'Captain Tsubasa' manga series ends after more than 40 years

The globally popular soccer manga series "Captain Tsubasa" by artist Takahashi Yoichi has come to an end after a run of nearly 43 years.

The final episode of the series went on sale on Thursday.

More than 90 million copies have been published in over 50 countries and regions. Top soccer players are among its ardent fans.

Weekly Shonen Jump began publishing the series about soccer prodigy Ozora Tsubasa in 1981.

Tsubasa's journey to new heights, his friendships with teammates and rivals, and countless dramatic matches attracted fans from around the world.

Takahashi had announced in January that he would end the series, citing a decline in his physical strength and changes in the creative environment due to digitalization.

A 19-year-old man who bought the magazine on Thursday said he plays soccer and his parents introduced him to the series. He says some of the skills shown in the manga would be impossible in real life, but he is drawn to the many inspiring scenes.

A man in his 40s said he has enjoyed the series for many years. He says he's sorry it is ending but wants to thank the author.

Tsubasa started off as an 11-year-old. In the final episode, he is 22 and competing in the Olympics as a member of Japan's national squad.

Takahashi says he has plans for stories about Tsubasa going on to play in the World Cup after his Olympic quest.

He says he plans to launch a new website and start releasing sequel stories in the form of rough sketches from this summer.