The nosebleed, long a sign of suppressed lust in manga, has taken on a whole new meaning, in a controversy that has now been running for five years, and left a stain on what should have been the triumphant ending of a successful series.
Tetsu Kariya’s Oishinbo (“The Gourmet”) has been running for three decades in the pages of Big Comic Spirits, drawn by Akira Hanasaki. “Thirty years,” wrote its author ruefully, “is long enough for anything,” and there were rumours afoot that with failing health and entirely reasonable weariness, he was planning on bringing the story to a close. However, Oishinbo bowed out suddenly and unexpectedly, after a May 2014 storyline about reporters covering the nuclear accident at Fukushima.
Oishinbo was one of the most successful manga in Japan, running to 111 compilation volumes, every one of them a million-plus best-seller. It is one of the last hold-outs of the “gourmet” trendiness of Japan’s 1980s bubble era, and an encyclopaedic introduction to the world of Japanese food and society. But Kariya’s final storyline before a sudden (and apparently planned “hiatus”) featured a character who suddenly develops a nosebleed after coming home from a Fukushima fact-finding mission, despite claims by the authorities that there should be no side-effects. “I myself began to have nosebleeds suddenly at dinner next day when I came back from coverage in Fukushima,” wrote Kariya on his blog, also citing sudden and inexplicable fatigue: “It felt like someone was trying to drag my spine to the ground.”
Kariya, who has lived in Australia since 1988, is a Japanese opinion-former with a large audience, but he seemed to make a lot of enemies. All twenty phone lines at his publisher, Shogakukan, were jammed for a solid fifteen hours – he blamed “pro-claimers”, a term for thugs hired to disrupt corporate activities. He subsequently got into a mud-slinging match with Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, who called his comments irresponsible and defamatory after Japan had received the much-needed economic boost of the 2020 Olympics. Last month he published an update on his blog, detailing further incidents of harassment and stone-walling directed against him and his publishers over the last five years.
“This was not a thing I heard from someone,” he wrote. “nor me repeating some rumour. This is something I experienced for myself.”
Jonathan Clements is the author of Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO #190, 2019.