December 27, 2021
TokyoPop is to translate and publish the French manga series Guardian Of Fukushima by Naoto Matsumura for Free Comic Book Day in May, as well as the rest of TokyoPop’s March 2022.
March 11th, 2011: a massive earthquake off the coast of Japan triggered a devastating tsunami which, in turn, destroyed the three core reactors of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. This tragedy cost almost 20,000 lives and devastated countless more, including Naoto Matsumura, a farmer ordered to evacuate from the deadly radiation zone. Unwilling to abandon his beloved animals, Matsumura chose to return home to his farm, and to fight for the beauty of life. This powerful graphic novel from France intertwines Matsumura’s story of human resilience and compassion with the compelling mythology of Japanese folk tales.
Naoto, the guardian of Fukushima : life before everything else
What have we learned from Fukushima? A place name, chilling images, official lies galore and the terrible idea that once again Nature was stronger than man’s gamble. Against the speeches claiming that nuclear energy is safe and that the accidents of the past cannot happen again, reality imposed itself, forcing the authorities to lose face and admit that the core of three reactors of the Fukushima-Daiichi plant had melted. And that it will probably take thirty or forty years to put an end to the consequences of the disaster. Based on the true story of Naoto Matsumura, Fabien Grolleau and Ewen Blain revisit the events not from the point of view of death, but from the point of view of the life that follows its course beyond the collapse.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster is still very much in the memory. Even if the media attention has since shifted elsewhere, even if the real long-term consequences on underwater radiation, on living species, local and distant, is yet to be established, the terror has not yet faded from the collective memory. An earthquake, a tsunami whose waves rise higher than the specifications provided to the engineers in charge of the design of the plant, and here is that human know-how is transformed into evil genius…
Several graphic stories have already addressed the catastrophic aspect of the event, including a brilliant reportage drawn from the inside by a mangaka hired as a worker to decontaminate the site of Fukushima-Daiichi (At the heart of Fukushima, by Kazuto Tatsuta published in three volumes by Kana from 2016), the project here focuses less on the terrible events and their consequences than on the character who gives its title to the album.
Naoto Matsumuru was not an opponent of nuclear power. On the contrary, like most Japanese people, he believed in the miracle of atomic electricity, proclaimed green and safe by its operators and the governments that, as in France, make themselves the standard-bearers of a cause that is beyond them and of which they only perceive the economic and strategic interests.
It is the reality that opened his eyes by force: living near the power plant, farmer by profession, he endured the seismic shocks, then saw with his own eyes the consequences of the earthquake on the sea and on human constructions. Forced to flee and take refuge outside the contaminated zone, he discovers that he has become, in the eyes of his own family, a plague victim, contaminated by radiation…
Rather than flee further, he chooses to return to his farm and, without waiting for the State or Tepco, the company that manages the plant, to take care of him, he decides to take care of the animals abandoned on the spot. Where radiation makes life impossible, Naoto has decided to defend it no matter what the cost, risking his own existence to look after dogs, cats, ostriches and many cows left abandoned by humans… A foolish bet, which was not a bet at all. Naoto, as we can see in the plates of this book, which is more solar than nuclear, has simply chosen life at all costs rather than death by fire.
Through this astonishing journey, out of the ordinary in the true sense of the word, Fabien Grolleau tells us a tale of resilience and courage, in a particularly hostile environment. This story, which moves away from comic book reporting to become pure fiction at times, illustrates more effectively than many alarmist statements the power of an act of resistance and the strength of a testimony at the level of a human being in the face of a very abstract media narrative.
Today, Naoto is a first-hand witness to the horrors not of nuclear power itself, but of its deplorable management by men. He has become an active activist: he has come to Europe to support those who are still opposed to the forced march of nuclear power in defiance of the major health risks, especially at Fessenheim.
With Naoto, the guardian of Fukushima, Ewen Blain signs his first album as a comic book artist. Still a little stiff at times, especially in the first few panels, his line is nevertheless not lacking in accuracy to give substance to this story where Japanese fantasy tales and the fury of supernatural beings are mixed with a more documentary account. Blain seems to take an infectious pleasure in drawing the oriental monsters and the nature that is unleashed. A nice summary of what Fukushima is.
In short, this album that manages to give rise to optimism and to illustrate bravery in the heart of the disaster is a nice success.
The guardian of Fukushima, a soft and tender comic book to tell the horror of the drama
Naoto Matsumura lived through the tragedy of Fukushima, on March 11, 2011. He saw the abandoned lands, the devastated nature, the dead animals. Fabien Grolleau and Ewen Blain tell his story, that of a Japanese man running a peaceful farm, where everything changed overnight. They tell the story of the tragedy, of course, but above all of the life that was maintained there and that Naoto preserved despite the catastrophe.
Naoto is a soft and tender comic book to tell children the horror of the Fukushima disaster.
Fabien Grolleau takes this true story of Naoto Matsumura “the most irradiated man in Japan” who refused to be evacuated from his farm to save his animals, and all the others abandoned after the tsunami that ravaged the nuclear plant.
Ewen Blain’s drawings immerse us in the peaceful, luminous Japanese nature. We walk in it, we even feel it thanks to the evocation of the legends that embody it. The Tsunami is no longer a tsunami but the dragon Ruyjin who is angry. The radioactive cloud has become the terrible demon Akashita, who sees everything and sneaks around. The contemplative is transformed into an animated beast, furious, devastating to the extent of the drama of March 11, 2011, where Fukushima has become a second Chernobyl.
The lively line, the clear colors, contrast with the rather simple dialogues, which only give more power to the drama lived by hundreds of thousands of Japanese that day.
Naoto Matsumura really exists. He is well. When he is not on his farm taking care of his animals, he travels the world to make his anger heard against nuclear power.