TOKYO — Takashi Yanase, creator of one of Japan’s most beloved cartoon characters, Anpanman, has died of heart failure, his studio said Tuesday. He was 94.
Mr. Yanase died at a Tokyo hospital early Sunday, his studio said. He had been treated for liver cancer since August.
Anpanman is a superhero with a head made of anpan, or bread filled with red bean paste, a typical snack in Japan. In the cartoon, the round-faced, smiley hero, clad in a red suit and long cape, fights his archrival Baikinman, or a germ man, while rescuing the weak.
The self-sacrificial hero, who even allowed starving people to bite into his head, rose to stardom in Japan in a picture book series that started in 1973. The Anpanman television cartoon series started in 1988 and has spread across Asia.
The cartoon series, ‘‘Let’s go! Anpanman,’’ entered the Guinness World Records in 2009 for the largest number of characters at more than 1,700.
A former graphic designer, Mr. Yanase debuted as a cartoonist and served as lecturer on a ‘‘manga school’’ quiz show on Japan’s NHK television.
‘‘Mr. Yanase was the Anpanman. He embraced us gently and taught us to share,’’ said actress Keiko Toda, whose voice was used for Anpanman’s character on the television show. ‘‘We’ve lost a precious guiding post.’’
Makoto Amano, an official at the publishing agent, said Mr. Yanase had briefly retired before the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disasters hit Japan, but he returned to work after learning that an Anpanman theme song was cheering up residents in the disaster-hit region, Kyodo News agency said. On Saturday, he was still discussing ideas with his staff about an upcoming Anpanman film set for release next year, Kyodo said.
Mr. Yanase, known for his pacifist messages, also wrote poems and lyrics for children’s songs.