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Kihachirō Kawamoto

Kihachirō Kawamoto at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in September 2006.
Born January 11, 1925 (1925-01-11) (age 85)
Tokyo, Japan[1]
Occupation Director of animated films
Years active 1968 – present

Kihachirō Kawamoto (川本 喜八郎 Kawamoto Kihachirō?, born January 11, 1925) is a Japanese designer and maker of puppets, a director, writer and animator of independently-made stop motion films and president of the Japan Animation Association since 1989, succeeding Osamu Tezuka.[2] Previously an illustrator and doll maker, he has collaborated with Tadasu Iizawa and trained under Tadahito Mochinaga and, later, Jiří Trnka. His most famous creations in his native Japan are the puppets he designed and made for a long-running TV series adaptation of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms; internationally he is better known for his own short films. Most of these are model animation; Tabi and Shijin no Shōgai are cutout animation and the French-language Farce anthropo-cynique is mixed media.



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 stop motion 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 his puppets 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 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.)
  • 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)[3]
  • 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)[3][4]
  • Amefutakami, in the Sky (ひさかたの天二上 Hisakata no Amefutakami?, 2006, 14 min.)[5]

Feature films

DVD releases

Short films

Title Format Region Publisher 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 Publisher 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. ^ Sharp, Jasper (2003-12-05). "Beyond anime: A brief guide to experimental Japanese animation". Midnight Eye. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  3. ^ a b Opening titles of the film in question.
  4. ^ a b "Kawamoto Kihachirō Sakuhinshū". New Animation Animation. Geneon Entertainment. 2007. Retrieved 2008-09-18. 
  5. ^ a b "Shisha no Sho". New Animation Animation. Geneon Entertainment. 2007. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 

External links


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