Kazuki Takahashi, the creator of the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga series that spawned an immensely popular collectible card game, and multiple anime and video game spinoffs, was found dead this week in the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan, broadcaster NHK and The Japan Times reported Thursday. Takahashi, whose given name was Kazuo Takahashi and wrote under a pen name, was 60.
Authorities have not announced a cause of death, according to NHK, and are still investigating. Takahashi’s body was reportedly found off the coast on Wednesday, and he was said to be traveling alone on a snorkeling trip.
Yu-Gi-Oh! first ran as a serialized manga in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine from September 1996 through March 2004. The story of Yu-Gi-Oh! centered on spiky-haired protagonist Yugi Muto, who, after solving an ancient device known as the Millennium Puzzle, summoned a mysterious spirit that powers his alter ego, Yami Yugi. Together, they sought the power to become powerful duelists in the ancient — and presciently modern — game of Duel Monsters, and challenged others to games with heavy stakes.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! manga was later adapted for multiple anime series, spinoffs, and animated films.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game launched in 1999 in Japan, and publisher Konami brought it to the West in 2002. The game was an immense success, and more than 35 billion cards have been sold to date. Konami adapted the anime and manga series for video games, with early game incarnations for the original PlayStation and Game Boy Advance. In January, Konami released the free-to-play game Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel for Windows PC, and the game became a surprise smash hit on Steam.
Takahashi was still actively creating comics before his death. In June, Marvel and Viz Media published Takahashi’s Secret Reverse, a comic starring Iron Man and Spider-Man, in which Tony Stark traveled to Japan to attend a gaming convention where he met the CEO of a card game company with apparently sinister motives.
Update: On Thursday, Konami published a statement on Twitter regarding Takahashi’s death, saying it was “shocked and saddened” to hear of his sudden passing.
“We are deeply grateful for the wonderful Yu-Gi-Oh! universe that he has created, and our thoughts are with his friends and family at this difficult time,” the publisher said. “Together with his countless fans, we pledge to carry on the Yu-Gi-Oh! legacy with all the love and care it deserves.”