Director, actor, and comedian Takeshi Kitano will leave Office Kitano, the agency and production company he co-founded, at the end of March and go independent. Masayuki Mori, who has served as Office Kitano president since 1992, revealed Kitano’s decision in an interview with a Japanese sports newspaper.

Launched in 1988 by Kitano and Mori, his longtime producer, Office Kitano has represented dozens of comics and actors who came to be known collectively as “Takeshi’s Army.” Mori told the Sports Nippon newspaper that Kitano wanted to “lay down the burdens he has been carrying, including the Army, and increase his personal time.”

Both Kitano and his on-camera persona, Beat Takeshi, are leaving the company. Without Kitano, who is still enormously popular at age 71, the agency’s future is in doubt. Other key talent are expected to exit.

Among recent films produced by Office Kitano are the Kei Ishikawa murder mystery “Traces of Sin,” which premiered at Venice last year, and Kitano’s own “Outrage Coda,” the third installment in a hit trilogy about modern-day gang wars. The agency has produced every Kitano film since his 1991 drama “A Scene at the Sea,” including his 1997 Venice Golden Lion winner “Hana-Bi.”