Ippei Kuri Ippei Kuri

Ippei Kuri, artist, producer, director, co-founder, and former president of animation studio Tatsunoko Production, passed away on July 1. He was 83.

Born Toyoharu Yoshida in Kyoto, Japan on January 1, 1940, Kuri was the youngest of three successful artist brothers. At 18, he dropped out of school and moved to Tokyo where he began working as a manga artist with his older siblings Kenji and Tatsuo Yoshida.

The older brothers had already found success in the field, and it didn’t take long for Kuri to make his own mark on the art form with titles such as Mach Sanshirō (a Speed Racer spiritual predecessor), Messenger of Allah, and Judo Boy. Kuri’s style was heavily influenced by American superhero comics he read as a child which had been left behind by U.S. troops during and after World War II.

After several fruitful years working in Manga, the three brothers launched the animation studio Tatsunoko Productions in October 1962. Early productions at the studio tended to be based on the brothers’ manga properties such as Space Ace and Speed Racer.

In 1977, Kuri was appointed as managing director at Anime Friend, a subsidiary of Tatsunoko. When his brother Kenji retired in 1987, Kuri took his place and became the third president of the studio.

During his time at Tatsunoko and Anime Friend, Kuri contributed as a writer, producer, character designer, and director on many of the company’s most iconic and enduring properties such as Speed Racer, Gatchaman, Space Knight Tekkaman, and more. He also directed animation for a significant number of episodes of the classic 1985 series Robotech, produced by Harmony Gold USA in association with Tatsunoko, which produced all the series’ original animation.

Kuri served as Tatsunoko president for nearly 20 years, stepping down when the company was acquired by toy manufacturer Takara in 2005. Although his involvement with the studio waned heavily after the acquisition, Kuri stayed plugged into the anime world. In 2005 he was honored with a lifetime achievement award at Animation Kobe and he spent years speaking at events and serving as a guest professor at the Kyoto University of Arts and Crafts. From 2012-2014, he kept a blog where he would post pictures of his artwork and his public appearances.

Announcing Kuri’s passing on the Tatsunoko website, Tatsunoko representative director Hibiki Ito, “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the deceased for his kindness during his lifetime.”

The Yoshida brothers’ impact on the Japanese animation industry is hard to overstate. The work done by Kuri and his siblings and Tatsunoko has stood the test of time and helped define several generations of the art form.

Pictured at top: Speed Racer, Ippei Kuri (taken from his blog), Robotech

Edit: The quote from the Tatsunoko website was incorrectly attributed to Kuri’s brother, and we have updated it to indicate that it was shared by Tatsunoko representative director Hibiki Ito.

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