It has been reported in Japanese media that Yuji Nunokawa, the founder of Studio Pierrot, passed away suddenly on December 25, 2022. He was 75 years old at the time of his passing.
Nunokawa started in the anime industry in a company that was a subcontractor for TCJ, which is now Eiken, as a colorist. His first credit as an animator was for Space Boy Soran. This was then followed with a key animator credit 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. During his time with Tatsunoko, Nunokawa became a director on the Time Bokan! anime.
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 such anime as the original Urusei Yatsura, Naruto, Yu Yu Hakusho, Tokyo Mew Mew, GTO, Bleach, Kimagure Orange Road and was also the lead on Creamy Mami.
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 2000’s, 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 previously serving as the vice-chairman.
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.