Unsho Ishizuka, a voice actor most known for his role as Professor Oak in the Pokemon TV series, passed away on Monday, August 13. Ishizuka voiced the iconic character in the original Japanese anime that began airing in 1997. In addition to his role as the Professor, he also provided narration to the show in his distinct, deep voice.
Ishizuka was born in Katsuyama, Japan in May of 1951. He started his artistic career as a theater director in his home province. By the 1980s, he was a well-known and respected actor. He had a prolific career in anime that spanned over 20 years. Outside of his work on Pokemon, two of his most famous roles were that of Jet Black in Cowboy Bebop and Joseph Joestar in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Just this year, he lent his voice to Banana Fish as Dino Golzine and narrated Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online, to name a few.
News of his passing (via Kotaku) officially came courtesy of his agency, Aoni Production, on Friday. He'd been fighting esophageal cancer, and lost the battle to the disease after months of treatment. He was 67-years-old. His relatives reportedly held a private funeral, but there are currently undisclosed plans for a public ceremony to take place in the future.
Many artists and creators have shared their respect for Ishizuka's work. This includes Hidetaka Tenjin, an animator for the popular Macross series, in which Ishizuka acted. Ishizuka's work wasn't restricted to the world of TV by any means though, as he also provided voices for numerous video game characters. Ishizuka voiced Ryotaro Dojima in Persona 4 and Steve Armstrong in Metal Gear Rising: Revengence, among others. After the passing of fellow voice actor Daisuke Gori, he also took on the roles of Mr. Satan in Dragon Ball Super and Heihachi Mishima in the Tekken series.
His strong baritone also landed him several roles dubbing Japanese translations of English films. Ishizuka helped Eastern audiences learn a "special set of skills" by providing the voice for Liam Neeson in the Taken trilogy, Non-Stop, and more recent action films. He also dubbed Laurence Fishburne in Mission Impossible III, Man of Steel, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Ishizuka was a talented actor with over 200 credits to his name. He inspired millions of young Pokemon fans to fill their Pokedexes, and discover all the world had to offer.
Rest In Peace Unsho Ishizuka: May 16, 1951 - August 13, 2018