A lot of people died in Takao Saito’s assassin-for-hire series, but the author himself made preparations for after his passing.

Back in 1968, Japanese manga anthology Big Comic published the first chapter of a new manga by Takao Saito. The then-32-year-old Saito had made his manga artist debut 13 years earlier, but none of the multiple series he’d started had really caught on.

Finding an audience wouldn’t be a problem, though, for this new series, titled Golgo 13. Saito’s tale of the mysterious hitman with the alias Duke Togo has been in continuous serialization for 53 years and counting. At this point, the series feels like a permanent presence in the manga world, which has made it all the more shocking and saddening that Saito has passed away.

▼ Saito and Golgo 13/Duke Togo

While each and every Golgo 13 story arc is centered on a dramatic assassination, Saito wasn’t felled by a sniper’s bullet, but by pancreatic cancer. In a statement from Big Comic, the magazine announced that Saito succumbed to the condition last Friday morning, just over a month shy of his 85th birthday. A private funeral service for family members has already been held, and Shogakukan, the company that published Big Comic, is currently considering whether or not to hold a memorial service for industry members to pay their respects.

Saito’s death comes only a few months after Golgo 13 became the longest-running manga ever, in terms of collected volume number, with Volume 201 having been released in early July and Volume 202 on September 6. Between the tremendous amount of Golgo 13 manga and anime adaptations that have been created over the years, the character has become a pop cultural icon in Japan, instantly recognizable even to people outside the otaku hobby sphere.

▼ A Japanese hospital’s public service announcement about the importance of getting your coronavirus vaccine shots, starring Golgo 13.

However, while Saito’s life among us has come to an end, the Golgo 13 manga will not. In accordance with Saito’s will, the series will continue thanks to his team of assistants, as explained in Big Comic’s statement:

“During his life, Mr. Saito repeatedly said ‘I want Golgo 13 to go on, even without me,’ showing his great faith in the splendid division of labor [within the Saito Production team]…The Saito Production art team, and additional writing staff, along with the Big Comic editorial department, will be working together to continue the series, and we hope that you will continue to enjoy reading it.”

Online reactions have been a mix of sadness, gratitude, and admiration of Saito’s dedication to his life’s work right up until the very end.

“He’s a pro among pros.”
“So cool that he established a system for the series to continue after he was gone. It’s like he’s still sort of calling the shots.”
“I heard the news first thing this morning, and started crying immediately.”
“Golgo 13 has been around so long that it’s like reading a history textbook.”

Even if we won’t have to say goodbye to Golgo 13, it’s still sad to lose yet another legendary manga creator. Still, Saito leaves behind an amazing legacy, and one that’s set to continue to grow.

Source: Livedoor News/Oricon News via Jin
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