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Oishinbo's impact (3)

Comic publisher accepts criticism over Fukushima controversy



TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The publisher of a weekly comic magazine said Monday it accepts a wave of criticism over depictions of the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in a long-running comic called "Oishinbo."

In Monday’s installment of the series — now suspended indefinitely — Hiroshi Murayama, who is also managing editor of the weekly Big Comic Spirits magazine the series runs in, includes an afterword in which he writes of feeling a strong pang of responsibility for the outrage caused by recent issues of the manga.

In an episode last month, the manga’s characters fall ill and get nosebleeds after visiting the meltdown-hit Fukushima No. 1 power plant. The illustrations quickly sparked outrage online, and many complained to publisher Shogakukan Inc. that the story might fuel prejudice toward people from Fukushima.


"We take criticism to heart and will once again re-examine the whole concept of expression," Shogakukan Inc. said in the latest issue of the Big Comic Spirits, responding to criticism from not only people in disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture but also the central government.

The comic "Oishinbo," about the adventures of a food writer, came under fire when a recent episode showed its main character having a nosebleed during his visit to the nuclear power plant devastated by a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011.

People in Fukushima said the scene runs counter to the truth and viewed it as harmful rumor as the scene may give readers the impression that local people have been suffering nosebleeds due to radiation from the crippled plant.

In the latest issue, the comic magazine carried a 10-page section to include opinions from medical experts and academics.

Shogakukan also explained that Oishinbo's author, Tetsu Kariya, had run the episode to raise awareness about the effects of residual radioactive substances and low dose exposure.

Earlier, Kariya insisted he spent two years looking into what was going in Fukushima and said he did not understand why he had to face criticism.

Their voices, he said, are rarely heard because they are reluctant to complain of sickness for fear of being branded as “overly squeamish.”

Manga author Tetsu Kariya, who has made repeated visits to the plant since the triple meltdowns, decided that “it’s wrong to ignore the voices of those people just because these are considered in the minority and likely to unsettle others,” Murayama said in the endnote.

“As editor in chief, I decided Kariya’s viewpoint was worth presenting to readers for their opinions,” he said.

The main characters in the long-running “Oishinbo” (“The Gourmet”) series are culinary writers working for a fictional newspaper company.

On Monday, in the last episode before the manga’s suspension, they conclude that, as journalists, they must face the pain of “telling the truth” about Fukushima. Remaining silent, they decide, is equal to “lying to the Fukushima residents.”

When it comes to the livability of Fukushima, there is a tendency to “sugarcoat your language in order to spare the feelings of the residents,” one reporter says, “but I think doing so is hypocritical.”

He adds: “As a human being, I would like to encourage people in Fukushima to have the courage to flee their dangerous homeland.”

The characters are apparent stand-ins for author Kariya, who wrote in a blog post that he “can only spread the truth.”

“Trumpeting the safety of Fukushima may have pleased some. But deception is what I abhor most,” he said.

Monday’s issue devotes 10 pages to laying out the opinions of 13 experts and municipalities.

One of them, Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, says that from a medical point of view the connection between nosebleeds and radiation exposure can’t be entirely ruled out.

Backing Kariya, he adds: “The government is not only indifferent to taking responsibility for the accident, but determined to erase it from people’s memory.” Such irresponsibility, he insists, is “almost criminal.”

Meanwhile, municipalities including Osaka and Fukushima prefectures and the town of Futaba have lodged complaints with the publisher.



Latest edition of manga magazine drawing attention





The latest edition of a manga series with a storyline that's come under fire for depicting health problems relating to radiation exposure in Fukushima Prefecture hit the shelves on Monday.

The long-running Oishinbo series in the Big Comic Spirits weekly magazine is put out every Monday by major Japanese publisher, Shogakukan.

Last month, the series had the main character, a newspaper reporter, experiencing nosebleeds after returning from a visit to the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

A former mayor of Futaba Town, which co-hosts the plant, then appears in the comic to explain that many residents of the prefecture are suffering the same symptoms.
The episode has drawn heavy criticism for linking nosebleeds to radiation exposure in Fukushima Prefecture. The government and critics of the story say it is promoting baseless rumors that the prefecture is dangerous.

This week's edition of the magazine carries a special feature that presents opinions from 13 experts about the claims made in the Oishinbo episode, as well as the view of the chief editor.

The editor says the episode was intended to raise questions about radioactive substances and low-dosage radiation. He expressed hope that the controversy will promote public discussion that will help determine the future of the Japanese people.

The appearance of the latest edition has received a mixed reaction from people in Fukushima.

One Fukushima city resident says he's never heard of people around him suffering nosebleeds.

A local woman stressed that the residents of Fukushima were hurt by the manga story. She says they felt like they were being hit by a new nuclear scarce, even though radiation levels have now dropped and food products are being found safe.

Another woman says that even though the comic supposedly carried the views of people having some relation to Fukushima Prefecture, she feels the people who really live there have been ignored.

A 59-year-old man says it would be worrisome if radioactivity is really to blame for nosebleeds. But he says the issue is a sensitive one and should have been presented with more care, as it is unknown whether the case is true.

A woman says it is important to raise such issues, as the nuclear accident is being forgotten already. She says she hopes people in other prefectures will know that Fukushima residents are getting back on their feet.

Shogakukan says the Oishinbo series will not appear in the magazine for a while in line with the plan adopted earlier.

May 19, 2014 - Updated 09:03 UTC


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