Japan mourns cartoonist

2009-09-21 12:25

Tokyo - Tributes poured in on Monday for Japanese cartoonist Yoshito Usui after confirmation the bruised body of a man found on a mountain was that of the creator of the popular Crayon Shin-chan series.

Usui, 51, who was popular worldwide among manga enthusiasts, went missing on September 11 after he went hiking on his own on a mountain range straddling Gunma and Nagano prefectures, north of Tokyo.

A body was found on Saturday by a fellow hiker and Usui's family late on Sunday confirmed it was Usui, a recluse who was married with two daughters.

The indications are he fell and there was no suggestion of suicide, police and reports said.

His death dampened celebration on Monday on the Respect for the Aged holiday in Kasukabe, a suburban city outside Tokyo which has become well-known nationally as the place where the cartoonist lived and set the Crayon Shin-chan story.


"I'm deeply depressed to hear the unfortunate news. I pray his soul rest in peace with citizens here," said Kasukabe Mayor Ryozo Ishikawa.

"I saw many sorrowful citizens today as Shin-chan is definitely a Kasukabe kid. We hope 'Shin-chan', a byword for cheerfulness, will keep staying here with his family," he said.

Usui made his debut as a manga author in 1987 and sprang to prominence in the 1990s with Crayon Shin-chan, which features the daily life of Shinnosuke, a mischievous five-year-old boy.

The series ran regularly in a magazine and later was made into a book and animation version.

"We had been praying for Mr Usui's safety with his family, but now feel the utmost regret over how things have turned out. We are in a big shock," Futabasha, the publishing house of Crayon Shin-chan, said in a statement.

A Futabasha official said the last picture on the broken digital camera found near Usui's body was one peering down a steep cliff.

"As he was full of curiosity, we think he fell off at the moment he took the picture," the official told reporters.

Indecent jokes

The cartoon books, which have sold 50 million copies in Japan alone, have been translated in 14 countries, while its animation version has been aired in 30 countries.

Shinnosuke embarrasses his parents and kindergarten teachers as he often pulls down his trousers and shakes his hips while cracking indecent jokes.

The behaviour prompted parents-teachers' associations in Japan to list the animation as a production they wanted to keep out of children's view.

But the character has more recently been used in educational materials.