Pioneering artist’s hit series was one of Hayao Miyazaki’s first directing jobs.

The manga industry has lost one of its most influential and beloved members with the passing of Kazuhiko Kato. That name might not ring any bells even among long-time anime manga fans, though, since Kato was published under his pen name, Monkey Punch.

On April 11, the 81-year-old artist passed away from pneumonia. As is often the case with the deaths of celebrities in Japan, Monkey Punch’s passing was not publicly announced until his family had been given a few days to mourn in private.

To be honest, Monkey Punch only had one big hit, one which he created 52 years ago, but when that hit is Lupin III, that’s all you need to become a legend. The tale of charismatic rogue Lupin quickly became one of the most popular comics in Japan following its 1967 debut, and while its initial run lasted only two years, Monkey Punch would return to Lupin III for another four-year stint starting in 1977. In the meantime, the franchise was adapted into two television anime arcs in 1970s, with Studio Ghibli co-founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata making episode direction and writing contributions. Miyazaki would also go on to direct the highly-acclaimed Lupin III theatrical feature Castle of Cagliostro, and a slew of other Lupin III movies and TV specials were produced throughout the 1980s and ‘90s.

▼ Trailer for Lupin III Part 4

Along the way, Lupin III became a cultural phenomenon in Japan. It’s one of the few anime aimed at a mature audience that just about everyone in Japan has seen at least an episode of, and can also recognize the theme song for (even if it’s being played with a phone). And while for many years the franchise was primarily being powered by nostalgia, in recent years it’s gone through a major renaissance, with new TV anime seasons in 2012, 2015, and 2018, as well as high-profile collaborations with fashion designers, ukiyo-e-style woodblock artists, and even Universal Studios Japan, plus a live-action film adaptation.

So while it always feels too soon to say good-bye when someone passes away, Monkey Punch can at least rest easy knowing that his life’s work as an artist continues to entertain and inspire fans both old and new.

Source: Yahoo! Japan news/Mantan Web via Jin
Top image: YouTube/TMS Entertainment
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