Very sad news out of Japan as the body of manga-ka Yoshito Usui was found over the weekend. Usui, 51, had left the house on September 11th, telling his family he was going hiking on Mt. Arafune. When he did not return by nightfall, his wife alerted the police. Over the past weekend a body matching Usui’s description was found at the base of a cliff, and family members and dental records ID’d the body. Usui is believed to have fallen off a steep part of the trail.
Usui was the creator of Crayon Shin-Chan, an extremely popular manga that sold 25 million copies of its first volume in Japan, and has been translated into dozens of languages and spawned an equally popular cartoon. Often called the “Bart Simpson of Japan”, the strip concerns five-year-old Shin Nohara and his uncensored behavior which drives his parents to tears at times. Usui’s art is in the simpler, more underground style of manga, and while the stories are often crude — one of Shin’s most notorious pranks involves drawing an elephant around his penis — they have universal verve and biting humor that has successfully survived translation — it has many of the same virtues (although the content is very different) as other great darkly humorous kid’s comics like Little Lulu and the work of Toriyama.
Crayon Shin-Chan is currently being published by CMX, and the cartoon aired on Adult Swim for a while (with dialoging by Evan Dorkin, no less!) Although it’s a cult strip here in the US, in some parts of Europe it’s extremely popular — it’s so well-known in Spain that Usui created a special episode where Shin-chan goes to Barcelona.
ANN reports that two more episodes of the strip which Usui finished before his death await publication. New episodes of the anime were also set to air in October, but their timing is being discussed.