Pioneer Anime Animator, Kazuko Nakamura, Passes Away at the Age of 86

Worked closely with Osamu Tezuka at Mushi Productions on the first big TV Anime

Astro Boy


Kazuko Nakamura, who was 86 years old and her legal name at the time of her death was Kazuko Katou, passed away on August 3, reports Nikkan Sports and Hochi Shimbun on September 26. The announcement of her passing comes from her family after they held a funeral and farewell ceremony to celebrate her life.


Kazuko Nakamura


Nakamura was a pioneer of animation in a time when female artists weren’t treated the same as their male counterparts and not given the same opportunities. After graduating from Joshibi University of Art and Design, she started working in anime production at the newly formed Toei Douga (now Toei Animation, known for Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball) as an in-betweener.


Magic Boy


Her credits at Toei Douga include The Orphan Brothers, Panda and the Magic Serpent, and Magic Boy. Nakamura’s work caught the eye of famed manga creator Osamu Tezuka, who offered her a position at his animation studio, Mushi Pro, as an animator and animation director.


During the production of Astro Boy, which pioneered the use of limited animation for anime and the classic anime “big eyes”, Nakamura butted heads with Studio Ghibli director – then working at Toei Douga – Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies), who criticized the limited animation style. Nakamara bluntly responded with, “Toei's way (of animating) is not good.”


The Thumbelina


When Nakamura retired from Mushi Pro to become a housewife in 1963, Tezuka kept asking for her to come back to the studio to work on more series. She was finally convinced in 1965 to come back for The Amazing 3 (Wonder 3) and continued to work on famed series such as Princess Knight and Kimba the White Lion.


Tezuka left Mushi Pro in 1968 and formed Tezuka Productions, taking key staff, like Kazuko Nakamura, with him. Nakamura worked at the studio until Tezuka’s death in 1989, where she retired from the industry completely and remarried after the death of her first husband. Her credits at Tezuka Production include The Thumbelina (outsourced from Toei Animation) as an assistant director, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Phoenix 2772 as an animation director.


Kazuko Nakamura and Akira Daikuhara

Kazuko Nakamura and Akira Daikuhara


People said of Nakamura that she was beautiful, funny, and the number 1 female animator at Toei Douga at the time. Her fellow animators loved her immersive animation techniques and praised her for her work ethic and commitment to projects.


Kazuko Nakamura passed away on August 3 from old age. She is a legend in the anime industry, helping shape what it is today.


Sources: Hochi Shimbun, Nikkan Sports, Biography translated and adapted from Kazuko Nakamura’s Japanese Wikipedia page



Daryl Harding is a Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs the YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza and posts photo of his travels on Instagram

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