Popular Japanese baseball manga series "Dokaben" ended its 46-year history with its last episode published in a weekly comic magazine released Thursday.
Many people in their 40s and 50s who have read the series by Shinji Mizushima as youngsters reminisced about how they learned about baseball from the characters of Dokaben, which first appeared in the Shonen Champion magazine published by Akita Shoten in 1972.
"I have enjoyed drawing my work every day, surrounded by the characters," said 79-year-old Mizushima in a statement carried by the weekly magazine along with the timeline of the series.
The last two volumes of Dokaben comic books are scheduled to be released in August and September, bringing their total to 205, the publisher said.
The figure beats the 200 volumes of "Kochira Katsushika-ku Kamearikoen-Mae Hashutsujo" (This is the Police Box in Front of Kameari Park in Katsushika Ward) created by Osamu Akimoto. The manga series, commonly known as "Kochikame," was recognized by Guinness World Records in 2016 as the comic series by a single cartoonist with the largest number of volumes.
The last episode of Dokaben depicts the final match of a professional baseball tournament fought by the team led by the main character Taro Yamada and some of his teammates since high school.
(Statue of Taro Yamada, main charactor from popular manga series Dokaben, in Niigata, where its author Mizushima was born)
Dokaben refers to a large bento lunch box Yamada eats from, which subsequently became his nickname.
The manga has been widely read in Japan, where baseball is a popular sport with even its high school tournaments broadcasted live.
Baseball manga critic Yoshihisa Tsukui said the series attracted young readers by depicting individual characters with both good and bad points, instead of depicting battles between a superhuman pitcher and a batter as often described in previous animations or manga stories.
Dokaben was special in that it "avoided using old tactics of playing up the story with fiction, such as an unhittable pitch, and managed to establish itself as a manga that baseball players find acceptable," said Tsukui.
Social media came alive with the series' end, with many users expressing gratitude and saying they will miss Dokaben. One user wrote, "I switched to left-hand batting after Yamada."
Mizushima wrote in his statement that he looks forward to meeting his readers again someday.