TOKYO: The smash-hit Japanese football manga series “Captain Tsubasa” came to an end Thursday after a 43-year run with its creator Yoichi Takahashi saying he would retire as a manga artist but continue “creative activities”, Kyodo news agency reported.

Takahashi, 63, said he will still produce stories on Tsubasa, the football prodigy who is the main character of the series, but switch to a rough storyboard format that he expects to be able to produce more quickly, delivering it to fans on a dedicated website.

“I still like drawing illustrations and thinking up stories,“ he said in a post on the X social media platform Wednesday.

The last chapter in the manga format, “Captain Tsubasa Rising Sun,“ depicts Tsubasa participating in an Olympics as captain of the under-23 Japanese football team.

The story will continue in the new format on the “Captain Tsubasa World” website from this summer, with weekly releases.

As the format does not require inking and adding screen tones, Takahashi said, he will be able to “deliver future stories at a faster pace.”

He also expects to have “more freedom of expression” as he will no longer face the need to meet deadlines or requirements for number of pages or format size.

Recalling that his starting point as a manga artist was back in elementary school when he began drawing original works using pencils on a blank sheet of paper, he said, “I am now going to do the same thing I was doing at that time -- a manga series by pencil drawings.”

Tokyo publishing house Shueisha Inc. announced the end of the manga series in its Captain Tsubasa Magazine in January. Takahashi at the time cited a “decline in physical strength and changes in the drawing environment caused by the recent wave of digitization” that he said slowed the pace at which he could draw manga.

The first episode of “Captain Tsubasa” was printed in the Shukan Shonen Jump weekly in 1981.

The series has been adapted for anime and games in more than 50 countries and regions and has captivated children including some who became professional footballers such as Spanish star Andres Iniesta. In Japan, the series’ comics sold over 90 million copies.

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