Parental Overinterference, Sexual Abuse, Abuse, Poverty… Why “Kamimachi,” a Manga About the Loneliness and Reality of “Runaway Girls,” Draws Sympathy | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Parental Overinterference, Sexual Abuse, Abuse, Poverty… Why “Kamimachi,” a Manga About the Loneliness and Reality of “Runaway Girls,” Draws Sympathy

Interview with the author, Machiko Today

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE

The interview with a former “god-waiting girl” was “quite graphic and painful to listen to.

Have you ever heard of the term “Kami-waiting”? This is the act of underage runaway girls searching for a place to sleep, eat, and drink on social networking sites. Since the spread of the new type of corona infection, there has been an increase in the number of cases of abductions of minors in which these “god-waiting” girls have become victims.

In addition, among the “Toyoko Kids” who have been highlighted as a social problem due to the COVID-19 crisis, there are many runaway girls who have lost their places of residence as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

There is a manga that depicts such “god-waiting” girls. It is Machiko Today’s latest work, “KAMIMACHI” (top and bottom, published by Shueisha).

The place to be is Toyoko…a plaza in Kabukicho, Tokyo, where young people gather (PHOTO: Kyodo News)

This ambitious work reflects contemporary social issues such as parental over-involvement, sexual abuse, abuse, and poverty, but in fact, Ms. Today began serializing this work in 1919, before the COVID-19 crisis brought the issue of runaway girls to the forefront. Why did she decide to depict “runaway girls”? We asked her about the realities she learned about through her interviews, as well as the problems of sexual violence that have come to light one after another in recent years.

The reason why I decided to depict runaway girls was a suggestion from my editor.

I had a vague idea that there were girls who asked men to stay over, but I imagined it as something similar to the “petit runaway” type of girls who stay over at their friends’ houses in a casual manner and return home when they feel like it. I was imagining something similar to a “petit runaway. I was unaware that this was called “kami-waiting.

But as I interviewed the people involved, I realized for the first time that it was something completely different from what I had imagined.

Machiko says that the people she interviewed today were former “kamikakei” girls who are now taking care of them. What was shocking was that they “talked cheerfully at first glance,” but the content of their stories was “quite graphic and harsh to the point that it was painful to listen to.

Waiting for God”…is the act of underage runaway girls using SNS to search for someone who will provide them with a place to sleep, eat, and drink (© Machiko Today/Shueisha).

Sexual Issues” and “Family Issues” that forced us to step in

There are four main girls in “Kamimachi” who are waiting for God. The main character “Uka” (hatching), who attended a prestigious high school and left home because she could not stand her over-involved mother; “Nagisa” (chrysalis), a girl who left home because of sexual abuse in the family; “Ageha” (swallowtail), a former child actress; and “Yoh” (larva), from a poor family, whose names evoke the growth process of a butterfly. How were these characters created?

I had decided from the beginning to create Nagisa as a character to guide Uka.

In other works (such as the main character San and her best friend Mayu in “cocoon,” which was inspired by the Himeyuri Cadets), I have often depicted a combination of a main character and a girl who guides the main character. I created two characters, Ageha, who has a glamorous atmosphere, and Yoh, who is a child with low self-esteem. I created the four characters by extracting elements from the stories I heard during the interviews.

Because this is not a “reportage manga” but rather a “fiction” manga, Mr. Kyo says that he does not just tell the facts, but rather he draws the stories in a way that makes them interesting and interesting.

One of the elements that he had to go into was the issue of sex.

The main character “Uka” (hanyou), who ran away from home because she could not stand her over-involved mother… (© Machiko Today/Shueisha)

In the manga, Uka expresses a strong aversion to sexual activity, but I got the sense that the runaway girls I spoke with understood that to some extent. Maybe they don’t think it’s a big deal either, but clearly they don’t know that it’s hurting them in some way.

Those who told me about their past would talk cheerfully about their epic stories. On the other hand, I think that if they don’t speak cheerfully, it makes it harder for them. Besides, when they are talking to a third party like me, they are probably looking at it objectively, and on the surface, they may just be offering their feelings.

(© Machiko Today/Shueisha)

Along with sexual problems, we also see family problems.

Uka, for example, appears to be a child from a privileged family, but is tormented by her parents’ over-interference. On the other hand, Uka’s mother, who looks like a devil in her own eyes, is also almost crushed by her own curse of having to raise her daughter well, and her mother’s feelings cannot be considered as someone else’s. “I myself am also concerned about Uka’s mother.

I didn’t want to portray Uka’s mother in a bad light. I think that if I divide myself into two parts, I can be divided into Uka and her mother, and that’s how I created the characters.

I sometimes get angry at myself and say, “Why can’t I do this? I also have a part of me that is like a daughter who keeps apologizing to herself, and I feel like I have both of them inside me at the same time. I feel like I have both of them inside me at the same time. So I understand how mothers feel when they want their children to be well-behaved and want to raise them properly, but wonder why they can’t do so.

They believe that since it is their own child, they are probably responsible for it, and when they can’t help it, they end up getting involved. You have so strong ideals that you want your child to be a child you are not ashamed to show anywhere that you refuse to even allow your daughter to reach sexual maturity.”

Uka, who appears to be a child from a privileged family, is tormented by her parents’ over-involvement (© Machiko Today/Shueisha).

Also, Ageha, who is really smart but is told by her parents that she is stupid and believes that she is also stupid, appears to be a victim of her parents in a way.

Ageha, in particular, is a character that reflects the public’s belief that “cute kids are stupid. Many people think it’s not possible to be cute and smart. Ageha’s parents are also the kind of people who are quick to call her stupid, and I have come to believe that because of the environment around me and the public’s tendency to think that way.

I myself am probably envious, and when I see a cute person, I think, “How can she be so cute and so smart, too? There are people who are both, people who are both good, and people who are only one or the other.

Former child actor Ageha, who is actually smart but has been told by her parents that she is stupid, has come to believe that she is stupid as well. Many people think it’s not possible to be cute and smart,” says Ms. Today (© Machiko Today/Shueisha).

The “upside-down cone” that slides down forever if you step out of it.

Also very impressive in this work is what Nagisa said, “The world is not a sphere. It is an upside-down cone. If you step out of it, you will slide down forever. The picture of the upside-down cone symbolizes the bottomless anxiety and fear of the children who have lost their place in the world.

This is a motif adapted from the upside-down cone of the map of hell in Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” which is an image of an upside-down cone that is so slippery it is impossible to climb. It was an idea I came up with after listening to the people I interviewed.

1 Once the climber steps off, he or she is further injured and becomes more and more unable to climb. So, I can’t imagine a happy ending beyond the point where they can no longer climb.

The people we talked to were survivors, but even if they had survived, they had become withdrawn and their interpersonal relationships had become unstable. There have been cases where people have taken their own lives, and I think it is better not to view running away from home as an easy thing to do.

Also appearing as a contrast to them are the “haves”. They are Kagerou, a brilliant young man who tries to save a runaway girl, and Yuki, Uka’s childhood friend and honor student “committee chairperson.

Yuki is an excellent young man trying to save a runaway girl, and Yuki is an honor student and a childhood friend of Uka’s. “It may sound strange to say this, but I myself am on the side of Yuki and Kagerou, the side that would never wait for a god. So when I started to draw, I felt that I did not understand the feelings of those who were waiting for the gods, and I felt conflicted and apologetic about whether it was okay for me to draw such a character. But on the contrary, I thought that it would be better to have such characters in the story so that it would not be a one-way street.

Most of the readers are probably from the side of Kagero and Yuki. They can’t imagine what kind of misery the girl on the waiting list is going through, and even if they want to help her, they have no clue what they can do to help her. But instead of dividing them into two incomprehensible things, I wanted them to coexist well.

(© Machiko Today/Shueisha)

Machiko today herself and the “upside-down cone”…

By the way, this work was suspended for a period of time due to the COVID-19 crisis that struck during the serialization. It seems that this was an important time for him to face his work anew.

In particular, the story of the sexual violence Nagisa suffered was actually modeled on someone else, so I felt sorry for drawing it, but I also wondered if I was allowed to draw it, and what if I was in the position of being blamed for it.

I took a short break due to the Corona incident, but while I was taking a break, I was able to look at it objectively and say, ‘I will use it as a reference, but it is just a manga,’ and I was finally able to draw it.

Today, he often draws serious themes such as wars and earthquakes. In the process of drawing his works, does he ever feel as if he is falling into an “upside-down cone”?

No matter how heavy and painful it is, I always think I can make it in the end. I often wonder how far this tunnel goes, and sometimes I can’t go any further, so I just keep thinking and trying to find another way out.

This time, the issue of sexual assault was so severe that I could not separate the story of a person who actually went through a painful experience from the character I created. But in those times, I had to tell myself, ‘It’s just a comic book.

I don’t want to waste the thoughts of those who shared this story with me. If I let it go, the courage they showed in sharing their stories with me would be for nothing, so I feel like I have a responsibility to put it into some form.

(© Machiko Today/Shueisha)

The “Sexual Violence Problem” that has come to the surface at once

In recent years, the issue of sexual violence has come to the surface at once. At the same time, our awareness of sexual violence has also changed from the time when Ms. Kyodai began painting this work to the present. Ms. Today spoke frankly about her thoughts on this trend, saying, “I would rather wonder why it has never come out before.

I wonder why it has never come up before, and I myself have also changed.

For example, even when I was molested, I had a habit of thinking that it was wrong because I rode in a skirt on a crowded train,” she said. I was probably in some part blaming the victim of sexual assault, thinking that the victim was at fault as well.

But that is absolutely wrong. Through the interviews, I clearly understood that it was a crime and an act that broke people’s hearts. When I was ignorant, I probably had a very lukewarm view of it and would have said things like, “The girl who waits for the gods is at fault, too.

But after doing the interviews, I wondered why I had never noticed how difficult it was, and I felt responsible for not having done so, so I decided to do my best to portray the situation properly, even if it was painful.

Nagisa” (Sanagi), a girl who left home due to domestic sexual abuse (© Machiko Today/Shueisha)

Women who continue to “wait for God” even in their late 20s…

Many of those interviewed by Ms. Today who were able to “savor” their lives returned home after being arrested and came to their own conclusions, such as giving up on their parents.

However, there are some women in their late 20s who are still waiting for God.

Those who are still waiting for God in their late twenties are helped many times by activists who help runaway girls, but they end up returning somewhere else.

They also drop out of school along the way, so when they try to get a job or a part-time job, the reality is that it doesn’t work out, and they get stuck in that loop and fall into an upside-down cone and can’t get out of the bottom.

I think that perhaps a combination of traits such as punctuality and the inability to do things that so-called normal people can do also causes them to slip through the hands that are extended to them.”

Through “Kamimachi,” what is the message that Ms. Today wants to convey to those involved and those who are not involved?

Through “KAMIMACHI,” Ms. Today would like to convey her thoughts to the people involved and those who are not. “There are people around me who have become mentally ill due to problems with their parents, and I wonder why I did not speak to them.

Through this interview and the work, I wanted to become a person who can speak to such people when I see such signs. Happy birthday,” or “I’m in the neighborhood, are you there now? or even a totally unrelated or unimportant call, I would like to be able to tell them that they are not alone.

I also think that there is actually an upside-down cone that the people involved have created for themselves.

When they are at their wits’ end, there must be some way to change the place a little, shift their gaze a little, or consult with someone who is not involved at all. When you are in the midst of trouble, your perspective can become narrowed, but I want you to know that there is definitely a way to solve the problem.”

Machiko Today, “Kamimachi” (above, Shueisha)

Manga artist Machiko Today, whose one-page manga blog “Machiko Today’s Sen-nen Gaho” has been published in book form, has been selected four times as a Jury Recommended Work for the Japan Media Arts Festival. Her war story “cocoon” was adapted for the stage by “Marm and Gypsy. In 2002, “Mitsuami no Kamisama” won the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Award Shinsei Prize, and in 2003, “Ichigo Senso” won the Japan Cartoonists Association Grand Prize in the cartoon category. Mitsuami no Kamisama” was adapted into an animated short story and won 23 awards overseas. Distance Watashi no #stayhome Nikki (My #stayhome diary),” which depicts the daily life of the COVID-19 crisis like a picture diary, was featured on “News Station” in January 2010, and “Machiko Today: My #stayhome Nikki” will be shown at the Machida City Literary Museum Kotobarando from April 2011. Machiko Today’s “My #stayhome Diary” 2020-2023 Exhibition” was held at Machida City Literary Museum Kotobarando from April 2011. Her recent book is “From Tokyo: My #stayhome Diary 2022-2023. An anime adaptation of “cocoon” is scheduled to be broadcast on NHK in 2013.

The first episode of "Kamimachi" is available free of charge!

  • Interview and text by Wakako Takou

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles