Kihachiro Kawamoto, 1925 - 2010

David Hudson

"It's not a good week to be a Japanese animation legend," sighs Amid Amidi at Cartoon Brew. "Stop motion animator and puppeteer Kihachiro Kawamoto, passed away last Monday at age 85. The cause of death was pneumonia."

Jasper Sharp interviewed Kawamoto in 2004 for Midnight Eye and, just last month, curated the program Kihachiro Kawamoto: Japan's Master Puppeteer for the Shinsedai Cinema Festival: "Born in 1925 in Tokyo, Kihachiro Kawamoto originally wanted to pursue a career in architecture while taking up doll-making as a hobby. In 1950, he teamed up with publisher Tadasu Iizawa to create a series of doll storybooks. It was at this same time Kawamoto discovered the works of animator Jiri Trnka. Inspired by the Czech master, he began studying under stop-motion animator Tadahito Mochinaga and by the 1970s he was making elaborate films based on traditional Japanese folk tales."

Update, 9/1: "Despite producing two collage animations, The Trip (1973) and A Poet's Life (1974), he preferred working with the puppets he created, claiming they 'made their own story, while with cut-out animation the story is created by the animator,'" writes Jasper Sharp for Sight & Sound. "Buddhism played an important role in his art, particularly in his two feature-length works, Rennyo and His Mother (Rennyo To Sono Haha, 1981), written by Shindo Kaneto, and his final film The Book of the Dead (Shisha no sho, 2005) which, completed when he was 80, depicted the religion's arrival in Japan during the 8th century."

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