Whisper of the Heart (1995) is one of Ghibli’s most classic films. The film has a simple, rustic plot about student love, adapted from the manga Aoi Hiragi and written and written by Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki. It is also the highest-grossing Japanese film of 1995, bringing global fame to director Yoshifumi Kondo.
However, more than 20 years since the film’s release, the public not only remembers the cute and simple content but also sympathizes with the fate of Yoshifumi Kondo. Because behind the success of Whisper of the Heart is the sudden death of the director. This incident is said to be the result of the “hard work culture” – forcing workers to the extreme without regard to mental and physical health.
The imprint of director Yoshifumi Kondo remains forever in Whisper of the Heart in particular and Ghibli history in general
Some scenes from the movie Whisper of the Heart
Previously, Yoshifumi Kondo worked as an animator in Kiki’s Delivery Service, Only Yesterday and Princess Mononoke. After that, his debut work Whisper of the Heart catapulted him to the top of the team at Studio Ghibli, on par with his two predecessors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata. Yoshifumi Kondo is gradually expected to become an excellent successor.
Unfortunately, a heart aneurysm at the age of 47 caused Yoshifumi Kondo to die suddenly. His death immediately denounced the harsh behind the scenes of the anime industry. In it, director Isao Takahata – the man behind the blockbuster Grave of the Fireflies – is suspected of being the “culprit” of persecuting his juniors. In addition to his extensive experience, Isao Takahata is famous for his difficult working style, having “ruined a lot of people” according to the comments of many former employees.
Director Isao Takahata is famous for the blockbuster Grave of the Fireflies
Even producer Toshio Suzuki, Isao Takahata’s closest friend, had to admit 100% of that year’s tragedy. According to Mr. Suzuki, Isao Takahata was indirectly responsible for the death of his colleague Yoshifumi Kondo. In the past, it was the late director Kondō who “begged” Suzuki for help that: Takahata “tried to kill me”, and whenever he heard Takahata’s name, his whole body trembled.
The most stressful is the shocking sentence at the cremation ceremony of Yoshifumi Kondo.
Someone in attendance shouted, “It was Paku-san (Takahata’s nickname) that killed Kon-chan (Kondo’s nickname), wasn’t it?”
The air in the room froze until Takahata nodded silently. As for Hayao Miyazaki, he asserted that he was the only one who could work with Takahata, without mentioning the unfortunate director.
Director Hayao Miyazaki once announced his temporary retirement after the death of “disciple” Yoshifumi Kondo, then returned with the work Spirited Away in 2001.
Currently, the sad story of Yoshifumi Kondo is still a typical example of the “toxic” work culture in Japan. From a young talent, expected to inherit Studio Ghibli, director Kondo has permanently lost his bright future, all because of unnecessary effort.
Image source: Ghibli, Compilation