Wadachi, Love and Hatred
Happy Valentine’s Day.
The last chapter of Wadachi is called “Wadachi”, and it makes for one awful Valentine’s Day story.
Wadachi wakes up in the middle of the night because there are enormous fireflies hovering about. He decides that as the leader of the group he should go out and figure out whether there are any dangerous insects around. He takes his gun, his bird and his cat. Soon he falls into a hole and discovers a weird ship, a skeleton and some geta (Japanese wooden clogs). This is Point of Interest # 1, as Wadachi wears geta himself.
There’s also a book, basically a manual on time travel from the Time Research Department at the Nerima Institute of Technology. Point of Interest # 2: Dr. Sado was (or claimed to be) a professor at the Nerima Fine Arts University. Scribbled on one of the pages of the book is the following:
“I have now transcended Time and learned the truths of history. It is a fearful thing. I was stung by a giant centipede and no longer have the strength to reach the Time Leaper. It would have been better if I had not decided to explore the Future. I regret it. I…”
Wadachi makes a hilarious comment: “Don’t tell me that it’s gonna turn out that Great Earth is the future Earth. That’d be silly…” He gets on the Time Leaper, figures out the controls, and decides to travel back in time to the day he first arrived at the hostel in Tokyo. He sees his younger self meeting with the landlady. Point of Interest # 3: the landlady says “You look an awful loot like a man that stayed here a long time ago, named Oyama.”
Wadachi sees his young self do all sorts of things until the young Wadachi notices someone is peeping at him and chases old Wadachi out. Wadachi returns to his “present” and as he leaves the hole, the whole thing collapses. He is informed that all sorts of refugees from Earth are arriving on Great Earth.
Wadachi ponders, then concludes that Great Earth must be future Earth after all, that Earth must have gotten larger with age, that the spaceships were really timeships, and that Dr. Sado must have prepared for and planned this all along to give humanity (actually, just Japanese people in Sado’s original plan) a second chance.
The chapter ends with Moriki and Wadachi deciding to go off together with bird and cat. Asano asks Moriki in disbelief “Are you really going with Wadachi?” and she responds “I can’t really decide. I’ll go with him now and look how things are and decide later.” Then we get a shot of Wadachi looking back at us with a great big smile. The wagon rolls off into the distance. THE END.
WHY OH WHY did it have to end like this??? Why couldn’t Wadachi find true love and ride into the sunset??? That single panel with Moriki expressing her doubts tells it all: Wadachi will be abandoned eventually, because that is what happens to Wadachi. And he’s totally clueless. It’s terribly sad.
Is what we have here a case of misogynistic paranoia? I certainly feel you could make that case, and then expand it into a wider reading of this manga as paranoiac par excellence. Let me quote from a Japanese blogger’s view on Wadachi (my translation, original is here):
“…But Wadachi, and the author Matsumoto, do not reject these acts of Dr. Sado, which are so similar to Aum Shinrikyo’s. The manga doesn’t reject or try to castrate these negative feelings of anger, anguish and revenge. ‘Maybe it’s wrong to feel this way, but I wish you could have blown the whole Earth up. I really wanted to help you do it. I wondered just how good it would have felt like to kill those hateful people with their smug faces.’ [this is a quote from Wadachi’s speech] The negative feelings toward rich people, women and America that this manga portrays are definitely backward looking, but they certainly form a part of some people’s innermost core, and they are one side of our reality. This unwillingness to hide these negative feelings, instead airing them out warts and all, is one of the good and generous things about this manga…”
I assess the manga in much the same way, but I am much more disturbed than the blogger is. The comparison with Aum Shinrikyo is spot on (and let’s remember that Space Battleship Yamato was a big part of the imagery used by the cult). Since Wadachi is easily a clone of Nobotta Oyama, and Oyama is supposed to be as close as we can get to Leiji Matsumoto himself, then what does this say about the intentions and drives behind this work? My own analysis on the beginnings of Matsumoto’s most famous 4½ tatami genre story, Otoko Oidon, mentioned Crime and Punishment‘s Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov, Aum, Wadachi. There are parallels there most definitely. And of course plotwise it seems as if Oyama (which Oyama exactly is hard to say!!) was behind many of the events.
Looking back at the very first scenes of this manga, when Wadachi was at the hospital bed two mysterious voices were talking. One was named Nozaki, the other one remained nameless. However, the nameless one used the word “oidon” and said that Wadachi looked like himself. On a lighter note, perhaps the whole point of Wadachi is to give us an answer as to what happens to Nobotta Oyama after the end of the manga classic Otoko Oidon: he discovers time travel and ends up saving humanity in an extremely roundabout sort of way.