Monday, October 05, 2009

In Memoriam: Yoshito Usui

Yoshito Usui, creator of Crayon Shin-Chan, passed away tragically on September 11th, 2009. That morning, he left his home for a hike in Gunma Prefecture, and told his family that he would be back by evening. When he did not return, and was not answering his cell phone, his wife called the police the next morning. On September 19th, after an extensive search, a male body was discovered at the bottom of the Tomiowa cliff at Mount Arafune, and was later identified as that of Usui’s. While his body was undergoing a 5-hour autopsy, his wife and one of his daughters were at the police station praying that this was all some horrible mistake and that this was not him. It is believed he accidentally fell off the cliff. His broken camera was discovered and the last shot recovered from the card inside was a shot that peered down to where his body was found. Investigators believe he fell at the moment he took that shot. This AMV which was posted shortly after his death features a cameo of Usui at the end.

His greatest and most well-known work was Crayon Shin-Chan , which first began as a comic in 1990, and was turned into an anime in 1992. Both have continued to run through today, and have also been an international success. The protagonist, Shinnosuke “Shin” Nohara, is a foul-mouthed and awkward thinking five-year-old that makes Bart Simpson look like Ned Flanders! Almost always controversial, but still funny to the sordid side in us all, Shin-chan is not like your conventional kindergartner. His foul language and inappropriate behaviour always pushed the envelope, no matter which country that the show was broadcast in. The show often parodied anything and everything, including Sailor Moon. In 1994, Sailor Moon featured a small Crayon Shin-Chan sighting in the form of a toy in episode #104, and throughout Crayon Shin-Chan’s existence, many of the stars of Sailor Moon appeared on the show, either as parodies of their characters or other characters entirely.

While Shin-Chan had gained notoriety for being on the ban list of many parent-teacher associations in Japan, he had recently been used as an icon in educational materials. Since he was a child full of happiness and energy, he had become a sort of mascot for Japan’s Respect for the Aged celebrations. This year, Usui’s death had dampened the celebrations. Two strips that Usui had submitted have yet to be printed, and new episodes of the show are set to begin on October 16th. The companies involved are still producing the next film, set to open in Japan in the spring of 2010. All companies involved with Shin-Chan have stated that they wish to work with his estate to decide the fate of the well-loved property.

Yoshito Usui is survived by his wife, and two daughters. He will be dearly missed. We send out our deepest condolences and sympathies to Usui’s family. As of this writing there is no word of any public memorial, however the family will be holding a private funeral.


Shinnosuke said...

Yoshito Usui didn't want to expose his face to the public. He said that was afraid that the success of the franchise will end if public see his face. It's kind of a personal superstition.

So if you appreciate Usui-san please remove his photo from the web. (You can use a picture from the animated version of him used in the anime if you want).


Moon Chase said...

Hi Shinnosuke -

We can understand his reasons for this, however many other (non-professional and professional) websites and news outlets have posted his picture in memoriam. This one came from one such article. With every obituary we have posted on this site, we have always posted a respectful shot of the departed so that readers can for one last time see a face of someone they have never seen before. Some news outlets even showed video of his body being airlifted from the park that it was found, but we found that it was a little in poor taste for such an icon, and declined to post it here.

We do appreciate him, but we are showing his face out of respect - like many other non-professional and professional sites and news outlets have. We will be happy to remove the picture if any of Usui's people ask us to, but for now we are not going to because we choose to honor his memory and let fans see the face behind the work. We believe that whatever will remain of Shin-Chan and whatever is to come will continue to be a success! We hope you can understand.