Takashi Yanase, creator of the coveted Japanese cartoon character, Anpanman, died early Sunday. Yanase, 94, had been undergoing liver cancer treatment since August. He passed away due to heart failure at a Tokyo hospital. His studio broke the news today, posting a simple, "R.I.P." on Facebook.
Yanase took a Japanese snack called anpan, bread filled with bean paste, and turned it into the beloved superhero Anpanman. He battled the villain Baikinman (meaning germ man) to rescue those in need. Anpanman was not averse to self-sacrifice, allowing those who were starving to feast on his doughy head.
After the devastating March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters, Anpanman brought cheer to Japanese residents and Yanase, who had briefly retired before the blights, was compelled to return to work.
The voice of Anpanman, actress Keiko Toda, says of Yanase, "Mr. Yanase was the Anpanman. He embraced us gently and taught us to share. We've lost a precious guiding post."
As a rotund, jovial, defender of the weak, Anpanman sports a red suit, a cape and a smiley face on his chest. He got his start in a picture book series dating from 1973 and graduated to a television cartoon series, Let's Go! Anpanman, in 1988. His popularity has spread throughout Asia and beyond, allowing the book series to reach 68 million copies over 30 years.
Anpanman even has an entry in the Guinness World Records for the largest number of characters (over 1,700) in a TV series, in 2009. The series still holds a prime place on Friday afternoon programming.
Yanase started as a graphic designer. He penned poems and children's songs, ending his monthly poem this month with, "It's October as usual. I'm doing fine, so please feel at ease." Yanase was known for his peace-loving messaging. He served as the head of the Japan Cartoonists Association until last year, when he chose to retire the 12-year post.
[Images via Anpanman Official Facebook.]