Famed manga author Takao Saito passed away on September 24 from pancreatic cancer. He was 84.
Saito was best known for the manga series, Golgo 13, which has been serialized in the semimonthly Big Comic magazine since 1968. This makes Golgo 13 the oldest manga still in publication.
Not a Manga Author
Funnily enough, Saito actually didn’t like the term “mangaka” or “manga author.” In a 2015 interview with The Financial Times, Saito states that he and his peers hated that name. He says, “We decided to call our work gekiga [literally ‘theatre images’] to show that it was about drama.”
As a story medium, gekiga is aimed at adults, and not kids, with violent stories and depictions of sex. And that style was incorporated into Golgo 13 which made it a smash hit when it debuted in October 1968.
Golgo 13 is about a professional assassin that goes by the same name, although the main character is also known by the pseudonym, Duke Togo. The title refers to Golgotha, which is the location of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion outside of Jerusalem. In fact, the series logo is a skeleton wearing a crown of thorns.
Golgo 13 is one of the most influential characters of an era and his official stats sheet says “dick too bomb” pic.twitter.com/xL0yTwuab5
— Brave J-Gespenst (@call_gespenst) September 29, 2021
13 refers to the fact that the number is considered unlucky in certain cultures. Most of the stories in Golgo 13 take place during the time they were written and don’t really follow a set continuity. It’s kind of like Lupin III where Duke doesn’t age and the character moves with the changing times.
Duke is tasked to kill anyone for the right price, often angering just about every government and security organization in the world.
Saito won numerous awards over the years due to Golgo 13. He won the Shogakukan Manga Award in both 1976 and 2005, the Japan Cartoonist Association Award in 2002, and the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2019.
In July 2021, Takao Saito received the Guinness Book of World Records award for the most volumes of a single manga series – 201 volumes of Golgo 13, which debuted in 1973 https://t.co/kPEFIotwZQ
— Deb Aoki (@debaoki) September 29, 2021
Golgo 13 also holds the record for the most published volumes for a single manga series with Volume 202 having been published on September 6. It surpassed the former champion, the police comedy manga KochiKame, back in July of this year. It remains at the second best-selling manga series of all time, nestled between One Piece at number one and Dragon Ball in third place.
Saito’s magnum opus has been adapted numerous times throughout the years including two live-action movies in 1973 and 1977. In fact, the second adaptation starred the late acclaimed actor, Sonny Chiba.
There have been three anime adaptations with the first being a movie known as Golgo 13: The Professional. That first film holds the distinct honor of being one of the first anime films that incorporated CGI.
Despite his passing, there are no signs of Golgo 13 ending or slowing down anytime soon. The only time the manga went on hiatus during its 52-year run was in May 2020 due to the pandemic.
The Show Goes On
According to Big Comic’s editors, Saito reportedly said that he wanted the manga to continue on after he passes away. In his later years, Saito played a smaller role in the production of Golgo 13, leaving most of it to his team.
Golgo 13 will remain in publication as per Saito’s wishes. May he rest in peace.