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Kihachirō Kawamoto (川本 喜八郎 Kawamoto Kihachirō?, January 11, 1925 – August 23, 2010)[2] was a Japanese designer and maker of puppets, an animator, writer and director of independently-made stop motion films and president of the Japan Animation Association, succeeding founder Osamu Tezuka, from 1989[6] until his own death. He is best-remembered in Japan as designer of the puppets for the long-running NHK live action television series of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms in the early 1980s and The Tale of the Heike in the 1990s but better-known internationally for his own animated short films, the majority of which are model animation but which also include the cutout animation Tabi and Shijin no Shōgai and mixed media, French-language Farce anthropo-cynique.

Since beginning his career in his early twenties as a production design assistant under So Matsuyama[7] in the art department of Toho in 1946[2], he met Tadasu Iizawa and left the film studio in 1950 to collaborate with him on illustrating children's literature with Photographs of dolls in dioramas, many of which have been republished in English editions by such American publishers as Grosset & Dunlap and Western Publishing's Golden Books imprint,[7] and trained in the art of stop motion filmmaking under Tadahito Mochinaga and, later, Jiří Trnka. He is also closely associated with Tadanari Okamoto, another independent with whom he collaborated in booking private halls in which to show their films to the public as the "Puppet Animashow" in the 1970s and whose last film, The Restaurant of Many Orders (注文の多い料理店 Chūmon no Ōi Ryōriten?, 1991) was completed under Kawamoto following Okamoto's death during its production.


Born in 1925, from an early age Kawamoto was captivated by the art of doll and puppet making. After seeing the works of maestro Czech animator Jiří Trnka, he first became interested in stop motion puppet animation and during the '50s began working alongside Japan's first puppet animator, the legendary Tadahito Mochinaga. In 1958, he co-founded Shiba Productions to make commercial animation for television, but it was not until 1963, when he traveled to Prague to study puppet animation under Jiří Trnka for a year, that he considered his puppets to have truly began to take on a life of their own. Trnka encouraged Kawamoto to draw on his own country's rich cultural heritage in his work, and so Kawamoto returned from Czechoslovakia to make a series of highly individual, independently-produced artistic short works, beginning with Breaking of Branches is Forbidden (Hana-Ori) in 1968. Heavily influence by the traditional aesthetics of , Bunraku-style puppetry and kabuki, since the '70s his haunting puppet animations such as The Demon (Oni, 1972), Dōjōji Temple (Dōjōji, 1976) and House of Flame (Kataku, 1979) have won numerous prizes internationally. He has also produced cut-out (kirigami) animations such as Travel (Tabi, 1973) and A Poet's Life (Shijin no Shogai, 1974). In 1990 he returned to Trnka's studios in Prague to make Briar Rose, or The Sleeping Beauty. In Japan, he is best known for designing the puppets used in the long-running TV series based on the Chinese literary classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sangokushi, 1982–84), and later for The Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari, 1993–94). In 2003, he was responsible for overseeing the Winter Days (Fuyu no Hi) project, in which 35 of the world's top animators each worked on a two-minute segment inspired by the renka couplets of celebrated poet Matsuo Bashō. The Book of the Dead (Shisha no Sho) is Kawamoto's second feature length stop motion puppet animation, after Rennyo and His Mother (Rennyo to Sono Haha) in 1981. It had its world premiere as a part of a Special Retrospective Tribute at the 40th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (July 1–9, 2005, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic).


Short films

  • Breaking of Branches is Forbidden (花折り Hana-Ori?, 1968, 14 min.)
  • Anthropo-Cynical Farce (Farce anthropo-cynique, 1970, 8 min., from a story by Riichi Yokomitsu)
  • The Demon ( Oni?, 1972, 8 min.)
  • Travel ( Tabi?, 1973, 12 min.)
  • A Poet's Life (詩人の生涯 Shijin no Shōgai?, 1974, 19 min., from a story by Kōbō Abe)
  • Dōjōji (道成寺?, 1976, 19 min., from the play of the same name)
  • House of Flame (火宅 Kataku?, 1979, 19 min.)
  • Self-Portrait (セルフポートレート Serufu-Pōtorēto?, 1988, 1 min., part of a multi-artist ASIFA project of animated self-portraits by animators)[8]
  • To Shoot without Shooting (不射之射 Fusha no Sha?, 1988, 25 min., from a story by Atsushi Nakajima; coproduction with People's Republic of China made at Shanghai Animation Film Studio)[9]
  • Briar-Rose or The Sleeping Beauty (いばら姫またはねむり姫 Ibara-Hime matawa Nemuri-Hime?, 1990, 22 min., from a concept by Kyōko Kishida; coproduction with Czechoslovakia made at Jiří Trnka Studio)[9][10]
  • Amefutakami, in the Sky (ひさかたの天二上 Hisakata no Amefutakami?, 2006, 14 min.)[11]

Feature films

  • Rennyo and His Mother (蓮如とその母 Rennyo to Sono Haha?, 1981, 93 min., live action)[10][12]
  • Winter Days (冬の日 Fuyu no Hi?, 2003, 40 min.)
  • The Book of the Dead (死者の書 Shisha no Sho?, 2005, 70 min., from a novel by Shinobu Orikuchi)[11]

DVD releases

Short films

Title Format Region Distributor Series Date Catalogue # Subtitles
Kihachiro Kawamoto Film Works (川本喜八郎作品集 Kawamoto Kihachirō Sakuhinshū?) NTSC All Pioneer Corporation New Animation Animation 2002.7.10 PIBA-3032 English, Japanese
Kihachiro Kawamoto Film Works (川本喜八郎作品集 Kawamoto Kihachirō Sakuhinshū?) NTSC All Geneon New Animation Animation 2007.1.25 GNBA-3034 English, Japanese
The Exquisite Short Films of Kihachiro Kawamoto NTSC 1 Kino International The KimStim Collection 2008.4.22 KV623DVD English

Winter Days

See Winter Days.

The Book of the Dead

Title Format Region Distributor Series Date Catalogue # Subtitles
The Book of the Dead (死者の書 Shisha no Sho?) NTSC 2 Geneon New Animation Animation 2007.10.24 GNBA-3062 None
The Book of the Dead NTSC 1 Kino International The KimStim Collection 2008.4.22 KV613DVD English


  1. "Kihachiro Kawamoto". Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 EDT (26 August 2010). "Puppet master/animator Kihachirō Kawamoto passes away". Anime News Network. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  3. "Iida City Kawamoto Kihachirō Puppet Museum". Iida City Kawamoto Kihachirō Puppet Museum. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  4. Furukawa, Taku. "Introduction". Japan Animation Association. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  5. "Puppet animation producer Kihachirō Kawamoto dies". The Big Cartoon Forum. The Big Cartoon DataBase. 28 August 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  6. Sharp, Jasper (2003-12-05). "Beyond anime: A brief guide to experimental Japanese animation". Midnight Eye. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hotes, Catherine Munroe (27 August 2010). "The passing of a puppet master: Kihachirō Kawamoto (1925–2010)". Nishikata Film Review. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  8. Hotes, Catherine Munroe (20 February 2010). "Kihachirō Kawamoto: Self Portrait (1988)". Nishikata Film Review. Retrieved 27 August 2010. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Opening titles of the film in question.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Kawamoto Kihachirō Sakuhinshū". New Animation Animation. Geneon Entertainment. 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Shisha no Sho". New Animation Animation. Geneon Entertainment. 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  12. Ettinger, Benjamin (11 September 2010). "Kihachirō Kawamoto: An appreciation". AniPages Daily. Retrieved 12 September 2010. 

External links