Joe Is Japanese tackles the earthquake in Japan… rather bizarrely

So what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate when discussing the eathquake, tsunami, and nuclear threat in Japan? The past month has had the public struggling with the answer to that question, with certain political pundits getting chastised over tasteless jokes, Gilbert Gottfried losing his Aflac job, and, most recently, certain nuclear meltdown episodes of The Simpsons getting yanked from the air. Cartoonists are feeling the heat, too, especially since it seems nearly impossible to refer to the earthquake without referencing something from Japanese pop culture.

But… what if those pop culture references came from someone who actually experienced the earthquake? That’s what happens in the webcomic Joe Is Japanese. The production crew at get an email from the man he based the main character off of, a 35-year-old animator named Koga Sato. It’s a really bizarre e-mail, referencing everything from Mike Tyson to Ronald Reagan to a huge somewhat buff Jesus. But it’s also very personal. There’s a harrowing scene where Koga realizes that cities have been permanently wiped off the map and anxieties over what’s to come. On the surface, it’s a little silly to be shoehorning such strange observations into a national tragedy… but when you think about, it’s also a testament to Koga keeping his spirits up while struggling to communicate the magnitude through shared, innocent cultural references.

Which, when you come to think of it, is a lot more deeper and touching than lazily showing Ultraman running from a giant wave.

The comic ends with an appeal to donate to the Search Dog Foundation, which has been hard at work trying to find survivors amongst the rubble.

(h/t Robot 6)


Posted on March 28, 2011, in The Webcomic Overlook, webcomics. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. God damnit, seriously? They wrote “TSUNAMI” on the actual tsunami? It was that necessary, that we might not know what it was? This perpetuates my dislike of political cartoon style illustrations.

    • Uh, that was his real email fox. That’s what the person who experienced this wrote. Verbatim. We didn’t feel like it should be altered in the least. Imagine yourself having friends. Then imagine them in Japan during this. You see on the news what is happening, but due to power and grid failures you cannot talk with ANY of them. Finally after a long radio silence, you finally get the first email letting you know that someone is OK and what the experience was like. Add to the fact it was THIS email… written by an unaware poet.

      Seeing so much destruction and losing loved ones, we needed to do something…. anything really. Our studio was compelled to somehow pass this email around and since we’re an animation studio and a collection of weak-armed pencil jockeys, we went with our strength of illustration. A lot of animators donated some long nights putting this together. The RDF emailed us yesterday, thanking us for the donations, so I guess it has been effective. Time will tell.

      Oh, and nothing “political” about this really. Maybe it perpetuates your dislike of reality-based cartoon style illustrations.

      • Um, before this gets out of hand: I’m 100% sure that Fox was talking about the Malaysian political cartoon I linked to where Ultraman is running from the tsunami wave, not the Joe Is Japanese comic itself.

        • AH, that would make more sense. I haven’t seen that one…. searching… wow, now that’s insulting.

          Fox, didn’t mean to lash out… before the noon-thirty coffee.

          El Santo, thanks for the clarification and for spreading the word on this one! We’re glad so many people seem to be enjoying it and the benefit nature seems to be progressing as well. Much love.

          • That would be correct, El Santo. Sorry, I should have commented more fully about the whole thing. The Joe is Japanese comic was fantastic — I enjoyed it for its outlook thoroughly. Also I have that guys phone.

            The Ultraman political cartoon was just downright awful, and as they usually like to label elements of the image to abstract representative ideas or terms, labelling the tsunami *AS* TSUNAMI is just…. euuuughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

  2. From what I’ve read, this webcomic is refreshingly and suprisingly fun to read. There’s only two chapters up, but I know it’s going in a great direction and I have confidence in you as writers. Also, my regards to your friend. Keep up the great work.

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