“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.
The popular media form — more than 10 million copies of manga magazines are sold annually — is afforded unrivaled freedom in Japan.
Fukushima manga run the gamut from “Sobamon”, which promotes the safety of Fukushima produce, to the overtly anti-nuclear “Fighting the Nuclear Demon”. At least one is set in the future.
“Manga are easier to follow than serious journalism or reportage, and of course there is some entertainment value, which makes them easier to pick up,” said Kazuma Yoshimura, head of the Manga Research Centre at Kyoto’s Seika University.
“Most disasters have an end point, but the nuclear problem is ongoing. The special aspects of manga, like looking towards the future and fiction, allow tackling the subject on a different level.”
Though manga began trickling out shortly after the disaster took place, it wasn’t until April that most of the nation became aware of them, thanks to a food manga called “Oishinbo” — The Gourmet — and a Fukushima food safety series.
In it, several characters suffered nosebleeds they blamed on radiation exposure – a situation that medical experts say is highly unlikely but something they have not ruled out. The manga also said the Fukushima area would be unlivable for years.
This unleashed a flood of angry comments from Fukushima residents to Abe and other cabinet ministers, who called for people to use “correct” information, in turn setting off discussions about free speech and government cover-ups. “Of course manga are written so they’re easy to understand in one glance, which does make it possible for things to be taken wrong and rumours to be born,” Yoshimura said.
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