The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope


The new graphic novel relates how Naoto Matsumura risked his life to save abandoned animals in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster

February 9, 2023

The French duo of Fabien Grolleau (Audubon, On the Wings of the World) and Ewen Blain have collaborated on a new graphic novel that explores one resident’s experience in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the ensuing nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Guardian of Fukushima is the second book in TOKYOPOP’s Comics That Matter initiative (the first was Victory for Ukraine). The initiative seeks to raise awareness of import issues using the graphic novel medium. Guardian of Fukushima will be released ahead of its March 11th anniversary. 

Guardian of Fukushima is told from the point of view of Naoto Matsumura. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered a meltdown after the tsunami and spread radiation throughout the region. The Japanese government evacuated residents from the area as a preventative measure, but Matsumura the farmer risked his life to return home and care for the abandoned animals.   

Grolleau and Blein blend European art style with Japanese aesthetics. Soft expressive art complements the impactful story and characters. This original French graphic novel alludes to timeless Japanese legends as an ode to Mother Nature and human resilience.

Grolleau recalls what brought him to the project:

“When I discovered Matsumura-san’s life in the forbidden zone of Fukushima, I immediately was in awe of this man’s courage, modesty, and nobility. His story is full of hope and resonated with themes I was keen to explore as an author, such as ecology and nature, and with the vision I had of Japanese myths that I wanted to share through comics.”

Tokyo-based writer and scholar Roland Kelts provides the forward to the book. The TOKYOPOP edition also includes bonus materials by Fukushima-resident and acclaimed photographer Ko Sasaki, who provides photographs of the disaster and its aftermath. TOKYOPOP founder Stu Levy contributes photography and background information about the tragedy.

Levy speaks about his passion in bringing the book to publication:

“I will never forget my experiences in Tohoku immediately after the tsunami, especially the resilience and determination of the local people. Naoto Matsumura exemplifies this spirit – and this will to not only survive but also to ensure the survival of the creatures he loves. I am proud we can bring readers Fabien and Ewen’s extraordinary work as part of our Comics That Matter initiative, and I invite readers of all ages to discover his mission and become inspired to find ways to make a difference in their own communities.”

Guardian of Fukushima (MSRP $19.99, ISBN 9781427871367) goes on sale in bookstores on February 28, 2023 and in comics shops on March 1, 2023.

And now, here are the first 10 pages of Guardian of Fukushima. Enjoy!



February 13, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Naoto Matsumura Guardian Of Fukushima in TokyoPop March 2022

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.

December 30, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

“Half Life in Fukushima” documents life in the red zone five years after the nuclear disaster


Half-life in Fukushima” is a documentary feature in competition at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival. It represents a Switzerland and France collaboration, with co-directors Mark Olexa and Francesca Scalisi at the helm. While the production represents a European origin, the subject matter had gained world-wide attention no less than Chernobyl in 1986.

The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan directly set off the Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster. The town surrounding the Plant was evacuated due to radioactive fallout. Filmmakers Olexa and Scalisi entered the Fukushima red zone five years later and documented a resident still living there, a farmer named Naoto Matsumura.

How Naoto was given permission to stay there is not explained in the film. Actually, Naoto was not alone. He remains in Fukushima with his elderly father, the two striving on a life of self-sufficiency. There is no water from the tap, and radioactive fallouts render everything poisonous, including the mushrooms Naoto had been picking for years in the forest at the back of his home. Only the boisterous ocean remains a powerful reminder of what life was like before disaster hit.

The directors capture their subject with quiet sensitivity and empathy. At first devastated by the loss of everything, but now five years later Naoto is resigned to accept a solitary existence in the ghost town. There are nuclear cleanup crews still working during the day, but all in protective suits and masks. We see Naoto wearing ordinary clothes, feeding his cattle, wandering the streets alone, reminiscing by the ocean, or going into the forest just to look at the trees.

In the opening shot, we see the definition of the term “half-life”. It refers to the time it takes for one-half of the atoms of a radioactive material to disintegrate. It is also an apt metaphor describing the remnants of a life in Naoto. In many scenes, a stationary camera allows us to experience Naoto’s coming and going in real time. One of such moments is when the camera stays with Naoto from a distance as he stops his truck at an intersection when the traffic lights turn red. We stop with him, the scene motionless and silent for about a minute until the green lights come on. Such a vicarious moment into a life on hold is eerily poignant.

One might be surprised to see traffic lights still function and Naoto still obeys them when he is the only one driving in town. It is heart-wrenching to see one man try to maintain normalcy despite all loss, attempting to carve out a life in the midst of desolation. What more, we see Naoto playing a round of golf in an abandoned driving range and singing Karaoke on his own. The film ends with this scene. We hear Naoto sing a song of lost love, a life he can never go back to. After that, we hear the ocean roar as the screen fades to black.



April 11, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment