The manga community is mourning the loss of a beloved creator, Hinako Ashihara, whose death was a heartbreaking shock to fans and peers alike. The tragedy struck close to home for the Japanese artist, as she was found deceased near her residence in Tokyo. While the specific cause of her passing remains officially undisclosed, there’s a somber atmosphere as speculation arises, fueled by reports from Japan suggesting that authorities are investigating her death as a potential suicide—a revelation made all the more poignant by the discovery of a note in her home.
Hinako Ashihara wasn’t just any manga artist; her career spanned almost thirty years. Her portfolio is rich with varied works, casting a long shadow in the world of Japanese comics. At the time of her death, Ashihara was actively contributing to the manga world with her series ‘Sexy Tanaka-san’, which began captivating readers in 2017 and continued to be serialized right up to recent times.
Last October, Ashihara’s storytelling prowess caught the attention of Nippon Television, which decided to breathe life into ‘Sexy Tanaka-san’ through a live-action adaptation. This adaptation, encompassing ten episodes and featuring actress Haruka Kinami, however, did not sit well with Ashihara. Taking to social media and her personal blog in early January, she expressed her dissatisfaction loudly and clearly, criticizing the production for not staying true to the manga—a critical point of agreement for its adaptation.
The situation grew intense when Ashihara, feeling the pressure, ultimately retracted her public critiques, offering an apology before more drama unfolded. “I didn’t mean to attack. I’m sorry,” she posted the Sunday before her disappearance. Then, just a day later, the catastrophic news of her demise spread, sending waves of shock and sorrow through the manga community.
Her death incited a flurry of activity on social media, where fans and observers expressed their grief and confusion. Some even pointed fingers at Tomoko Aizawa, the screenwriter of the live-action adaptation, casting blame in a rather intense manner.
In the wake of Ashihara’s death, her family shared a statement through Shogakukan, the publishing company that brought Ashihara’s manga to the public eye. The family conveyed their immense loss and disorientation following the untimely event.
A poignant testament to Ashihara’s profound influence came from fellow manga artist Kobato Miku, who held Ashihara in the highest regard. In a touching tweet, Miku began, “Hinako Ashihara sensei. She was very dear to my heart. I’m very sad. I pray that her soul rests in peace.” Attached to the tweet was a letter reflecting on the profound impact Ashihara had on Miku’s life. The heartfelt words described how Ashihara’s creations provided comfort during trying times and conveyed a deep sense of admiration for Ashihara’s talent. Miku expressed an unfulfilled wish to personally thank Ashihara at a signing event, recalling the tenderness of a written message received in replace of a face-to-face meeting. The loss is palpable in Miku’s message, which concludes with a poignant hope for peace for Ashihara’s soul.
Hinako Ashihara’s passing is a stark reminder of the pressures faced by creatives and the intense connections they form with their audience. Her legacy, however, lives on in her works and in the hearts of those she inspired. She will be remembered fondly, her stories a testament to a talent gone too soon.