Momoko Sakura, creator of the much-loved "Chibi Maruko-chan" manga and anime series about a little girl called Maruko, died of breast cancer on Aug. 15, her company said Monday. She was 53.

The funeral has already been held, with only family members and close friends in attendance, the firm wrote in a statement posted on its website together with an illustration of Maruko and her friends (

Sakura, who debuted as a manga artist in 1984, started the "Chibi Maruko-chan" series in the August 1986 issue of the monthly manga magazine Ribbon.