Tarako. (Photo courtesy of Fuji Television Network Inc.)(Kyodo)

Tarako, who lent her husky voice to the main character of the long-running Japanese anime series "Chibi Maruko-chan," has died, her agency said Saturday. She was 63.

Tarako, whose real name was not made public, died Monday of undisclosed causes. She had been battling illness since the start of the year while continuing to work, the agency and Fuji Television Network Inc. said, adding it will air her last episode on March 24.

She played the role of Maruko for 34 years after being selected in an audition by the late Momoko Sakura, the creator of the manga on which the TV series was based. The series began airing in 1990.

The semi-autobiographical TV show starring a 9-year-old girl recorded a 39.9 percent audience share in October that year in Japan, one of the highest figures for an anime series.

The slice-of-life comedy depicts Momoko Sakura, nicknamed Maruko, her family and friends in the mid-1970s in what is now the city of Shizuoka in central Japan.

The anime series, whose creator died of breast cancer in August 2018 at age 53, is also popular among young people in other Asian countries, including China, where it is known as "Ying Tao Xiao Wan Zi."

Before her signature work as Maruko, Tarako voiced characters in anime series such as "Mezon Ikkoku" and "Urusei Yatsura" in the 1980s. The Gunma Prefecture native was also a singer-songwriter, actor and narrator for TV programs.

Photo shows Maruko, the main character of the long-running anime series "Chibi Maruko-chan," whose voice was played by Tarako. (Photo courtesy of Fuji Television Network Inc.)(Copyright Sakura Production Co./Nippon Animation Co.)(Kyodo)

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