Famed Japanese manga artist Fujiko Fujio A, known for beloved children's cartoons including "Ninja Hattori" and "Little Ghost Q-Taro", has died aged 88, local media reported on Thursday. The artist, whose real name was Motoo Abiko, was found outside his home near Tokyo on Thursday, private broadcaster TBS and others said. Police declined to confirm the reports to AFP, but tributes to Abiko were tweeted by other artists and those in the publishing industry.

Abiko was the eldest son of a monk at a historic temple in central Toyama region. But his family left the temple after the death of Abiko's father when he was in fifth grade. "My father's death changed my life the most. If he had not died, I think I would have been a monk," he told the Asahi Shimbun daily in 2020. In high school, he became friends with Hiroshi Fujimoto, who later created Japan's much-loved cartoon "Doraemon", and the pair started to work together.

They formed a partnership that debuted in 1951, jointly producing works under the pen name "Fujiko Fujio", and shared a Tokyo apartment with other famous manga artists including Osamu Tezuka. One of the duo's early works was "Q-Taro", about a good-natured, mischievous ghost child who starts living with a human family, which found fans in Japan as well as abroad.

Abiko also created various manga by himself, including "Ninja Hattori", a ninja who becomes best friends with a regular kid, as well as other works targeted at adults. Despite his long-time association with Fujimoto, Abiko once confessed he was reluctant to read "Doraemon" cartoons too closely. "I've been avoiding reading (them) as a protective measure, because when I read them, I'm influenced by them and think 'I can't draw like this'," he said with a laugh. - AFP