Anime and manga creator powerhouse Kazuhiko Kato has died of pneumonia at home in Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, Japan on April 11, 2019. Kato was better known to his fans by his pen name, Monkey Punch. He was born May 26, 1937 in the small village of Kiritappu, in Hamanakka, Hokkaido, Japan — Hamanakka now holds an annual Lupin the Third Festival in his honour.

In an interview in 1995, he stated he did not like the name Money Punch, but it had been suggested by his boss at the time for a three-month project.  That project grew a life of its own as Lupin the Third, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2017.

Monkey Punch gave his characters depth by building on stories that already existed.  Several examples of this can be seen in Lupin the Third.  His gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin III, was written as the grandson of French author Maurice LeBlanc’s thief of the same name.  Kato was on record as saying he based Lupin’s righthand gunman, Jigen Daisuke, on James Coburn as he was in The Magnificent Seven.  Swordsman Ishikawa Goemon XIII was conceived as the descendant of the semi-lengendary outlaw hero in the 16th century.   Fujiko Mine is the quintessential Bond Girl.  In an interview, Monkey Punch said that Inspector Zenigata was thrown onto Lupin’s trail so they would have the interactions of “a human Tom and Jerry”.

Monkey Punch has been recognized by fans and critics for four decades as a consistent creative force.  Among his awards are the INKPOT Award at San Diego Comic Con (1981); the Tokyo Anime Award Lifetime Achievement Award (2015); the AMD Lifetime Achievement Award; and the Rome Comic Festival ROMICS d’Oro Award.

In addition to his creativity with pen and ink, in later years Monkey Punch studied animation in multimedia formats at graduate school, then went on to teach.  In April 2005 he joined the Faculty of Media and Arts at Otemae University in western Japan, as a professor of Manga Animation, and was a visiting professor at Tokyo University of Technology in May 2010.  Kato judged the second international Japanese Manga awards in 2008.

Even if you never watched Lupin Sensei over the years, you might have played Cliff Hanger, so in a way you do know Monkey Punch’s art.  Here’s a taste of the jazz themed scores to the series and movies. 

One last work is due out from Monkey Punch:  a Lupin spin-off film, Fujiko Mine’s Lie, should hit Japanese theaters on May 31.

Artist DasGnomo’s tribute to Monkey Punch.


Ellen McMicking
Ellen McMicking