One of the industry’s most influential creators battled health issues nearly his entire life.

A posthumous update to the official website of Izumi Matsumoto, creator of manga/anime franchise Kimagure Orange Road, has announced that the artist and writer has passed away. He was 61 years old.

While the initial hook of Kimagure Orange Road is that protagonist Kyosuke is a high school student with supernatural powers such as teleportation, telekinesis, and time travel, the real appeal of the series is the relationship between Kyosuke, his aloof yet alluring classmate Madoka, and Hikaru, Madoka’s childhood friend and Kyosuke’s ostensible girlfriend. As one of the earliest and most fleshed-out examples of anime’s tsundere archetype, coming at a time before the trope evolved into the self-parody levels so commonly seen today, Madoka remains one of manga/anime’s most compelling and influential characters.

Matsumoto’s list of hits pretty much begins and ends with Kimagure Orange Road, and so younger anime fans might be tempted to lump him in with other one-hit-wonders from the era. Matsumoto is a special case, though, in that his lack of a successful follow-up wasn’t due to a lack of talent or determination, but to life-long health woes. After being involved in a car accident while still a preschooler, Matsumoto developed spinal fluid issues, causing extreme fatigue and vision problems. While he was able to cope well enough to publish the Kimagure Orange Road manga from 1984 to 1987, his ailments, which eventually included spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal which places painful pressure on the spinal cord and its nerves), kept him unable to ever produce another manga on the scale of KOR.

Matsumoto passed away on October 6, although news of his death was not made public until a week later, with the following message posted to his website:

Following a lengthy hospitalization, after midnight on October 6 Izumi Matsumoto passed away in the hospital. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all those who knew him in both his professional and private life, as well as those who loved his art and manga.

In recent years, while suffering from various symptoms related to cerebrospinal fluid hypoplasia, he had been fiercely determined to return to his work, even with heart-related concerns following a surgery several years ago. Unfortunately, it all eventually became too much for his body to bear. His doctors informed us, though, that he was in no pain at the time of his passing, peacefully making the journey from our world.

A funeral service has already been held for family members, who are respectfully declining further funerary offerings.

Once again, we would like to thank all those who supported Izumi Matsumoto during his life, and hope that many people will continue to enjoy his work.

It’ll always be bittersweet to imagine what other stories Matsumoto might have been able to tell if life had handed him a better set of cards in terms of his physical health. Still, the manga he was able to create has gone on to have a lasting impact in the industry and fan communities, and if you’re curious to see why Kimagure Orange Road was so special, the entire series can be read online for free.

Source: Izumi Matsumoto website via Livedoor News/Narinari News via Jin
Images: Sukima
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he can’t hear the word “tokidoki” without thinking of Kimagure Orange Road.