aloud, "It was Paku-san that killed Kon-chan, wasn't it?" The air in the room froze until Takahata quietly nodded.

According to Suzuki, Miyazaki has claimed that he's the only person to survive Takahata. The studio continued to lose potential artistic successors due to Takahata's work expectations.

"You are overworked and exhausted. You have to prepare for yourself to break," Suzuki said.

Publisher Shinchosha was involved with the production of The Grave of the Fireflies. Its representative Takashi Nitta told Suzuki he had worked with writers like Seichō Matsumoto, Renzaburo Shibata, and Kōbō Abe, but compared to Isao Takahata, they all seem normal. Suzuki also described him as someone who never thanked any of the Ghibli staff for their contributions.

At the end of the interview, Suzuki mentions that a character in Miyazaki's upcoming film Kimi-tachi wa Dō Ikiru ka (How Do You Live?) may be based on Takahata, but that the director's death has held up storyboard production for the last two months.

Takahata was born on October 29, 1935. He joined Toei Douga (now Toei Animation) in 1959 after graduating from the University of Tokyo in French literature. His directorial debut was on an episode of the Ōkami Shōnen Ken television anime, and he directed his first feature film, Horus - Prince of the Sun, in 1968.

Takahata had a long career directing such classics as Little Norse Prince Valiant (Taiyō no Ōji - Hols no Daibōken), Alps no Shōjo Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, and Panda! Go, Panda! before he co-founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki. Takahata went on to create the feature films Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko, and My Neighbors the Yamadas. He also served as a producer on Miyazaki and Ghibli's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Laputa: Castle in the Sky, and was the artistic producer on Wild Bunch and Ghibli's The Red Turtle.

Takahata's final film as director was The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which debuted in 2013.

Source: The Ghibli Textbook #19: The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Toshio Suzuki, Shizuka Yagihashi) via Bunshun Online

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