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Japan Subculture Research Center

A guide to the Japanese underworld, Japanese pop-culture, yakuza and everything dark under the sun.

The manga that predicted nuclear meltdown


Mar 31, 2011

There’s been a number of postponements and cancellations in the Japanese entertainment world since the March 11 Tohoku Earthquake. Many are out of a sense of respect, some are due to logistics, but Men’s Cyzo recently brought to light one manga that’s been temporarily shelved due to a more macabre connection…

Shirakawa Tatsuya, the nicest yakuza on the block

Yakuza manga Hakuryu Legend (白竜〜LEGEND, published by Nihon Bungei-sha) tells the story of Shirakawa Tatsuya, a gangster whose cool, calculating yakuza nature is counterbalanced with a kindness so warm that children love him. The manga covers the typical gammut of yakuza plot lines: turf wars, fights, etc., but has also featured some rather unconventional topics, like the dubious transactions involved in constructing an amusement park, or the dark side of the medical profession.

But the bizarre reality of Hakuryu Legend’s most recent story arc, “Atomic Mafia” (原子力マフィア編) may have been its undoing. In the March 24 edition, released on the day of the earthquake, Shirakawa and his crew are brought to a beach by a newspaper a reporter, a nuclear power plant looming in the background. Here, they’re told by the man about the shadiness of one “Toto Denryoku” power company and their nuclear energy.

Despite the fact that the manga was penned before the March 11 earthquake, and certainly before the Fukushima reactor accidents, the larger-than-life dialogue rings eerily true, even if not all of it is accurate:

“There’s been a lot of accidents happening inside the reactor that never get leaked to the press.”
“Toto Denryoku knows how to use money and political power to keep everything hidden!”
“The workings of the reactor are 15 years behind the technology in chemical manufacturing plants.”
“The reactors have been patched together by a number of different subcontractors..”
“And on top of that, the construction is really sloppy!”
“If the main workings of the reactor were to be blown off, you’d have an accident on the scale of Chernobyl!!”

It would seem like fiction in any other situation...

The manga has unfortunately joined the long list of cancellations brought on by the Tohoku Earthquake, including Yakuza: Of the End, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories (a game that opens with an earthquake hitting a major Japanese city), a number of anime and manga, shows by The National and other artists, Tokyo Bay Fireworks, even the Sanja Matsuri. According to Cyzo, there’s been considerable protest raised on the Internet, with Hakuryu fans eager to get their hands on more of the comic, and perhaps glimpses of the future. The publisher has said they would consider bringing the manga back to Weekly Manga Goraku once a suitable amount of time has passed, but added that there’s always the possibility it could be released in tankobon form by a different company if independent editors stepped in.

This isn’t the first time Hakuryu has pre-empted reality. Before the “Atomic Mafia” arc, there had been pages dedicated to the rampant baseball gambling in the sumo world, and to yakuza fixing matches–before the news came out last summer. We can only stipulate on what kind of insight manga-ka Tennoji Dai and Watanabe Michio may have into the organised crime world…

7 thoughts on “The manga that predicted nuclear meltdown”
  1. Do Dai and Michio have connections to the underworld or are they yakuza themselves? That’s what puzzles me.

    This can’t be a coincidence, though. Or is it?

  2. where can i possibly read this manga? ( by the way i dont speak japanese only English and Spanish)

  3. I’d love to read this manga, as well. I know a bit of the language, so I don’t mind a lack of English. However, I’ve just been catching up on the Iron Man anime and I’m finding one of it’s main themes pretty topical–nuclear power and plutonium keep sneaking into the storyline. The show isn’t as smart as it could be, but the commentary (on nuke power and violence) and irony (after Fukushima) is pretty evident. Of course, this show finished airing weeks, maybe months before Tohoku, but it seems like radiation was on the minds of a few writers.

  4. […] When the Tōhoku tsunami struck at Fukushima, reports describe chaos and incompetency as workers had to bring protective gear and manuals from distant buildings as well as borrow equipment from contractors. The failure of the Japanese government and TEPCO to imagine such a catastrophic event and guard against it is highlighted by the fact that this exact scenario was predicted in a Japanese magna comic book. […]

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