Pneumonia has claimed a second manga great, Kazuo Koike, on April 17, 2019, just a few days after Monkey Punch succumbed to the same condition. Born May 8, 1936 in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, Japan, Koike was also a prolific novelist and entrepreneur. A self-professed life-long otaku (fan of manga), Koike gave back to his chosen community by starting the Gekiga Sonjuku, a college course intended to teach manga artistry, in 1977.
Koike’s best known works were Lone Wolf and Cub, and Lady Snowblood. Lone Wolf and Club was adapted into a series of movies starring Tomisaburo Wakayama; the Lady Snowblood manga also had a film version, which heavily influenced Quentin Tarantino‘s Kill Bill.
Koike worked a few times with Marvel comics, notably Hulk: The Manga in the early 1970s, and a story in X-Men Unlimited in 2003. In 2004, Koike was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.
An avid Tweeter, Koike used that outlet to keep his spirits up in hospital over the course of his final year. He tweeted in November: “Even when there are limits to what you can do, it’s important to do something creative. Once your mentality becomes listless, everything else goes to pieces, so staying creative is a way of keeping yourself healthy.”
When a fellow manga creator died last week, Koike tweeted, “So Monkey Punch has passed away…I loved Lupin III. I’ll miss him, and pray for his happiness in the next world.”
The same day that he died, Koike’s final tweet was also about Kazuhiko Kato:
“40 years ago, in the first era of action manga, Monkey Punch was my rival, with Lupin III and Lone Wolf and Cub battling it out in a popularity war. At one point, we even teamed up to make the manga Secretary Bird Together. I’m really going to miss him.”
And we’ll miss both of them, while enjoying the legacy of their work and that of their students for years to come.