This has been a rough month for fans of traditional Japanese manga, as the art form has mourned several greats. First was Lupin III creator Kazuhiko Kato, who passed away earlier in April, leaving behind a legacy that spanned both the manga and numerous popular anime adaptations. Today, more sad news that passes over into the film industry as well: Kazuo Koike has passed away. The writer created numerous iconic manga, most notably Lady Snowblood and Lone Wolf and Cub.
Both Lady Snowblood and the Lone Wolf and Cub series were turned into highly stylized, chanbara or wuxia-style film series, noted for their gorgeous cinematography, dramatic action and over-the-top violence. Both series served as huge inspirations on filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, and are heavily referenced in his works. Lady Snowblood, a series starring Meiko Kaji of Female Prisoner Scorpion fame, heavily influenced the style and structure of Kill Bill in particular, as both stories tell the tale of a woman returning as a relevant to take revenge on a hit list of adversaries. Lone Wolf and Cub, meanwhile, literally appears as the film that Beatrice Kiddo and her daughter watch near the end of Kill Bill: Volume 2, and is also heavily referenced in the music of hip-hop groups such as the Wu-Tang Clan.
Perhaps fittingly, Koike tweeted the day of his death about Kato’s passing, expressing his admiration for Lupin III. Later that day, Koike’s family reported he had passed away from pneumonia.
His best known other manga works included Crying Freeman and Mad Bull 34. He also worked in American comics from time to time, producing Hulk: The Manga for Marvel in the 1970s.
Truly, he was among the most influential manga creators ever, with an impact that left the film world forever changed in the process.