Photo/IllutrationManga artist Leiji Matsumoto (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Manga artist Leiji Matsumoto, internationally acclaimed for “Galaxy Express 999,” was conversing with others on Nov. 17 after falling seriously ill on his Italian trip and being hospitalized for respiratory problems, according to his staff.

The staff who are accompanying the 81-year-old artist said he became ill due to accumulated fatigue, according to Matsumoto's office in Japan.

But it is not clear when he will return to Japan as he will remain hospitalized for the time being, the office said.

Matsumoto was taken to a hospital on the evening of Nov. 15 after appearing at an event in Turin, Italy, an Italian news agency reported.

According to the hospital where he is being treated, Matsumoto had a breathing tube inserted after he was checked into the emergency unit.

The Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata reported that doctors removed the tube at 4 p.m. on Nov. 16 as his condition had stabilized.

Matsumoto became ill during an appearance at a movie theater in Turin, where his “Galaxy Express 999” was being played. He was rushed to the hospital after he returned to a hotel.

It was initially suspected that he had suffered a stroke.

But the hospital said he had trouble breathing and did not have a stroke.

Matsumoto has been visiting Italy since Nov. 14 to appear in an event marking the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of his work. His manga series such as “Space Pirate Captain Herlock” are popular in Italy.

(This article was written by Shinichi Kawarada in Rome and Yusuke Kato in Tokyo.)