Death dust over Tokyo

A magnitude 8 earthquake damages the cooling pipes at a nuclear reactor in central Tokyo.  The plant explodes, even though the owner, New Tokyo Electric, had promised the plant would withstand such an earthquake.   

The consequences are catastrophic.  Shinohai (death dust or atomic fallout) released from the plant spreads across north-east Japan.  90% of Tokyo residents are killed, the entire city is evacuated and declared an exclusion zone, and Kyoto becomes the new capital. 

Twenty years later, feral animals stalk the long-abandoned metropolis.  Radiation levels remain too high for humans.  The Kyoto government does not know what is happening in Tokyo.  The jieitai (self-defence force), armed with Geiger counters and tranquillising guns, are sent in to search for survivors.

This is the plot of Coppelion, a manga story I heard about last week.  The first volume of the still running series was released in 2008. 

I got hold of a copy at a second-hand store in Nishiogi yesterday.  It`s intriguing and creepy – a reminder that people were warning of nuclear disaster long before the March tragedy this year.  

Coppelion is a science fiction story and some of the plot stretches credibility.  For example, the government would never allow a nuclear plant to be built in Tokyo – they know it would be far too dangerous. 

The most curious twist of all though are the identities of the elite members of the self-defence force:  3 high school girls, all dressed in uniform – white open-neck shirt, sinfully short tartan skirt and long grey socks.  The gutsy girls do not need radiation suits; they were cloned with radiation-resistant genes. 

Their school-girl characterisation would be familiar and convincing for those who have spent anytime in Japanese schools.  Air-lifted into Tokyo, one girl immediately demands a kinenshashin (commemorative photo), then screams out “I want to eat a pafe!” (parfait), before lying on the floor and filling her face with a bento (packed lunch).

 

The prophetic plot of Copellion makes it an unforgettable manga.  The fictional yet credible school-girl characters, like the vulnerable nuclear plant and deceitful electric company, must have been inspired by observation of the real ones.   The manga writer, Tomonori Inoue, must be a perceptive witness.

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