17 Creators Who Died Before Finishing Their Life’s Work

With Daisuke Satou’s tragic passing on March 26, 2017, he’ll be leaving fans with his unfinished series Highschool of the Dead. Sadly, he joins a long list of creators that have passed away before finishing their works. Let’s take the time to remember some of their names.


1Osamu Tezuka – Phoenix

Phoenix was Tezuka’s most ambitious work. The story followed a man’s quest for immortality, which spanned the distant past to the far future. Tezuka worked on the epic between 1956 to 1989. It was cut short when he passed away due to stomach cancer.

2Kaoru Tada – Itazura na Kiss

Tada died tragically of a cerebral hemorrhage while moving to a new residence with her husband after hitting her head on a marble table. Itazura na Kiss was still in publication, but with her husband’s permission, the publisher was able to finish the series. Fans didn’t get to see the intended ending until the anime, which was based on Tada’s notes.

3Noboru Yamaguchi – The Familiar of Zero

When Yamaguchi was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer in 2011, he spent what little time he had on finishing The Familiar of Zero before passing away. Unfortunately, the series of surgeries he underwent didn’t allow him to work at the pace necessary, and he died in 2013. He left script notes, and with permission from his family, his publisher began working on the final two light novel volumes.

4Takahiro Yamato – Kaze no Stigma

Yamato passed away in 2009 due to Leukemia, leaving Kaze no Stigma unfinished. His publisher gathered what little notes he left and published the final volume as a collection of short stories.

5Yoshito Usui – Crayon Shin-chan

Usui is known for creating Crayon Shin-chan, which is an irreverent comedy that pokes fun at daily Japanese life. The anime is largely original material, but it went on hiatus following news of Usui’s death in a hiking accident. While taking a picture on top of Mt. Arafune, Usui slipped and fell.

6Satoshi Kon – Dreaming Machine

In 2010, Kon was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and withdrew from the public. Kon’s death wasn’t known until his family shared a message that he wrote explaining the situation. Madhouse has tried to continue his work by producing Dreaming Machine, which is based on his notes and directorial tapes. However, only 600 of the 1,500 shots have been animated so far.

7Shotaro Ishinomori – Cyborg 009

Ishinomori created his Cyborg 009 in 1964 and worked on it until 1981. He took a hiatus to focus on Kamen Rider and Super Sentai but promised fans that he would return to Cyborg 009 and write the anticipated ending in 2000. Sadly, he passed away in 1998 from heart failure.

8Ken Ishikawa – Getter Robo

Ishikawa was the co-creator of Getter Robo, which is one of the most influential mecha series. Unfortunately, he collapsed at a banquet and was pronounced dead shortly after being taken to a hospital. The only story notes that he left was for a prequel series titled Getter Robo Hien.

9Takeyuki Kanda – The 08th MS Team

The 08th MS Team was Kanda’s first and only Gundam series. He worked on 6 of the 12 episodes before dying in a car accident, which forced Sunrise to delay the project for three years.

10Umanosuke Iida – Towa no Quon

Iida was working on Towa no Quon when he died due to lung cancer. He passed away nearly a year before the first film was released, with co-director Takeshi Mori having to ghost direct the other five films.

11Sunao Yoshida – Trinity Blood

Yoshida suddenly passed away due to lung blockage, which resulted in other writers coming together to finish Trinity Blood. Gainax also canceled Bushiroad, which was supposed to be designed by Yoshida.

12Ryutaro Nakamura – Despera

Nakamura was known for directing the landmark series Serial Experimental Lain and for bringing a subtle touch to Kino’s Journey. In 2011, he announced that he would be directing Despera, which was believed to be either a sequel or prequel to Lain. However, the series was canceled after Nakamura passed away due to pancreatic cancer.

13Yuki Shinkiba – Shindere Shoujo to Kodoku na Shinigami

In 2013, Shinkiba announced that they were putting Shindere Shoujo to Kodoku na Shinigami due to bad health, but reassured fans that they would be back. Sadly, they would pass away due to cancer in 2015. To make things more tragic, they were hoping to write a farewell message to fans, but they passed away before they could do so.

14Tomohiro Matsu – Hatena Illusion

Matsu was able to finish four volumes of Hatena Illusion before passing away due to liver cancer in 2016. Despite the small amount of content, an anime adaptation was announced at AnimeJapan 2017.

15Kaoru Kurimoto – Guin Saga

Kurimoto wrote a record-breaking 130 volumes of Guin Saga before passing away due to pancreatic cancer. The series was influential in reviving Japanese interest in the fantasy genre.

16Akinari Matsuno – MM!

Matsuno suddenly passed away in 2011, leaving MM! unfinished.

17Keiko Tobe – With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child was a landmark manga that opened up a conversation about autism in Japan. The series would go on to win awards and received recognition for changing perspectives about autism. Sadly, Tobe wasn’t able to finish the series after passing away due to an undisclosed disease.

18BONUS: Kyoko Okazaki – Helter Skelter

Okazaki is still alive, but she wasn’t able to finish Helter Skelter after being hit by a drunk driver in 1996. The accident left Okazaki paralyzed of all four limbs and rendered her mute. In 2004, an assistant was able to a final chapter based on storyboards, but a cliffhanger still remains.

Though they passed before finishing their works, they still managed to make a positive impact on the lives of fans everywhere.

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