‘Dragon Ball’ Music Composer, Shunsuke Kikuchi, Dead at 89

Goku in an episode of Dragon Ball Z

Source: Toei Animation/Hulu

Over the course of more than 50 years, Kikuchi shaped the sounds to some of Japan’s most celebrated titles.

Shunsuke Kikuchi, the prolific Japanese composer who scored countless beloved anime series and films, has died. He was 89-years-old.

According to Japanese music publication, Oricon, Kikuchi died in a Tokyo medical facility on Saturday while receiving treatment for aspirational pneumonia. Kikuchi began a storied run composing for TV and film projects in 1961 and by the end of the decade had become one of Japan’s most in-demand music directors. Over the course of his career, Kikuchi wrote the music for a number of popular anime series and live-action television shows, including Abarenbo Shogun (800 episodes over 30 years,) Doraemon (26 years on the air,) and Kamen Rider, Key Hunter, and G-Men ’75. 

In 1986, Kikuchi joined the anime adaptation of Akira Toriyama’s smash Dragon Ball mangaHe stayed on for both the insanely popular sequel, Dragon Ball Z, and remastered the music for the cleaned and re-edited version of the series, Dragon Ball Z Kai. In 2004, Quentin Tarantino include Kikuchi’s song, “Urami Bushi,” on the soundtrack to Kill Bill Vol. 2, as an homage to the Japanese maestro.

Kikuchi cited illness when he stepped away from music in 2017, concluding a 50-plus-year period of shaping the sounds to some of Japan’s most revered titles. Kikuchi was also one of Japan’s most decorated composers, earning both the Award of Merit at the 2013 Tokyo Anime Awards and a lifetime achievement honor at the 2015 Japan Record Awards.

Hear some of Shunsuke Kikuchi’s most celebrated compositions below.

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