Takashi Yanase, creator of “Anpanman,” one of the most popular Japanese anime series for children, died of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital early Sunday, his agency said Tuesday. He was 94.
He had been in the hospital since late August for liver cancer, according to the publisher of the Anpanman picture books.
Yanase, a native of Kochi Prefecture, became a cartoonist after working for a newspaper company and department store operator Mitsukoshi Ltd.
The Anpanman character (whose head is made of bread and filled with red bean paste) first appeared in a children’s tale in 1969. In the stories, which later became a popular picture book series, the hero offers his own head to feed the hungry. The TV show began airing in 1988.
In his storied life, Yanase was also a poet, lyricist, magazine editor and theater director.
In 2009, 1,768 different characters that had been featured in “Soreike Anpanman,” the TV show, were recognized by Guinness World Records as the most characters in an animated series.
After the Tohoku region was devastated in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the theme song of “Soreike Anpanman” was repeatedly played in northeast Japan to cheer up the survivors.
Yanase wrote a song about the “miracle pine” in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, that survived the tsunami.
He received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette in 1991.
In 2000, he became director of the Japan Cartoonists Association and its chairman in 2012.
Anpanman museums have been established in Kami, Kochi Prefecture, where Yanase was from, as well as Yokohama, Sendai, Kobe and Kuwana, Mie Prefecture.