Wadachi and the Tatamiographies
Wadachi means “rut” in Japanese, the traces that a multiplicity of vehicles passing by makes on the dirt below. A man looks back at his life and sees the wadachi, and decides to name his son Wadachi.
The series itself follows the rut left by Otoko Oidon, coming on the heels of that series in the same magazine. And the title character and Otoko Oidon‘s Nobotta are spectacularly similar not only physically, but also in the fact that they come from Kyushu, live in a 4½ tatami room, keep virtually the same bird for a pet (Wadachi also has a Mii-like cat), cherish the jacket with cap that they took on their trip from Kyushu, have a great number of striped boxer shorts and are struck by the same ailment (=crotch rot). Otoko Oidon begins with Nobotta Oyama getting fired from his factory. Wadachi Yamamoto begins with a car crashing into Wadachi’s food stall. Both men are suddenly unemployed.
So far this description would put the manga squarely in the tradition of Leiji’s 4½ tatami room genre. But as good a reputation as Wadachi has (Della’s Website gives it the full 5 stars) it is not considered one of Matsumoto’s Big Three tatamiographies (my coinage for the 4½ tatami room tales). The Big Three are:
1. Ganso Dai Yojohan Monogatari (1970-4)
2. Otoko Oidon (1971-3)
3. Seibonjinden (1971-3)
There are a number of reasons why Wadachi might not be included. All of the Big Three were published concurrently during 1971-1973, and there is something epic and remarkable in this very fact. Actually, because of the different audiences that each magazine had, the flavor of each series was different: Otoko Oidon was kid-friendly (no sex), Seibonjinden revolved around sex, and GDYM was somewhere in the middle. Wadachi, as I wrote earlier, came after Otoko Oidon in the same magazine.
Length might also have something to do with it. The Big Three were collected into six, nine and ten tankobon volumes respectively. Wadachi is barely two volumes long (the bunkobon edition is one volume).
The biggest reason, however, must be the fact that Wadachi doubles as an SF work so it is not pure 4½ tatami material like the other three. This is laid out at the start, when Wadachi ends up in the hospital after the car accident. He “dreams” he hears up to three voices discussing him, one of them called Nozaki, and he sees a beautiful woman. Then he wakes up. In the traditional tatamiography, this incident would be just that, a dream. But here it’s a hint that the main character is set to experience wonderful, extraordinary things very soon.
As soon as Wadachi loses his job, he is offered a new one by professor from a fine arts university. Part of the reason he accepts the job, despite some initial resistance, is that Sado’s daughter Reiko is very beautiful. Working part-time for the professor (who looks and is named exactly the same as Dr. Sakazo Sado in the Yamato series), Wadachi discovers the academic has a huge technological control center very unbecoming of his profession. Meanwhile, the news reports that Japan has pulled out of the United Nations and the following:
The Cooperative Association for Maritime Resources
The United Nations Commerce and Navigation Treaty
The Association for the Regulation of the Use of Outer Space
The League for Joint Development of Nuclear Power
The International Food Supply Institute
Odd things start to happen: power cuts, water shortages, construction of airfields… Wadachi speculates there will be war. And just as he receives a message from the Prof. Sado to go to the coast for a job, he finds his hostel is gone without a trace (bird, cat and landlady included). At the coast, there are lots of men, all sent to “work”, although nobody knows what they’re supposed to do. There are rumors the rich have abandoned Japan and taken all the good stuff with them. There is a huge battleship visible from the coast, but nobody knows what it’s doing there.
The men discover a great host of women desperate for food. The women are about to kill the men when foreigners (Americans?) land on the coast and tell the Japanese that their elites have left them, that Japan will be put under the jurisdiction of the New United Nations, and that they should come with them. The men stay, but the women go with the handsome soldiers.
Eventually the mysterious ship returns and the men are allowed inside. Dr. Sado is on the ship (running things) as well as Wadachi’s landlady, plus his bird and cat. Sado explains that all of the structures and resources of Japan have been placed in an underground base located in the Seto Inland Sea (between Honshu and Shikoku islands). The “job on the coast” was ultimately a weeding out process to see which men were fit enough to survive things to come. At the end of the first volume, the New United Nations figures out that a massive number of Japanese are in the Seto area, and this forces Sado and his people to launch four ships into space (ahead of their original schedule).
Therefore the plan is revealed to consist of the evacuation of many (though not all) Japanese and the abandonment of Japan to foreigners. Sado calls this the Kamiyo plan. If you read my posts on Sexaroid you’ll see that the Kamiyo plan (same name, same content) is also in that manga! This is likely Leiji’s fantasy of rebooting history and starting from scratch, as Kamiyo (神代) is the name for the Age of the Gods at the misty dawn of Japanese history.
The first tankobon volume ends with a disturbing conversation (if there could be something more disturbing than a tatamiography surreptitiously morphing into the plot of Sexaroid ) between Dr. Sado and Wadachi. Sado says that he could never get married because he was so ugly, and he’s always regretted this. He claims to have been called a “yellow monkey” by foreigners. But he tells Wadachi that now he’s in a position to avenge this, because he’s at the head of this new Japan, and one of the prime objectives is to procreate with women and restock the race (and the women all look very pretty). Sado opens his heart to Wadachi because the latter is ugly as well. Wadachi doesn’t say much, but he seems to agree.