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Fukushima Guardian GN


After three months , earthquake and tsunami, everyone evacuated from towns affected by the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown. But one man, Naoto Matsumura, refused to go and stayed on his small farm to care for the animals people had been forced to abandon. French comic book creators Fabian Grolleau and Ewan Blain tell his story through fact, fiction and magical realism.

Guardian of Fukushima

Translated by Jenna Martin and written by Vibrraant Publishing Studio.

If there’s one thing that might turn readers away from this book, it’s 2011 STULIVEY of100 TOKYO POP 2011 Notorious for front-end and back-end issues. He’s a divisive figure among comic book readers. While some of us may cringe at the obviousness of his involvement in bringing this book to an English-speaking audience, it’s honestly worth ignoring any antipathy you might have for him, skip his intro and epilogue, and read on

Fukushima Guardian

. Fabian Grolleau and Ewan Blain have created this book for a French publisher, and it’s an excellent work.

Although he has since receded from media appearances, Naoto Matsumura is someone you may have heard of after March , 200 Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima, Japan. He is the one who remains in the community as a loner, taking care of any animals left behind when humans evacuate the area. For animal rescuers, it’s almost a given: Animals are people too (metaphorically speaking), and evacuees’ refusal to allow disaster refugees to take their pets feels like a deal breaker, at least from a distance That’s right. These are domestic animals, after all—we’ve made them dependent on humans, so abandoning them is a death sentence, even regardless of the radiation factor. Matsumura only speaks out once, but in every panel he interacts with the animals left behind, and when his family initially evacuated the land that his dog Aki couldn’t be with him, the news had a physical impact.

The animal rescue aspect is a major part of this book. There were some scenes of dead animals, mostly livestock, that Matsumura didn’t get there in time. There are images of hungry pets and livestock in the artwork at the end of the book and in the accompanying press photo, so if you have sensitivities, beware. The book’s animal sections, however, mostly struggle to paint a hopeful picture of Matsumura’s work: He drives around town looking for abandoned pets, feeds them, and brings them back to his farm to care for them. When the government sent veterinary teams to euthanize those left behind, Matsumura drove them away, refusing to give up the lives he worked so hard to save, while berating them for showing their faces Now, coming sooner would save more lives. All of this does make the scene where he smokes in the barn a bit weird – by 2011, the farmer I know has stopped smoking for safety reasons – but his smoking does highlight what he tells others Part of the reason he is not worried about the effects of radiation; he is aware of its carcinogenic effects and is comfortable with it.

The most striking feature of the book is how it uses Japanese folklore as a metaphor for Matsumura’s experience. While there is reference to Nomazu, a giant catfish whose constant flapping causes earthquakes, the real content of the metaphor is in Urashima’s story. As you may recall, this folktale tells the story of a fisherman who rescued a sea turtle and was rewarded with the hand of the Sea King’s daughter. He lives beneath the waves with her, but feels lonely to his family on shore. The princess allows him to return and gives him a treasure chest which he is forbidden to open. However, when Taro reaches land, he finds that hundreds of years have passed and everyone he knew is long dead. When he opened the treasure box, all those years were returned to him, and he aged instantly. Grolleau added the yokai Akashita, a monster that usually takes the form of a dark cloud. Akashita becomes radiation from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, spreading to abandoned towns. Meanwhile, Matsumura is Urashima himself, left in a world he has no longer known for most of his life. Although the later scene where the irradiated and starving yokai asks Matsumura for help doesn’t quite work either (if the book were two volumes instead of one, it might have, but there isn’t enough room to develop the idea) but Urashima’s use of Taro is very effective.

Full color artwork by Ewan Blain, inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s films and

Shigeru Mizuki comics, more typically


or BD , a comic art style native to France and Belgium. While other French comics have definitely been translated into English,

Guardians of Fukushima

For manga publishers Said an unusual choice; ABLAZE’s forthcoming Wakfu

For example, these publishers often choose content that is more typical. Again, this shouldn’t stop you from selecting it, but it might not look what you expect. It does a good job of bringing out the magical realism of the work, and some details that might have been left out, like the brief shot of Matsumura taking a bath and glimpses of his pubic hair or the skeletal nature of the hungry calf, really help to make things work in reality. It’s also something the author wanted to do, with the tsunami slowing down from a height, the way people lied (or at least fabricated details) about power plants in the first place, and an old woman’s bleak recollection of the aftermath of the Hiroshima factory explosion.

Guardian of Fukushima

both promising and hopeless all at once. These tragedies are portrayed as a horrific combination of natural and man-made disasters and strongly suggest that nuclear power is not the answer. This is not a book that tries to make sense of what happened, but shows one’s attempt to face it squarely. It’s a challenging read, but it’s a good read.


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