Manga comics has taken up Fukushima
Tales from the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years are now being told by manga, Japan’s ubiquitous comics for adults and teens, which have taken up Fukushima on an unprecedented scale even as Japanese film largely avoids the topic.
“Ichi Efu”, which centres on workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, has sold 170,000 copies in book form in nearly two months, rare for a debut manga. Another manga set off a furore that sparked angry responses from the government, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
As Fukushima fades from the public spotlight, publishers say they hope manga will spark debate about uncomfortable topics such as the health impact of the accident, which released radiation over a wide swathe of northeastern Japan.
In contrast to the more than 30 manga published since the disaster, there has been only one mass-market film to date on Fukushima – “Homeland”, released in March. Its director was careful to emphasise the human story over any political statements during publicity tours.
The nuclear disaster, set off by a tsunami that tore through the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and touched off meltdowns, remains a sensitive subject in Japan, especially since thousands still remain in temporary housing and may never go home again.
“Movies take a lot of money and backers tend to flinch away from this topic. Manga are a lot more independent and can go where even news programmes might hesitate,” said Kenichiro Shinohara, an editor at the popular “Morning” manga weekly where “Ichi Efu” is also published.
There are several hundred manga published in Japan each year, ranging from cute to violent and pornographic, in magazine and book form. Most are pure entertainment, but others take up samurai-era history, business strategy or World War Two most notably “Barefoot Gen”, a manga about the Hiroshima bombing that stirred controversy last year.
The popular media form – more than 10 million copies of manga magazines are sold annually – is afforded unrivaled freedom in Japan. Last week, Japan passed a law banning the possession of child pornography, but pornographic manga featuring children was excluded after publishers and opposition lawmakers said it could limit free speech.