According to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK, the artist’s body was spotted in the water about 300 metres from the coastline. He was wearing snorkelling equipment at the time of his death, the outlet claimed.
Kazuki was 60 years old.
A local citizen reported Kazuki’s body in the water, as he was seen “drifting face down,” said NHK.
Firefighters responded to the report and Kazuki was pronounced dead at the scene. He was visiting Okinawa alone.
Kazuki’s body was not identified until Thursday when the Japanese coast guard also found a rental car used by the artist on a farm road nearby.
The Japanese Coast Guard is currently investigating Kazuki’s death.
“We are investigating the case as both a possible accident or crime,” said a coast guard spokesperson.
There are contradicting reports on the state of his body. NHK reported there were no noticeable wounds on the artist. Alternatively, NBC News, which spoke to the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Okinawa, wrote there were “damages to his body, which looked like they were caused by some sort of marine animal.”
Kazuki, whose real name is Takahashi Kazuo, has been a major figurehead in the manga community for decades now.
He began his career as an artist of the Japanese-style comics in the early 1980s.
The creation of Yu-Gi-Oh! — which was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump magazine — was his greatest success. The manga revolves around an ancient puzzle and a young, spiky-haired protagonist who awakens an alternate personality within the game.
The manga was in production from 1996 to 2004. NHK reported over 40 million copies have been sold.
Yu-Gi-Oh! received international acclaim when the manga’s success led to the creation of a TV anime series and a wildly popular trading card game.
The game was certified in 2009 by the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the best-selling trading card games of all time. Entertainment company Konami, who creates the card game, has estimated over 35 billion Yu-Gi-Oh! cards have been sold worldwide. To this day, international Yu-Gi-Oh! competitions still take place.
On social media, many dedicated manga, anime and trading card fans paid their respects, mourning the loss of the influential artist.
To honour the artist’s death, Studio Dice, Takahashi’s agency, paused the brand’s website and turned it black.