Kazuki Takahashi, best known as the author of the popular Japanese manga series Yu-Gi-Oh!, died a hero after trying to help an American Army officer save three people from drowning in a riptide in Okinawa, Japan last July 4th.
Kazuki Takahashi death
Kazuki Takahashi, whose real name is Kazuo Takahashi, was found dead in the water 300 meters off the shore of Nago, Okinawa, by Japan Coast Guard officers following a civilian report from a passing boat on July 6th. The 60-year-old manga artist was found wearing snorkeling gear, so it was initially thought that he had been snorkeling when he died. But on October 11th, the American military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported that Takahashi had died while assisting Major Robert Bourgeau in rescuing three people caught in a rip current.
According to Stars and Stripes, Takahashi, unbeknownst to Bourgeau, attempted to aid him in the rescue but drowned in the process. The Japan Coast Guard declined to confirm Takahashi’s participation in the rescue, but his actions that day are detailed in several sworn witness statements provided by the United States Army.
Bourgeau, who also works as a scuba diving instructor, met two of his students at Mermaid’s Grotto in Onna, Okinawa, at around 2 p.m. on July 4th, when he spotted a Japanese woman calling for help. The woman pointed toward her 11-year-old daughter and a 39-year-old U.S. soldier trapped in a rip current about 100 yards from shore.
“The conditions were really, really rough,” recalled the 49-year-old Army officer, adding that the rip current was sucking the pair out and incoming six-foot waves were crashing on them, creating a whirlpool effect.
Still with his running shoes on, Bourgeau and one of his students made their way out to the snorkelers through shallow water while the other student called emergency services.
Bourgeau said he jumped into the rip current and clutched the girl, but had quickly grown tired as he brought her toward the shallows. He then came across the mother who had also been sucked into the swirling waters. “I grabbed mom and I grabbed [the girl] and I just kicked for all life,” Bourgeau recalled.
At some point during the rescue, Takahashi entered the water. Bourgeau admitted that he didn’t see the manga artist during the whole incident, but his students caught glimpses of him from the shore until he disappeared beneath the waves.
“He’s a hero,” Bourgeau said of Takahashi. “He died trying to save someone else.”
After he got the women into the shallows, Bourgeau returned for the soldier, but with dwindling energy, he “let [the man] go” so he could save himself from drowning.
“That was one the hardest things I have ever had to do,” he wrote in his witness statement. “I didn’t think I was going to make it.”
After thinking about his children and hearing his students cheering for him, Bourgeau found his last bit of strength and made it out of the rip current. He was then able to direct the soldier out of the whirlpool and onto the shore safely.
Bourgeau, the deputy operations officer for the 10th Support Group at Torii Station in Yomitan, was nominated by his command last month for the Soldier’s Medal for his actions during the rescue. The medal recognizes acts of heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy.
What is Yu-Gi-Oh!?
Written and illustrated by Kazuki Takahashi, the manga series Yu-Gi-Oh! follows the story of a boy named Yugi Mutou, who receives an ancient puzzle that awakens in him the alter ego of an Egyptian pharaoh, who solves his conflicts using various games.
It was serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine between September 1996 and March 2004. It gave birth to a media franchise that includes a trading card game, anime series, films, novels, books, and video games.