Fist of the North Star Fist of the North Star

Masami Suda, who lent his graphic talents to a vast range of anime classics, died of cancer on August 1. He was 77.

A versatile animator and character designer, Suda worked on everything from basketball series Slam Dunk to post-apocalyptic action drama Fist of the North Star. His career, which spanned half a century, chiefly lay in animation and animation direction, but his designs — often of strong, macho characters — constitute some of his most distinctive work.

Born on September 16, 1943 in Saitama, Suda grew up harboring ambitions to work in graphic design. Instead, he was encouraged to enter the animation industry, where he found a job at Tatsunoko Production. He swiftly became a lynchpin of the young studio, animating on series like Speed Racer and The Genie Family.

Yet it wasn’t until he worked on Science Ninja Team Gatchaman in the early 1970s that Suda came to see the “joy and freedom” in animation, as he would later tell in speaking appearances. He oversaw the opening sequence of the epochal series’ second season, and did the same on many other shows.

From the 1970s, Suda worked with some of Japan’s most important studios, including Toei Animation and A Production (later Shin-Ei Animation). His most iconic project was probably Toei’s Fist of the North Star (1984–87), on which he served as animation director and character designer; the series earned him renown abroad as well as at home. His vast list of credits also includes Sakigake!! Otokojuku, Yu-Gi-Oh!, several Dragon Ball Z films, and more recently character design on the hit series Yo-kai Watch.

Throughout, Suda followed a work regime at odds with anime’s image. Strenuous work on Gatchaman resulted in heart problems and a brush with death. After that, Suda vowed to avoid the overwork that commonly afflicts artists in the industry. He took up sports and did his best to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

In his later years, Suda found the time to pursue other artistic interests, like sumi-e ink painting. He fell ill around a year ago. His death was mourned by artists and fans in Japan and abroad. Rumiko Tezuka, daughter of Osamu and director of Tezuka Productions, wrote in a tweet: “For this creator of works and characters that will be passed down and loved through the generations, my heartfelt respect and condolences.”

Image at top: “Fist of the North Star”

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Deputy Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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