It’s been almost a year to the day since I wrote the following post, but recent events have revived some interesting, long-dormant possibilities.
Unless otherwise indicated, everything below the line of asterisks is from the post I originally published on 13 September 2007. The references to “current” events have not been updated. (For example, the outgoing PM this time around is Fukuda Yasuo, not Abe Shinzou.)
And a parting note: the BBC referred to manga as “Japanese manga cartoons”. Unforgivable.
I think the Wall Street Journal said it best: “Score one for the nerds!”
News of Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzou‘s surprise resignation was quickly followed by speculation as to who would succeed him. [EDIT: Now, less than a year later, Abe’s immediate successor Fukuda is on his way out. Talk about turnover!] According to the BBC, former Foreign Minister Asou Tarou – currently the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and a close ally of Prime Minister Abe – is widely tipped to become the new man in the Kantei.
Now why is this relevant to us in the otakusphere?
Well, there’s the fact that Asou is a well-known manga fan.
In this interview, for example, Asou freely admitted to reading “10 to 20” manga anthologies a week. My Japanese sucks, but I was able to recognise some pretty big names in the list he rattled off (including the seinen anthologies Young Jump and Business Jump).
And his credentials don’t end there. Earlier this year [EDIT: “this year” = 2007], as Japan’s Foreign Minister, Asou oversaw the establishment of the International Manga Award to honour the achievements of non-Japanese mangaka. During his term in office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs used manga in an official capacity to bolster its image among Japanese children and to convey its message to delegates at an international meeting on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Not surprisingly, shares in manga publishers and bookshops rose on the Tokyo Stock Exchange even as the rest of the market lost ground on the news of Prime Minister Abe’s resignation.
Of course, his selection is far from a sure thing; so far the only person to throw his hat into the ring is Finance Minister Nukaga Fukushiro. [EDIT: This year, Asou’s potential rivals include former Defence Minister Koike Yuriko and former LDP Policy Research Council Chairman Ishihara Nobuteru.] But if Asou is indeed picked for the top job, I shall look forward to seeing how his love for manga will influence the way he manages his country’s affairs.
For starters, how does a manga mascot for the Kantei sound?
NEW LINKS (not part of the original 13 September 2007 post)
Anime News Network – “Manga Fan Asō Tarō Again in Running for Japan’s Top Post“; “Asō Candidacy Again Boosts Anime/Manga Stock Prices”
BBC News – “Japan PM in surprise resignation“; “Japan’s Aso ‘ready’ for PM role“