Voice actress Kumiko Okae, known by fans as a voice actress for the Pokemon series and Studio Ghibli films, has died due to pneumonia, a complication of the COVID-19.
She died at the age of 63 and is survived by her husband, Baru Ohwada, and daughter Miho Ohwada, a popular actress.
Actress Okae Kumiko dies from coronavirus https://t.co/y7KbdQejy3
— NHK WORLD News (@NHKWORLD_News) April 23, 2020
Okae’s death was announced by her agency. In an NHK report, Okae’s husband and daughter issued a joint statement saying:
“Thank you for all the people related to work, fans, friends, and long relationships. I will do my best to treat you. I would like to thank all of the medical staff for their support. Thank you. Everyone, the coronavirus is very scary. Please be careful.”
Okae’s role in Japanese entertainment
Okae, whose real name was Kumiko Ohwada, was well known as a TV presenter, actress, and voice actress for anime shows and films. She was known by anime fans as the voice actress for Jenny in the movie Pokemon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew, as well as Haru’s mom in the Studio Ghibli film The Cat, Returns.
Okae was also known as a TV host for shows like Renso Game in NHK and Hanamaru Market in TBS Television. She also appeared as an actress in a number of TV shows. Okae began her career in 1975 debuting as an actress in Omitsu and was active in the Japanese entertainment industry for more than 40 years.
Okae’s coronavirus story
Prior to contracting coronavirus, Okae was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and had surgery late last year. The treatment was continued with radiation therapies from January to February.
It was believed that the radiation therapy had weakened her immune system.
However, Shigeru Imoto, chairman of the Japan Breast Cancer Society, thinks otherwise. In an NHK report, he said:
“After surgery for early breast cancer, radiation therapy may be given to reduce the recurrence rate. May partially inflame, and the white blood cells that control immunity may decrease, but it is unlikely that the immunity will weaken enough to cause the coronavirus to become more severe.”
On April 3, Okae contracted a fever. Her health worsened and was eventually admitted to a Tokyo hospital on April 6. She was then placed in a respirator. It was eventually confirmed that she had coronavirus infection through a test.
Okae eventually passed away to coronavirus complication on the morning of April 23.
Her husband and daughter are currently asymptomatic or show no symptoms of coronavirus infection. They are self-isolating nonetheless as deemed necessary.