We never know his name. He is referred to as “that mysterious boy” (不思議な童子 / fushigi na douji) by one character, but the title of the comic (たまゆら童子 / Tamayura Douji, “The Phantom Boy”) hints broadly at the fact that he’s a spirit and not a human child anyway. Give him a name, and it’s a tossup as to whether he’d take it to heart or just chuckle and look for someone else to give him another. Like the angels in Win Wenders’s Wings of Desire, sometimes he soars above all of human nature and sometimes he drops to earth to experience human nature firsthand.
The best offhand term I have to describe Tamayura Douji is historical fantasia — it’s not intended to be any kind of serious exploration of Japanese history, even if the logo on the spine of the book reads “Jidaigeki Comic Series” (jidaigeki meaning a historical tale). It leaps and floats between characters and events from Japan’s past, linking them through the adventures of the title character. The end result is somewhere between the Classics Illustrated approach seen in other manga (e.g., Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s Sangokushi) and the dreamier, more whimsical — shilling for sentimental — approach used by shōjo manga. Read more
Most of us, I suspect, have a deep-seated distrust of anything “nuclear”. The infamy of the atom has many monuments to its name: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Bikini Atoll, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Mayak, Windscale. Nobody wants a reactor in their backyard — even if nuclear power is one of the few large-scale ways to wean ourselves from burning coal. (Irony of ironies: we spew more radiation into the environment by burning coal than we do with a well-regulated and well-designed nuclear plant.)
The key words, of course, are “well-regulated” and “well-designed”, and while there are probably plenty of the latter it’s becoming all too clear there isn’t nearly enough of the former. For bad design and poor regulation, Chernobyl stands as the grossest example of both in conjunction. In its shadow there have been other accidents, albeit not as well-known or with such widespread effects, but which illustrate all too clearly that the most pressing danger of nuclear power is not radiation but human ignorance.
A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness documents how negligence and corruption at a nuclear-fuel processing plant in Tokaimura, Japan caused that country’s worst nuclear accident to date. One of the workers there, a pleasant family man named Hisachi Ouchi, received a dose of radiation nearly ten thousand times the normal background level, and over the course of the next two months and some-odd days literally disintegrated under the eyes of his doctors. Most of us know of radiation sickness only from the exaggerations of bad science fiction movies, but Mr. Ouchi’s case is even more ghastly than anything dreamed up by any screenwriter.Read more