The widely influential manga artist leaves behind a legacy cemented by his multimedia franchise’s global reach.
Kazuki Takahashi, creator of the iconic Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, was found dead off the coast of Nago in southern Japan. Since the Japanese coast guard recovered his body Wednesday, an investigation into his death has been ongoing. He was 60 years old.
According to reports from Japanese outlets NHK and TBS, Takahashi was on snorkeling expedition in Okinawa Prefecture leading up to his death. (He was found in a t-shirt, underwater mask, and snorkel, with swimming fins.)
Takahashi’s illustrious career as a manga artist began in the early 1980s. His early published works - including 1990’s Fighting Hawk and 1992’s Tennenshoku Danji Buray - had rather lukewarm reception, but in 1996, he struck gold with the release of his Yu-Gi-Oh! Manga, which was first featured in the weekly comics anthology Shonen Jump before snowballing into a bonafide franchise.
The story of Yu-Gi-Oh! draws from Takahashi’s love of card games and board games, as it follows a teenaged gamer, Yugi, who becomes possessed by a strange Egyptian relic known as the Millennium Puzzle. Taking on the alias of Yu-Gi-Oh, King of Games, the young hero faces off against seedy villains in perilous duels called Shadow Games.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga ran until 2004, and spawned anime TV series, feature films, collectible trading card games, and other wildly popular properties along the way. In 2011, the series set the Guinness World Record for best-selling trading card game, to the tune of 35 billion-plus cards and $9.6 billion-plus in profits.
In 2015, Takahashi received Comic-Con International’s Inkpot Award, for his impact on the art of comics. Introduced in 1974, the award has been presented annually to numerous titans of the arts and entertainment industry, including Ray Bradbury, Ted “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, Frank Capra, Steven Spielberg, Jim Henson, Stan Lee, Charles Schulz, Todd McFarlane, and more.