Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Late Great Koike Kazuo

Koike Kazuo, the prolific writer who co-created the manga Lone Wolf and Cub with artist artist Kojima Gōseki, died on April 17 2019 at the age of 82. He had been suffering from pneumonia.

Koike Kazuo born Tawaraya Seishu on May 8 1936 in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, Japan. He took the pen name Koike Kazuo very early in his career. He was trained by Golgo 13 creator Saito Takao. It was in 1970 that Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Ōkami, "Wolf taking along his child"), created by Messrs. Kazuo and Kojima, was first published. The manga quickly became a hit. In 1972 the first of six feature films based on the manga, was released. It was followed by a television series that ran from 1973 to 1976 and still later another television series that ran from 2002 to 2004. There was also a 1987 video game and there has been one follow up series.

It was in 1972 that Koike Kazuo collaborated with artist Kamimura Kazuo on the manga Lady Snowblood. Mr. Koike worked with Lone Wolf and Cub co-creator Kojima Gōseki in 1972 on the manga Samurai Executioner. In 1986 Mr. Koike worked with artist Ikegami Ryoichi on the manga Crying Freeman. Over the years Mr. Koike worked on such manga series as Path of the Assassin, Hanappe Bazooka, Wounded Man, Mad Bull 34, and Kawaite sōrō. Mr. Koike also worked on projects for Marvel, including Hulk: the Manga (exclusive to Japan) and X-Men Unlimited.

In 1977 he established the Koike Gekiga Sonjuku training school for manga writers and artists. Its graduates have included Fist of the North Star artist artist Hara Tetsuo and Vampire Hunter D writer Kikuchi Hideyuki. He later served as an instructor at Osaka University of Arts.

In Japan and elsewhere Koike Kazuo has had an enormous impact. Lone Wolf and Cub is one of the most successful manga series worldwide. In the United States it would have an impact on such comic book creators as Frank Miller and Max Allan Collins. Lady Snowblood would also have an impact. It was part of the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. Through his training school, Mr. Koike would have a lasting impact in training manga writers and artists who would go onto create their own influential manga series.

Koike Kazuo's success was largely due to the fact that he was able to create memorable, three dimensional characters. His devotion to developing characters was summed up by one of his quotes, "Comics are carried by characters. If a character is well created, the comic becomes a hit." This was certainly true of both Lone Wolf and Cub and Lady Snowblood. He also for a talent for capturing the feel of historical milieus, from the early Tokugawa Shogunate of Lone Wolf and Cub to the 19th Century Japan of Lady Snowblood. Between Mr. Koike's gift for creating great characters and his gift for capturing the feel of various eras, there should be little wonder he was such a success. 

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