Takashi Yanase, creator of the iconic Japanese cartoon, Anpanman, has died of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital early Sunday. He was 94.
A multi-talented artist, Yanase entertained both Japanese children and adults alike for decades with Anpanman, a superhero with a head made of anpan, or bread filled with red bean paste.
The round-faced and cape-clad cartoon fights his archenemy Baikinman, or “Bacteria Man,” to protect the weak. Anpanman even offers his own head for starving people.
Since first appearing in a picture book series in 1973, Anpanman grew popular outside Japan such as in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“Let’s go! Anpanman,” the 1988 television cartoon series, entered the Guinness Book of World Record in 2009 for the largest number of characters, at more than 1,700. The iconic cartoon also won the grand prize of the Japan Cartoonists Association in 1990.
The theme song of the well-loved anime series was repeatedly played in northeast Japan to uplift survivors following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, Kyodo News Agency reports.
“Mr. Yanase was the Anpanman. He embraced us gently and taught us to share,” actress Keiko Toda, who voiced Anpanman for the cartoon series, said in a statement, according to AP.
“We’ve lost a precious guiding post.”
Yanese, who also wrote poems and children’s songs, was already in his 70s when Anpanman became a hit. But the legacy of his work still proves to be long lasting.
By Maesie Bertumen