Artists and writers often explore a particular theme throughout the body of their work. Graphic art journalist Fumio Obata uses comic strips, with the simplest words and phrases, to tell deeply layered stories of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

What kind of themes do you explore in your writing or art?

“At art school, Fumio Obata was taught the importance of ‘the theme, having something of your own, something only you can do’. The theme that has preoccupied Obata for the past five years is one he has truly made his own. He has been chronicling, through striking comic book reportage, the devastating consequences of the magnitude 9.1 earthquake that struck off the northeast Pacific coast of Japan in March 2011, causing a tsunami and meltdowns and radioactive contamination at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant…

Obata’s reporting, which he describes as ‘a kind of journalism, but I’m more doing my philosophical take on it’, begins with him taking photographs and recording interviews.

‘Because I’m trying to structure a narrative, usually it’s the words I start with. I listen to the interviews I did and write down as much as I can. Then I take out the key words, the phrases I think are important, simplifying it. It’s very important simplifying the information. Because what I’m making is a comic strip. It’s not an article, which allows you to have I don’t know how many words: 2000, 3000. I need the space for pictures so I can’t have 3000 words.'” ~ Melanie

READ MORE: The Comic Strip Journalist Who Reports on the Fallout from Fukushima | Japan Safety: Nuclear Energy Updates

Obata does onsite research for his Fukushima comic strip project. The following video records a traverse through the devastated town of Futaba.

A Visit to Town of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, April 2016 | Youtube

Graphic Art Journalism


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