The latest chapter of Toshihiko Fujinami‘s Manga de Yomu Jinbutsu-den (A Biography in Manga) manga series has created a controversy online over its depiction of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. The manga chapter debuted in the fourth issue of Shogakukan‘s Shōgaku 8 Nensei children’s educational magazine on September 28.
The biographical manga series is part of the magazine’s “Noteworthy Features Corner,” and it tells the stories of prominent figures in modern history. In the latest chapter, Fujinami depicts Abe from childhood as a member of a family of politicians, including former prime ministers. The manga shows Abe’s unpopularity during his first term and his subsequent resignation for health reasons in 2007. The manga also references scandals involving Abe. The chapter states that Abe’s approval rating has fallen to 29%, and United States President Donald Trump appears to taunt him for having even lower approval than he does.
Because the manga is targeted at elementary school children, some online commenters believe that Fujinami’s manga is inappropriate. They believe that the negative portrayal of Japan’s current leader could be harmful to children because they are very impressionable and are still developing. Some commenters believe that the magazine’s editors were wrong to push their political stance, which some view as “anti-Japanese,” on innocent children.
On the other hand, some net users support Fujinami’s work. Some people are labeling those responding with harsh criticisms against the manga as net uyoku, Japan’s right-wing nationalists who are outspoken on the Internet. Abe himself is commonly viewed as a right-wing nationalist.
The magazine issue currently has 15 one-star ratings on Amazon and seven five-star ratings. The retailer’s listing currently has no customer ratings in between, demonstrating the divisiveness Fujinami’s manga has created.
Shogakukan launched the magazine in February. The “8” in the title is a reference to the number on a digital clock, which is composed of components of all the numbers from zero to nine. Because the eight combines the other numbers on a digital clock, the magazine’s staff intends it to represent that the magazine is for all elementary grades between second and sixth grade.
The inaugural issue of the magazine featured Fujinami’s Manga de Yomu Jinbutsu-den chapter about Trump. The chapter, which Shogakukan describes as the “world’s first” biographical manga about Trump, features an unflattering depiction of him similar to the manga’s Abe installment. The magazine’s official website posted an article about the Trump manga in English in February, shortly after the magazine and manga launched.
Trump also appeared in Keisuke Itagaki‘s Baki-Dou manga in November and Kohe’s Yo! Daitōryō Torappu-kun stars the U.S. president as a rapping, elementary-school aged kid.
The second and third installments of Fujinami’s Manga de Yomu Jinbutsu-den, which debuted in April and July, respectively, feature Matthew Perry. Perry was a Commodore of the United States Navy, and he is known for forcing the reopening of Japan’s ports with his “black ships” in the 1850s. Japanese sources often depict Perry negatively.
In addition, Fujinami’s other works include the Koizumike no Oyaji comedy manga about former Prime Minister Junichirō Koizumi, who preceded Abe in his first term as prime minister. Fujinami’s Edomae A Merikan is a parody of American comics. Fujinami is also a former producer at Yomiuri Advertising, and he served as producer for anime such as Mah? no Princess Minky Momo: Yume o Dakishimete, Matchless Raijin-Oh, and Jungle no Ouja Taa-chan.