The Japanese manga artist and creator of the cartoon character Chibi Maruko-chan has died. Momoko Sakura was 53 years old. She died of breast cancer on August 15th, signaling for many the end of an era.
The Chibi Maruko-chan television series is known around the world. Sakura started drawing the original comic book version two years after her debut as a manga artist in 1984. She modeled the character after herself as a child. In an NHK interview in 1997, she spoke about her inspiration for the stories.
She said she was just 3-and-a-half years old when she started drawing little girl characters similar to her heroine. She said some of little Maruko’s classmates, like Hamaji, are based on real childhood friends. She said thinking about what the character Nagasawa might say, she would only have to ask herself what she would like to hear least.
A major Japanese television company launched the animated version of the series in 1990. Nearly 30 years later, the program is still one of the most popular in Japan.
Sakura also wrote the lyrics for the show’s theme song, which became a hit. Her essays about daily life and memories of childhood were also big sellers.
Mourners Around the World
Fans in Japan are not the only ones mourning Sakura’s passing. The Chibi Maruko-chan television series has aired in 60 countries and regions, including China. Visitors to a museum in Shanghai spoke lovingly about the program.
“It was so much fun to watch Chibi Maruko-chan and her grandfather playing together,” said one. “Everyone knows the series. It’s a great loss,” said another.
Media in Taiwan also reported on Sakura’s passing. Her Chibi Maruko-chan series was made into a popular live-action drama there. Reports said it had a devoted following, equal to its popularity in Japan.
Taiwanese fans even coined the phrase “3 lines on the face” to express shock or disappointment, mimicking the dark lines Sakura drew on little Maruko’s face to express the same.
The animated series built a strong following in Hong Kong when a dubbed version was aired in the 1990s. Obituaries of Sakura in the local press said her Maruko-chan character was well-received across Asia. Fans have been posting expressions of gratitude to Sakura online, saying her stories were always entertaining.
Fans in the Middle East are also mourning the manga artist’s passing. The series is translated into Arabic under the title “Maruko Saghira,” with a theme song from the region.
A Palestinian fan said on twitter that Maruko was the best childhood animation. A fan from Egypt posted a teary-eyed emoji and expression of thanks.
Source: NHK World – https://www3.nhk.or.jp