Japan manga fans flock to cartoonist's funeral

TOKYO, Nov 30 (AFP) - Thousands of manga fans flocked to the funeral Monday of Japanese cartoonist Yoshito Usui, whose cheeky schoolboy character Shin-chan delighted millions.

More than 3,000 mourners queued to offer their last respects at central Tokyo's Aoyama Funeral Hall, where pictures, stuffed dolls, comic books and videos of Usui's characters were on display and decorated with flowers.

Usui died on a mountain hike in September.

"Mr Usui unfortunately died, but the characters created by Mr Usui are still alive," said fellow cartoonist Tetsuya Chiba, hailing the artist who created the hit "Crayon Shin-chan" series in the 1990s.

Usui, 51, who was popular among manga enthusiasts worldwide, went missing on September 11 while hiking alone in a mountain range north of Tokyo.

His bruised body was found more than a week later but police said there was no suggestion his death was a suicide.

"It was very shocking to me when I heard of his death," said one fan, Megumi Nagai, a 24-year-old female bartender. "The funeral was very valuable because I could see his works, all the comics, all the videos and the history."

Usui made his debut as a manga author in 1987 and sprang to prominence in the 1990s with Crayon Shin-chan, a magazine manga strip about the daily life of Shinnosuke, a mischievous five-year-old boy.

The series was turned into a book and an animated television series.

The cartoon books, which have sold 50 million copies in Japan alone, have been since translated and published in 14 countries, while the television series has been aired in 30 nations.

MySinchew 2009.11.30