Hinako Ashihara, the popular Japanese manga artist perhaps best known in the United States for her Sand Chronicles series of the early 2000s, was found dead at her home near Tokyo on January 29, a day after she reportedly went missing. According to Japanese news sources, a possible suicide note was found near her body by police.
The contents of the note have not been made public. Ashihara was 50.
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In the days leading up to her death, the artist had posted, then deleted, troubling blog messages expressing disappointment over a recent live-action TV adaptation of her manga Sexy Tanaka-san. The 10-part series, starring Kinami Haruka, began airing last October on Nippon Television.
In her initial blog posts, Ashihara reportedly accused Nippon Television of making significant changes to her work, in contrast to what the network had promised. The dispute between artist and network became a controversial topic among manga fans online, and the artist later apologized for her criticism, posting on Twitter/X on the Sunday she went missing, “I didn’t mean to attack. I’m sorry.” She was found dead the following day.
Ashihara and the network had previously and publicly clashed over the direction the series was taking. After news of her death broke on Monday, NTV expressed condolences and noted that Ashihara had approval on the series’ final scripts.
The highly rated Sexy Tanaka-san debuted on NTV on October 22, with the 10 episodes concluding December 24. Sexy Tanaka-san tells the story of a 40-year-old accountant who has a secret life as a belly dancer. After her secret is discovered by a co-worker, the two form an unlikely bond.
Other manga by Ashihara include “Forbidden Dance,” “Bitter – Nakechau Koi Monogatari,” “Yubikiri” and “Girls Lesson.”
If you or anyone you know are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
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