Japanese manga legend Jiro Taniguchi dies at 69

Japanese cartoonist Jiro Taniguchi, whose death his publisher in France announced February 11, 2017, is seen at the Louvre museum in Paris in January 2015 AFP

PARIS —

Jiro Taniguchi, a legend of Japan’s comic art of manga, died in Tokyo on Saturday at the age of 69, his publisher in France, Casterman, announced.

“Casterman must sadly announce the death of Jiro Taniguchi on February 11,” the firm said on its website, expressing its deep condolences to the artist’s family.

Taniguchi achieved an international following with works such as “The Walking Man,” “The Summit of the Gods” and “The Magic Mountain”, hailed for exquisite line drawing and intricately-constructed landscapes.

Critics praised his gentle subject matter for standing in stark contrast to the usual fare of high school romance or sometimes violent pornography consumed by some of Japan’s manga fans.

In works such as “The Walking Man”, the protagonist is occupied less by any specific action as with a fascination with aspects of everyday life—the things he finds, the scenes he sees and the people he meets on his strolls through suburban neighbourhoods.

Taniguchi’s detailed landscapes populated by vaguely cartoonish characters drew comparisons in the West with some of the better-known European comic heroes, such as Tintin.

Born in 1947 to a modest family in the city of Tottori, Taniguchi had his first cartoon published in 1970.

He became especially popular in France, one of the biggest markets for graphic art, and in 2015 the annual cartoon festival in the French city of Angouleme held a retrospective of his work.

Taniguchi was “extraordinarily kind and gentle,” Casterman said.

“The humanism that imbued all his work is familiar to his readers, but the man himself was much less well-known, naturally reserved in character and more inclined to let his work speak on his behalf.”

His panels were painstakingly hand-drawn, using paper, pen, and a craft knife.

“I do not use a computer because I don’t know how, I don’t have that skill,” he told AFP in an interview in Tokyo in 2012.

“I don’t know why I am also known outside Japan. Perhaps it is because my work is similar to Western comics, which I’ve followed for 30 years and they have influenced my subconscious,” he said.

He was deeply affected by Japan’s devastating 2011 tsunami and nuclear accident at Fukushima and even considered abandoning his work as useless in the face of such destruction.

But he said he drew inspiration from how his fellow Japanese people dealt with the aftermath of the disaster and carried on.

“I continued thanks to my readers, thanks to the voice of the survivors that made me realise that they still wanted to read my work,” he said.

© 2017 AFP

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