It’s been revealed that Toren Smith, co-founder of Studio Proteus, has died of undisclosed reasons on March 4th. Smith was one of the pioneers of manga translation and held up a level of excellence in the field from the early days back in the late 80’s and into the 90’s that has rarely been replicated but always has inspired others to reach for. Along with Adam Warren, they worked on and created numerous original Dirty Pair comics that brought manga to more attention in the Western market in the early days. Prior to forming Studio Proteus, which he later sold to Dark Horse comics and retired as of 2004, he worked for Viz Media during its first rear of operation as Viz Communications, working on such titles as The Legend of Kamui.
According to Wikipedia, he spent his last years diving his KISS Sport rebreather around the world, camping, reading while still enjoying manga and anime. During his manga translation career, he came into contact with many American comics creators through the normal course of business and exposed many of them to what manga was all about, both in art and storytelling, and through the key properties he worked on throughout the years, helped provide for a growing knowledge and interest in the medium which has been absorbed to varying degrees by many artists and writers over the years.
Studio Proteus played an integral and hugely important role in the birth of officially licensed and translated quality manga in the early days for the North American market and has left huge shoes that can never be filled but simply admired and to be inspired by.
And for old school fans like myself, who were into anime in a big way and knew what was going on, the acknowledgement of the man by Gainax in the Gunbuster anime will always be a highlight.