Japanese cartoonist Takase Yanashi is shown in May with his character "Anpanman." (YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images)

Takashi Yanase, creator of one of Japan’s most beloved cartoon characters, Anpanman, died Oct. 13­ in Tokyo. He was 94.

He had been treated for liver cancer since August, Yanase Studio said in a statement.

Anpanman is a superhero whose head is made of anpan, or bread filled with red bean paste, a snack in Japan. The round-faced, smiley hero, clad in a red suit and long cape, fights his archrival, Baikinman, or germ man, while rescuing the weak.

The self-sacrificial hero, who even allowed starving people to bite into his head, became a star in a picture book series that started in 1973 and has sold 68 million copies. The Anpanman television cartoon series started in 1988 and has spread across Asia, becoming popular in places such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The cartoon series, “Let’s go! Anpanman,” entered Guinness World Records in 2009 for the largest number of characters, at more than 1,700.

A former graphic designer, Mr. Yanase debuted as a cartoonist and was a lecturer on a quiz show on Japan’s NHK television.

Makoto Amano, an official at his publishing agent, said Mr. Yanase had briefly retired before the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters but returned to work after learning that an Anpanman theme song was cheering up residents in the disaster-hit region, Kyodo News agency said. The day before Mr. Yanase died, he was still discussing ideas with his staff about an Anpanman film set for release next year, Kyodo said.

Mr. Yanase, known for his pacifist messages, also wrote poems and lyrics for children’s songs.

“It’s October as usual. I’m doing fine, so please feel at ease,” he closed his monthly poem greeting published on his Web site.

— Associated Press