Kazuki Takahashi, creator of the “Yu-Gi-Oh!” manga comic and trading card game, has apparently died while snorkeling in southwestern Japan, the Coast Guard said on Friday.
The body of Takahashi, 60, was found about 330 meters off the coast of Okinawa on Wednesday by a person who runs a marine leisure shop, an official at Nago Station told the Naha Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard and Fire Department used boats and watercraft and found the body face down and wearing a snorkel mask. According to the Coast Guard official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, he may have been dead for a day or two as his job did not allow him to be named.
The body showed signs of being attacked by a marine animal, possibly sharks, but the cause of death is still under investigation, the official said.
Takahashi was identified after police in another part of Okinawa contacted the Coast Guard Thursday and said a rental car was found abandoned on a beach. The car had a driver’s license confirming the identity. Takahashi’s real first name was Kazuo. His family has been contacted and identified, the Coast Guard official said.
“Yu-Gi-Oh!” debuted in Shonen Jump magazine in 1996, became a hit and sold more than 40 million copies as a manga, although the number of cards in the world is far greater, in the billions.
The official deck went on sale in 1999. A TV show and video games as well as figures and toys were also part of the franchise.
Mourning broke out on social media.
Eric Stuart, the American actor who did the animation’s voiceover, said he was saddened by the news.
“An incredibly talented man. Sensei created a role that would help define my career as a voice actor,” Stuart said on Twitterusing the Japanese word for “teacher”.
Fans all over the world have posted their cards and manga images online. Some commented that this sparked their interest in Japan. People remembered how the maps helped them make their first friends.
“We are deeply grateful for the wonderful ‘Yu-Gi-Oh!’ universe he created and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time,” the London-based YuGiOhNews account said on Twitter and on its official website.
Georgia’s Ambassador to Japan Teimuraz Lezhava said “Yu-Gi-Oh!” conjured up a world of its own.
“I will never forget the excitement of playing the game,” he said on his official Japanese Twitter.
Takahashi’s work had children and the young at heart collecting the cards, decorated with mechanical monsters and spell-like creatures, with a frenzy. The prices of some skyrocketed during the fad’s peak.
When a “Yu-Gi-Oh!” was played at a Tokyo ballpark in 1999, so many children and parents came to buy the tickets that the game maker Konami, the organizer, had to call in riot police.
“Yu-Gi-Oh!” is played by two people facing each other and laying down cards with different powers from their deck to try to defeat the other. Each player starts with 8,000 “life points,” which are chiseled away when your cards lose.
The main character is a doe-eyed boy with spiky blond hair named Yugi Muto, a card game expert. “Yu-Gi-Oh” means “king of games”.
The more expensive cards, the ones literally glittering, are powerful in the game and are labeled “super rare” and “secret rare.” But they weren’t that easy to find, so people bought more packs or boxes of cards.
The success of Yu-Gi-Oh! in the west was similar to other Japanese animation and game works like Pokemon.