Baseball mangaka Shinji Mizushima dies at 82

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Shinji Mizushima speaks to the press in January 2007.

Award-winning mangaka Shinji Mizushima, an influential creator in the world of baseball manga for more than half a century, died from pneumonia at a Tokyo hospital on Jan. 10. He was 82.

Funeral services have already been held, with his wife, Shuko, as the chief mourner.

Mizushima hailed from Niigata Prefecture. In 1958 at age 18, he made his debut as a mangaka for a rental manga publisher in Osaka. He came to prominence with the high school baseball story “Otoko Doaho Koshien,” which was serialized in a manga magazine from 1970 and won the prestigious Shogakukan Manga Award.

He announced his retirement in December 2020.

Among Mizushima’s other popular works are “Dokaben,” in which many distinct characters — including kindhearted catcher Taro Yamada with strong shoulders and powerful hitting — dominate high school baseball as well as professional ballgames; “Abu-san,” which depicts the successful career of hard-drinking heavy hitter Yasutake Kageura; and “Yakyukyo no Uta,” featuring a female pitcher.

Unlike other baseball manga works before his that primarily emphasized themes of fighting spirit and tenacity, Mizushima is renowned for pioneering an upbeat, happy style that portrayed many characters with distinct personalities.

In 2007, Mizushima received the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Award from the Japan Cartoonist Association. In 2014, he was decorated with the Order of the Rising Sun.