Kazuhiko Kato, the highly respected manga artist and the creator of anime classic Lupin III, has just passed away at age 81. He is known to most by his pen name Monkey Punch. Reports indicate that he passed away on April 11 due to pneumonia.
Born in Hamanaka, Hokkaido on May 26, 1937, Kazuhiko started drawing at a very young age. By junior high school, his manga strips were being published in their school newspaper. He made his professional debut as a manga artist in 1965 with Playboy School in Futabasha’s Manga Action magazine. His boss later suggested the pen name Monkey Punch for him, and he claimed that while he did not like the pseudonym, he agreed to it as he thought his next project would only last for three month. This next project, however, was Lupin III, which ended up highly successful; thus he was stuck with the Monkey Punch pseudonym. After the series’ 1967 debut, it was immediately adapted into a television anime in 1971. Since then, Lupin III has gone on to become a highly-successful franchise, spawning six animated TV series, eight films, several video games, and other iterations for TV and other media.
Kato’s most enduring and trademark work is the story of the gentleman thief Arsene Lupin III, the grandson of Arsene Lupin, the main character in Maurice Leblanc’s novel series. Besides earning numerous accolades both domestically and abroad, the series has managed to maintain its huge popularity even 50 years after its creation. Proof of this is a new anime film based on the series entitled Lupin the IIIrd: Mine Fujiko no Uso (Fujiko Mine’s Lie). The film is set for a May 31 release in Japan.
Kanichi Kurita, the second voice actor for Lupin III himself, has released a condolence message to media upon Kato’s passing. The message reads:
“It has been over 20 years since I, who had no voice acting experience back then, was given the important ‘Lupin The Third’ from Sensei. Since the first time we met, you had been always with a smile, gentle, calm, and warm. In the days of endless anxiety and pressure, I was saved by Sensei, who treated me with a smile. I felt protected with your word, ’Don’t worry about anything.’ I will keep the memory of several visits to your home town Hamanaka-cho (in Hokkaido) with you as a precious treasure only for myself. I am really thankful to you. May you rest in peace.”
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