Sonny Chiba was one of the few remaining actors in the martial arts genre who could rightly be called old school, despite the fact that in another ten years or so those that we’ve been watching for decades will have earned that distinction if they haven’t already. But at the age of 82, Sonny passed away recently due to complications from pneumonia brought on by COVID-19. A lot of us can probably say we’re tired of typing anything that has COVID or coronavirus in it these days, but sadly it’s not bound to stop until the virus has been dealt with or until people have found a way to keep from getting sick. Until that happens, it’s likely that we’ll be writing these words now and again, though each time a person passes away it’s fair to state that it won’t always be from COVID. Born in 1939, Sonny lived a long and prosperous life as an actor and a practitioner of martial arts. After a while, his name became one of those that people would nearly whisper once they saw him in a movie, as he became a welcome legend with many fans.
His reputation started to grow when he was still fairly young and didn’t really fade throughout the years even if his bigger roles did. He was still the guy that people noted with widened eyes whenever he showed up, and it was always a lot of fun to see him acting on screen since his manner and his methods were always great. One of his greatest roles that occurred many years ago was that of Hattori Honso, a minor but still great character in Kill Bill vol. 1 that had several memorable lines and was great for his role. This was the greatness of Sonny though, he fits pretty much wherever he needed to, and was a lot of fun to watch in the process.
It’s not entirely possible to be unimpressed by Sonny’s career since looking down the line of movies he was a part of is bound to take a minute considering how prolific he really was. For decades he was one of the busiest men around when it came to the movies and while a lot of his movies in the last two decades or more went directly to video it was still enough that he was revered as one of the greatest names out there. That kind of reputation isn’t given lightly by the fans no matter that there’s typically a flavor of the month actor out there whenever someone shows a spark or a little bit of brilliance. What makes a person last in the business comes when they show what they can do and that they can keep doing it on a regular basis. Some might be able to ask who Sonny Chiba was with all honesty simply because they weren’t into the same scene that his fans have been for so long, but after watching him just a couple of times there’s no doubt that he earned the respect he was given and more. One doesn’t become a legend in the entertainment industry for absolutely no reason. Anyone can become a spectacle and remain that way, but legends are those that are both revered and loved for everything they’ve given to their craft.
There really aren’t enough words for how much respect Sonny gained over the course of his career, and while it’s saddening to hear that he’s passed it’s still thankful that he was here in the first place to spread so much joy and entertainment to so many. Going back over his movies and watching as many as one can would not be a waste of time since it would be a study of how great this individual was in what he did and what he enjoyed. It’s been another year in which many of the people that we’ve enjoyed watching and hearing about over the years have passed on, and it will likely continue since each generation of celebrities are getting older and older as time passes on, and it’s admittedly difficult to lose many of them. But this is life, and Sonny lived it for quite a while and did many great things in his time.
It won’t ever be easy to lose any big celebrity that people have grown used to over the years, and in truth, it will only get harder as time goes by. But the best thing to do is to look back on the lives these people led and enjoy what they left behind for the fans to remember them by. The way to true immortality after all is through the memories that are left, and Sonny Chiba left us quite a few that we can pore through and watch when we want. Rest in peace sir, you’ll be missed.COVID-19
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