Cartoonist Monkey Punch, best known as the creator of the Japanese megahit comic series Lupin III, has died at the age of 81.
His office, MP Pictures, said on Wednesday that Monkey Punch, whose real name is Kazuhiko Kato, died of pneumonia on April 11.
The story of master thief Lupin’s adventures with his gang – gunman Daisuke Jigen, sword master Goemon Ishikawa and sexy beauty Fujiko Mine, as well as a detective, Zenigata – started in 1967.
The cartoon also was adapted for TV animation and movies, some directed by renowned animators including Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata.
Mr. Kato himself directed the 1996 animated film Lupin III: Dead or Alive. Mr. Miyazaki, who directed a 1971 Lupin animation for TV, made his feature-length film debut with Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro in 1997.
The hard-boiled, yet comical story with a bit of sexy content has quickly won adult comic fans and became a long-time bestseller. Mr. Kato’s intended readership was adults, and he reportedly has told younger fans to watch Lupin TV animation and read comic books when they become high-school students.
The main character in his trademark red jacket is a grandson of the famous Maurice Leblanc character Arsène Lupin.
The son of a fisherman in Hokkaido, in northern Japan, Mr. Kato made his debut as a professional cartoonist in 1965 while working part-time at a rental bookstore, and started using his pen name Monkey Punch soon after the Lupin series started in the Weekly Manga Action magazine.
Despite his age, he quickly adapted to digital animation and studied animation on multimedia formats at a technical graduate school in Tokyo in the 2000s. Mr. Kato also taught animation at a university in Nishinomiya in western Japan.