Operation Yashima

And so, as the nights grow longer and the need for air conditioning reduces, the Japanese government has finally relaxed its emergency power-saving measures. Put in place after the March quake/tsunami and Fukushima shut-down severely compromised the power grid for Tokyo and all points north, these directives urged factories to reduce their electricity usage by 15%.

Some people are still wondering how the loss of a single power station can cause such upheaval. It’s not just about the accident at Fukushima, it’s about the fact that the super-modern nation of Japan has two different power grids, running on different frequencies. Back in the days of Japan’s rapid modernisation, a French company installed the grid in one part of the country, and an American company installed the rest, one on 50Hz, and the other on 60Hz. As a result, diverting power from the south to the north is not so simple.

Although the directives only applied to big corporations, the rest of the Japanese soon rolled up their sleeves and muscled in. Aircon thermostats were cranked up so that they only cut in when the heat was truly unbearable. Office dress codes were relaxed to allow men to take off those jackets and ties. Meanwhile, all over Japan, a grass-roots economy drive began to tweet ideas for saving energy.

Meetings were held outdoors, if a park was nearby. Someone reminded people that it was hot enough to dry clothes on lines instead of in tumble dryers. And so on. And if you’re wondering what this has to do with Japanese cartoons, it is another example of the far-reaching power of the anime image. The hash-tag for all these suggestions, presumably kicked off by an anime fan with a sense of humour, was #yashimasakusen, a reference to episode six of Neon Genesis Evangelion. The titular Operation Yashima, for those that haven’t remembered their Gainax lore, is a military action in which the entire electricity grid of Japan is diverted to power up a massive sniper rifle. This wasn’t played up all too much in the recent Rebuild movie, so whoever came up with it was an old-school fan of the original TV series. And their little joke was the best bit of PR Gainax have had in a decade.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade. This article first appeared in NEO #91, 2011.