TOKYO – Takao Saito, who created “Golgo 13”, a manga comic book series that has sold in staggering numbers over half a century, making his murderous antihero one of Japan’s most recognizable characters and the Japanese comic book world a darker, more grown-up place passed away here on September 24. He was 84 years old.

His office said the cause was pancreatic cancer.

In tales of international intrigue and moral ambiguity, Saito’s laconic but ruthless character Golgo 13, armed with a custom M-16 that almost never misses its mark, has appeared in movies, video games, and even a self-improvement book that advised businessmen to follow his steadfast commitment to his work.

In July, “Golgo 13” became Japan’s oldest comic book series with the release of its 201st Collected Volume, an event marked by Guinness World Records. (The stories were originally published in weekly magazines.) This month, the 202nd volume was published. About 300 million volumes have been sold, according to the publisher of the series.

With stories of sex and violence set against a backdrop of contemporary geopolitics, “Golgo 13” marked a turning point for the manga industry, whose main creators had primarily made children’s comics.

Saito has become one of the main exponents of a new style of Japanese comics, known as “gekiga” or “dramatic images”, which uses cinematic techniques such as close-ups and cuts to tell the genre. of dark adult stories found in work. directors like Akira Kurosawa.

He also drew attention to his innovative (now mainstream) approach to creating comic books in the studio, an approach that effectively turned the art form into an industry, with directors overseeing teams of writers and artists. ‘artists operating on the assembly line to increase production and ensure a homogenized style.

Duke Togo’s rugged stories, as Golgo 13 was also known, won fans across Japan, including the country’s current finance minister, Taro Aso, who happily greeted the news that a character apparently drawn to his likeness had hired the assassin for a hit. .

Without Saito’s work, “we probably wouldn’t be living in a society where it’s natural for adults to read comics,” wrote Masahiro Kurata, a Japanese pop culture commentator, in a tribute.

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