Beloved Anime Director Osamu Kobayashi died at 57 years old after battling kidney cancer for two years, according to a post on his Twitter profile.
“I regret that I still had something I wanted to do and work I wanted to make. I’m sure I’ll be reborn and make good work!” the post said (translated from Japanese). “Adios. From the eternal 23-year-old.”
小林治 57歳 昨夜
— 小林治 (@osamukoba) April 18, 2021
Kobayashi was best known as the director of cult classics BECK and Paradise Kiss, while also directing individual episodes for Naruto: Shippuden and Gurren Lagann.
Here’s everything you need to know.
1. Kobayashi Was Influenced by Hayao Miyazaki and Yoshinori Kanada Growing Up, But The Film that Inspired Him the Most was Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
In an interview with Otaku USA, Kobayashi said that Yoshinori Kanada, a legendary animator responsible for such classic shows as Galaxy Express 999 and Toward the Terra, was one of his biggest influences. Future Boy Conan, a show by Ghibli Co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, was another huge influence on Kobayashi.
He was also influenced by a number of live-action movies, such as those by Akira Kurosawa, John Ford and Howard Hawks. In fact, he said that the one film that inspired him above all others was Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
“It’s an old movie, yeah, but I cried in the theater when I saw it,” Kobayashi said.
2. Kobayashi Was Known For His Down-To-Earth Style and Love of Rock Music
Kobayashi got his start as the mechanical designer for 1988’s Dragon’s Heaven, according to Otaku USA.
One of his biggest claims to fame is BECK, a 2004 show adapted from the manga of the same name about a group of teens and their rock band. He then followed that up with Paradise Kiss, an adaptation of a women’s fashion manga.
In 2005, he created an indie music video for Artist Captain Funk for the song “Losin’ My Way”, and Kobayashi did all the animation himself. The short showcases his grungier style, making him stand out from his contemporaries.
— Catsuka (@catsuka) April 18, 2021
3. He Also Worked on Cult Classic Game Grandia
Kobayashi worked on video games as well as anime. He was in charge of the world design of the 1997 cult classic Grandia (which received an HD remaster in 2019) and even influenced the music score of the game.
“It was a role-playing game, which tend to have these kind of big, orchestral scores, but I didn’t think that was the right fit for the game,” Kobayashi said. “I pushed the composer, Noriyuki Iwadare, to have a lot of world music. Bali, kecak, bagpipes, etc.”
He said that the game’s director liked the idea so much that he okayed it for the game.
4. He Also Directed Episodes for Naruto, Lupin III and the Infamous Episode of Gurren Lagann
Kobayashi had a hand directing individual episodes in more mainstream anime shows, bringing his unmistakable style for that episode. Notable examples include episodes 480 through 483 of Naruto: Shippuden, episode 12 of Lupin III (2015), episode 15 of Dororo, episode seven of Kemonozume, episode five of Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt and episode four of Studio Gainax’s Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
Kobayashi told Otaku USA that the character designer of Gurren Lagann, Atsushi Nishigori, was also the character designer for BECK. Kobayashi expressed concern that the drawings he was doing for episode four didn’t look like what was established by Nishigori, but Nishigori was all for using Kobayashi’s designs.
I actually asked him about that when we were working on it. “Hey, are you going to change my drawings? They don’t look like your designs at all.” And he just said “It’s okay. I really want to see your drawings for this one.” That’s the truth! Some people talk bad about me, saying I’m selfish, doing it my own way, but like… that’s not really me in that episode.
The community reacted poorly to the new take on the style as it was quite a departure from the first three episodes.
The show attracted derision from some viewers on the online forum 2channel since the premiere of the first episode. Gainax Co-founder Takami Akai and Production Staffer Keiko Mimori started posting in the forum under aliases defending the show from criticism, according to Anime News Network. At one point, Akai posted that reading the comments on the show was “like putting my face next to an anus and breathing deeply.” Shortly after Akai and Mimori were found out on the forum, Akai resigned his position as board member of Gainax.
5. Fans Are Morning the Loss of Kobayashi
Fans have taken to Twitter to celebrate the legacy of Kobayashi.
RIP Osamu Kobayashi. He was not only a unique & talented director (ParaKiss, Beck, etc) but an AMAZING artist & designer. His mechanical designs for Dragon's Heaven still blow me away, I still hope it may get licensed someday so more folks can see it. pic.twitter.com/B6DOIsXjoF
— ⚡Bubblegum Midlife Crisis⚡ (@bunnycartoon) April 18, 2021
Osamu Kobayashi was one of those visionary directors that emerged in the mid-00s and had a style that really lent itself well to character-driven coming-of-age dramas like BECK and Paradise Kiss. Shame he never got to do another one like that.
— that possum who talks about old anime (@KaiserBeamz) April 18, 2021
The director of the anime adaptations of both Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad & Paradise Kiss, both strong cult classics of the 00s.
To more cynical folk, he was the guy "to blame" for Gurren Lagann Ep 4 & Dororo  Ep 15, both quickly hated for their experimental visuals.
— George J. Horvath (@LandofObscusion) April 18, 2021
57 is too young :( RIP Osamu Kobayashi, who directed BECK, Paradise Kiss, and episodes of stuff like Kemonozume and Lupin the 3rd Pt IV that _always_ stood out for their rough, expressive style. Wish he got to do more. pic.twitter.com/WnN4PAESps
— Mike Toole (@MichaelToole) April 18, 2021
RIP, Osamu Kobayashi, director of one of the greatest anime openings of all time, and also of BECK, the anime it opened for. Just a few among many accomplishments made in far too short a time. https://t.co/2XZNyJvbQ8 pic.twitter.com/VbEUPQuwjg
— Geoff (618/1000🏴☠️) (@G0ffThew) April 18, 2021