Manga artist Shigeru Mizuki’s global following has been making itself felt since his death Monday.
Mizuki, whose real name was Shigeru Mura, was best known in Japan for his “GeGeGe no Kitaro” series depicting yokai, the spirits and monsters of traditional folklore.
In an online article Monday, the French daily newspaper Liberation described Mizuki as “one of the founding fathers of modern manga.”
It added: “His work is an ode to the yokai, mysterious creatures as much farcical as harmful who populate Japanese folklore.”
In 2007, Mizuki’s “NonNonBa,” which relates his childhood and details his interest in spirit monsters under the influence of a grandmother figure called NonNonBa, won the Best Comic Book Award at the Angouleme International Comics Festival in France.
The award gained him recognition in France and guaranteed commercial success with French-language publications of his works, including “GeGeGe no Kitaro” and “Illustrated guide to Yokai Monsters.”
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Mizuki owed his fame among Koreans to his stories depicting Japanese folk monsters that “correct the absurdity of the human world.”
The news agency said Mizuki’s “Soin Gyokusai Seyo!” (“Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths”) is one of South Korea’s most popular manga. The 1973 story is a semi-autobiographical account of his experiences during the war, in which he lost his left arm in battle and caught malaria.
But although renowned overseas for his graphic art, Mizuki also became known at home for reaching out to those around him. He donated some of his works to the victims of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region.
In 2010, he published a manga version of Kunio Yanagita’s “Tono Tales,” a collection of local legends, under the title “Mizuki Shigeru Tono Monogatari” (“Shigeru Mizuki’s Tono Tales”). Tono is a city in disaster-struck Iwate Prefecture.
A character that appears in the series with the name Mr. Mizuki reflects on his affection for the local culture.
“I’m sure I’ve already been here, in my previous life,” one line reads.
In summer 2011, Tono became a hub for disaster relief in support of residents displaced from their homes on the Iwate coast who were seeking relocation to temporary housing units in neighboring cities.
Mizuki sent several cardboard boxes containing comics such as “Kappa no Sanpei” (“Sanpei the Kappa”) to a Tono public library that was supporting evacuees through the donation of books. He included a note asking that they be accepted for distribution.
The books were sent with an illustrated message that read: “Stay strong, Tono.”
“I thought he was such a kind person as he didn’t forget about Tono,” said the library’s Saori Maekawa, 45, who oversaw Mizuki’s donation.
A former worker with the Tono Municipal Government, Susumu Ogasawara, 58, who showed Mizuki around the locations mentioned in “Tono Tales” in 2008, spoke of the artist’s passion and the interest he showed in the city.
“Tono seems familiar to me,” Ogasawara recalled Mizuki as saying as he caressed stone monuments and tried to assign the sensation to memory.
“He seemed to be connected with Tono,” Ogasawara said, recalling how Mizuki enjoyed a folk dance performance at a local festival.
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