Guardian of Fukushima is an non-fiction Graphic Novel. It recounts the wild events of 2011 in Japan, when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami led to the meltdown of the massive Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The cooling systems of the six American-designed light water reactors were disabled as a result of the disaster, causing massive radiation leaks, and evacuation of a 20km zone around Fukushima. Everyone must go!
Writer Fabien Grolleau, illustrator Ewen Blain and lettering by Vibrraant Publishing Studio combine to give the reader some human perspective on this enormous natural disaster and its complications.
The story revolves around Naoto Matsumura, a construction worker, who takes on a protective role, herding animals to safety, caring for his family, and doing everything he can to minimize disruption around him during the chaos that follows the earthquake. It’s well told, with Grolleau placing us in the midst of the desolation, then pulling us back again to ‘begin’ the story. Alongside the main narrative, Grolleau manages to weave in a parallel story that recounts the saving of a sea turtle, who turns out to be the daughter of the king of the sea.
Artist Ewen Blain manages to convey the beauty and timelessness of the eastern Japanese coastline communities before the disaster, and keeps a light and lyrical touch throughout. His characters verge on looking like comic strip drawings, with exaggerated gestures and animated expressions. But the key elements are still present in an unvarnished portrayal of Naoto with a lit cigarette perpetually balanced on the lip of his unshaven face. Blain’s thin outlines and superb watercolour treatment make for very pleasant viewing indeed.
In addition to the graphic novel presentation of the story, Guardian of Fukushima also includes resident Ko Sasaki’s photos of the disaster and the aftermath and essays by Roland Kelts and Stu Levy. Originally released by the French publisher, Steinkis, the book has been licensed for English language release by TOKYOPOP. Translation by Jenna Martin.
TOKYOPOP, GUARDIAN OF FUKUSHIMA, $19.99 for 144 pages