Kazuhiko Kato, the manga artist who worked under the pen name “Monkey Punch”, passed away on 11th April 2019. He was 81 years old, and his cause of death has been recorded as pneumonia.
Born on 26 May 1937 in the town of Hamanaka, Hokkaido, Kazuhiko Kato will be remembered by many for creating one of anime’s most enduring icons, Lupin the Third. The manga series made its debut in 1967 and followed the escapades of master thief Arsène Lupin III, the grandson of Maurice Leblanc’s literary icon, his gang of misfit thieves, and the interpol detective on their tail. The manga has been adapted into numerous anime series, specials and films up to the present day – with 1979’s The Castle of Cagliostro marking the directorial debut of the now legendary Hayao Miyazaki. Kato himself directed one of the anime films, 1996’s Lupin the Third: Dead or Alive, his only directorial credit.
Kazuhiko Kato started drawing from a young age, and gravitated towards a manga style when he started writing comic strips for his Junior High School’s newspaper. After moving to Tokyo and working with a doujinshi group of other artists, he made his debut with 1965’s Playboy School under the name Eiji Gamuta. Kato never actually liked the pen name he used for most of his life, noting in a 2003 interview with Anime News Network that it was chosen by a former editor, and stuck once Lupin the Third became popular.
In his later years, Kato participated in 2007 lectures about the interaction of anime and culture, and in 2008 judged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan’s second International Manga Awards. In 2015, he was awarded the Tokyo Anime Award Festival’s Meritorious Service Award as the Original Creator of Lupin the Third.