Studio Pierrot Founder, Naruto Anime Producer Yuji Nunokawa Passes Away at 75
Nunokawa produced Creamy Mami, Hikaru no Go, Urusei Yatsura, Bleach and more
Japanese media reported today that anime industry icon Yuji Nunokawa passed away suddenly on December 25 at the age of 75. Nunokawa is best known as a producer who founded Studio Pierrot and helped establish many initiatives that helped the anime industry evolve, including the powerful The Association of Japanese Animations collective.
Yuji Nunokawa was born on February 11, 1947, in Sakata City in Yamanashi prefecture. As a child of tailors, he grew up loving drawing. On the recommendation of the advisor of the art club he was part of in high school, Nunokawa went to Tokyo to study at the Nippon Design Welfare College, where he graduated in 1967.
Nunokawa started in the anime industry in a company that was a subcontractor for TCJ, which is now Eiken, as a colorist. His first animator gig was for Space Boy Soran and then key animator on Robotan. As a freelancer in the industry, he worked on many productions for Mushi Productions and Tsuburaya Enterprises.
During the crash of Mushi Productions, he was asked to become a founding staff member to the anime studio Soeisha, which is now known as Bandai Namco Filmworks, or Sunrise. Declining the offer, thanks to an offer from Hiroshi Sasagawa, he became a staff member at Tatsunoko Production in 1971 working as a character designer. It was there that Nunokawa became a director on the Time Bokan! series.
Nunokawa left Tatsunoko Production in 1978 after the death of the founder, Tatsuo Yoshida, with animation directors Mitsuo Kaminashi and Hiroko Tokita and formed a collective in an apartment in Kichijoji. This collective grew to include animation directors Toriumi Hisayuki and Masami Anno and became Studio Pierrot, of which Nunokawa became the president. Its core belief was to create animator-focused anime with decent production scheduling.
During his time as president of Pierrot, Nunokawa helped produce many hits, including the original Urusei Yatsura anime, Naruto, Yu Yu Hakusho, Tokyo Mew Mew, GTO, Bleach, Kimagure Orange Road and was the lead on Creamy Mami among countless other anime series.
In 2012, Nunokawa became chairman and representative director of Pierrot, moving on from president and producing duties, eventually becoming Supreme Advisor to the board.
During the 2000s, Nunokawa was involved in the establishment of The Association of Japanese Animations, who runs the Suginami Animation Museum, publishes the annual report and helps run the yearly Anime Japan convention alongside the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Nunokawa was the chairman from 2009 to 2014 after being vice-chairman prior.
Alongside famed animator Noriyuki Abe, the late Kazunori Mizuno and Atsushi Wakabayashi, Nunokawa set up NUROANI Juku to train new animators as well as producers, planners and directors. Nunokawa continued lecturing at the school up until his death.
To commemorate Nunokawa’s achievements in life for anime, he received the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Award in 2018 and the Japanese government Medal of Honor Blue Ribbon, one of the highest honors in Japanese society.
Studio Pierrot released a statement on Twitter where they said that the Nunokawa "will be sorely missed for his leadership, commitment and passion."
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of Yuji Nunokawa, the former Chairman and the Supreme Adviser of Pierrot.— 株式会社ぴえろ (@studiopierrot) December 26, 2022
Mr. Nunokawa passed away on December 25th.
He was 75.
He will be sorely missed for his leadership, commitment and passion.
Nunokawa’s family will hold a private funeral for the icon with close family and friends in attendance, with Pierrot to have a party in his honor at a later stage.
Sources: Nikkan Sports, Studio Pierrot on Twitter
Daryl Harding is a Senior Japan Correspondent for Crunchyroll News. He also runs a YouTube channel about Japan stuff called TheDoctorDazza, tweets at @DoctorDazza, and posts photos of his travels on Instagram.