After 40 years, banned manga on cannibalism set to hit the big screen

September 27, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Four decades after George Akiyama shocked Japanese fans with a manga about cannibalism, the content of which was considered so extreme that sales to minors were banned, the work has been adapted into an animated feature.

It is scheduled for release in movie theaters nationwide on Sept. 29.

"Asura" came out in 1970 and is set in an apocalyptic world where the characters resort to eating human flesh to stave off hunger.

At that time, animated or live-action adaptations were not even on the horizon.

Akiyama's eldest son, Inochi, 42, is proud of this father's work. He says he finds meaning in the contentious tale.

"He (the main character) is not just living in a violent way. He has love."

The story is set in a farming village in feudal Japan and centers on a boy named Asura, whose mother attempts to roast him alive so she can devour him. Asura develops a cruel streak and turns to cannibalism to survive.

But as Asura grows, he learns through his encounters with a Buddhist monk and a girl named Wakasa what it means to be human.

"Asura" was serialized in 1970 in Shonen Magazine, a weekly.

Akiyama was in his late 20s at the time, and it was said he unleashed all of his unbridled passion into the work.

Akiyama had intended to end his story by giving Asura the name of "Inochi" (life), to show that the character lived life to the fullest.

But he gave up on that idea after the work was deemed to be harmful to minors. Another factor came into play. His son was born that year, and Akiyama decided to bestow the name of Inochi to his offspring instead.

"I came to think that Asura was me when I read the original manga after I became an adult," Inochi said. "And if I were to apply the relationship between me and my father in our real lives to the film, I thought it would be the relationship between Asura and the monk who keeps a protective eye on him."

The message of the story, "risk your life to live" because living is tough, reflected his father's philosophy.

Toei Animation Co. spent four years on planning and three years on production.

"I'd like everyone to see Asura as he is born and doing his best in life until he meets death," Inochi said.

The film was directed by Keiichi Sato. The voice-over for Asura is done by Masako Nozawa. Kinya Kitaoji and Megumi Hayashibara perform the roles of the monk and Wakasa, respectively.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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(c) Geroge Akiyama/ Toei Animation Co. (c) Ashura Production Committee

(c) Geroge Akiyama/ Toei Animation Co. (c) Ashura Production Committee

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  • (c) Geroge Akiyama/ Toei Animation Co. (c) Ashura Production Committee
  • Inochi Akiyama (Tetsuo Iwamoto)

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