TOKYO - Japan's ruthless animated hitman has become the latest victim of the coronavirus, as the nation's longest-running manga comic announced it would take its first hiatus in its 52-year history as social restrictions to contain the virus have made it difficult to produce the hand-drawn series.
The 599th installment of Golgo 13 published in the May 25 issue of Big Comic would be its last "for the time being", the manga magazine published twice a month by Shogakukan said on Saturday, citing commuting restrictions.
"Given the division of labor between the series's staff of more than 10, it has become increasingly difficult to continue producing the series," the magazine's editors said in a full-page announcement in the issue which went on sale on Saturday.
"I hope you understand," Golgo 13 creator Takao Saito wrote in a signed address at the bottom of the page.
"We won't give in to the virus, and we are already planning the 600th installment. Please take care."
Golgo, whose ruthlessness, ingenuity and womanizing ways have earned him comparisons to James Bond and Dirty Harry, will put his revolver down for the first time since the series, one of Japan's most popular, began publishing in 1968.
Since then, the brooding, hard-boiled crime series has placed its hero at the center of scenarios often dealing with the seedy underbelly of society, from money laundering at the Vatican to the death of Princess Diana, selling nearly 300 million copies in the process.
Also known by his pseudonym Duke Togo, Golgo is widely considered as a modern-day samurai warrior by manga fans and salarymen alike, and has spawned anime series, video games, and action figures, along with pachinko slot machines featuring his likeness.
"It looks like Golgo is taking a break...wonder if that means that he'll contract the coronavirus in the next installment?" a fan with the Twitter handle MARObase tweeted after the announcement.