Special Talk! Shohei Manabe and Chihuahua Sasaki, “Our Blood Record of Reporting on the Underworld
Toyoko Kids, Sex Workers, Yakuza, Criminals ...... A special dialogue between two people depicting the dark side of society
Why a Lawyer as the Protagonist?
Chihuahua: “Mr. Manabe, it’s been a while!”
Manabe : “ It’s been about a year since we’ve known each other. I heard that there was an interesting girl in Kabukicho when I was just doing a story on Toryoko for “The Deadly Sins of the Ninth Article,” and I was introduced to Chihuahua by a stripper who was a mutual acquaintance of ours.
Chihuahua : “ Since then, I’m glad that you’ve invited me to your drinking parties often. I feel a little awe-struck that I’m going to have a dialogue with you, but I’m looking forward to listening to what you have to say today.
Their conversation began with such a friendly greeting.
Manga artist Shohei Manabe, 51, is currently enjoying a big hit with “Kujo no Daishin” (The Nine Deadly Sins), which depicts a unique lawyer who takes on all kinds of troublesome cases, following his masterpiece “YAKKIN Ushijima-kun. Chihuahua Sasaki, 22, is a writer who interviews numerous young people in and around Kabukicho. From yakuza and criminals to delinquent girls like the “Toyoko Kids” ……. They realistically depict the realities of people who are outcasts from the so-called “general society.” What are they interested in now and what approach do they take in writing their works? The two, who say they are actually drinking buddies, talked a great deal about their work, including episodes unique to their coverage of the underworld.
Chihuahua: “ There is a girl in “The Deadly Sins of the Nine” who is the subject of “Toyoko Kids. Were you interested in Toyoko before?”
Manabe: “ When I was walking in Kabukicho, I saw a girl dragging a big baggage and I was intrigued, wondering what these girls were. I learned that they were called “Pien Girls,” which I thought was interesting. I also wanted to draw a story about girls for “The Nine Deadly Sins,” so I chose them as the subject matter.”
Chihuahua: “ When you were interviewing people in Toyoko, weren’t people wary of an “old man” like you? (laugh).
Manabe “ That’s exactly right. When I approached girls in Kabukicho, everyone was leery of me (laughs). I thought about how to do it, looked for people with both sexes, and approached the boys, and it worked.”
Chihuahua: “ There have always been delinquent girls and juvenile delinquents, but do you feel there are any differences between them and today?”
Manabe “ I think that in the past they used to send out violence towards the outside, but now I feel that many of them are turning inward. However, as Japan’s economy is leaning, I worry that these inward-looking people will turn to crime, and that theft and fraud will increase.”
Chihuahua: “ I hear that shoplifting is already commonplace in Toyoko. Besides, scams are rampant among the daddy’s girls in Kabukicho. They sell manuals on how to pull large sums of money from uncles, and the manuals contain instructions on how to forge documents such as certificates of debt. These women seem to think they can do anything they want to creepy uncles, and they have no sense of criminality. I wonder if the world’s economic recession is causing this kind of situation.
Manabe: “ Touhyoko is getting a lot of attention, and I think a lot of things will come to light in the future.
Chihuahua: “ In “The Deadly Sins of the Nine”, the main character is a lawyer who takes on clients from the yakuza and semi-gangsters. Why did you decide to use a lawyer as the subject?
Manabe: “ When I was working on the serialization of “Ushijima-kun,” I heard from criminals that there were lawyers with good moves, and I thought it was interesting. Besides, many people did not read it if I drew it from the criminal’s point of view like “Ushijima-kun. They said they didn’t want to see it. But I thought that if I drew it from the perspective of a lawyer, those people would read it, too.
Chihuahua: “ There are many overly realistic depictions in the manga, but how do you find material for your manga?
Manabe: “ When I am walking around town or having a drink with an acquaintance, or if I feel something that is tugging at my heart, I immediately start digging for it by conducting interviews. Sometimes, when an incident occurs, I look into the background and become interested.
Enraging the Yakuza
Chihuahua: “ You do your own interviews, but when you hear from people in the underworld, there must be a lot of trouble.
Manabe “ When I first started the serialization of “Ushijima-kun,” it was terrible. When I was interviewing yakuza and semi-gres, they all came from the top. I was called to a cabaret club and made to get drunk, only to wake up to find no one there. When I woke up, no one was there, and they had left me the money and made me pay 200,000 yen. At the time, all of my royalties had gone to pay for drinks for the interview (laughs).
Chihuahua “That’s pretty hard. ……”
Manabe “ There was also a time when I went to a rural area to do an interview and offended the local yakuza. We had no intention to do so, but during the interview process, one yakuza became furious, saying, ‘They have ruined my reputation. It is said that he once killed a man with a sashimi knife, and he even had a terrifying nickname.
Chihuahua said, “ That’s too scary. How did that go down?”
Manabe “ I sent him many letters of apology and managed to get him to meet with me, so I went there in the height of summer wearing a suit and apologized in person. When I talked to him, he understood the situation, but if I had left the dispute unresolved, of course I would not have been able to draw it in the manga. It was one of the worst episodes in my experience. Chihuahua, did you ever encounter any trouble while conducting interviews in Kabukicho?”
Chihuahua : “ Actually, I haven’t experienced much trouble myself. However, I have the feeling that I have come into contact with a great variety of people in the course of my coverage. For example, there was a girl who was taking a class while waiting at a soapland because her university lecture was remoted due to the COVID-19 crisis. It was interesting to hear that she was in a hurry when the phone rang in her room just as she needed to speak.
Manabe: “ He’s tough (laughs).”
Chihuahua “ I am also interested in middle-aged men, and I once went undercover to a dating cafe to interview one. There was a man who said he wanted to buy me for 20,000 yen, and I asked him why 20,000 yen. I asked him why he wanted to buy me for 20,000 yen. He was dissing me so badly, but he said he wanted to buy it, so I was intrigued to know what he was thinking (laughs). I would like to write about what middle-aged men have to deal with someday. Do you have any themes or subjects that you would like to draw on in the future, Mr. Manabe?”
Manabe: “ Right now I am interested in ‘wealthy people. I talked to a man who owns 40 buildings, and he looks like an ordinary man. He doesn’t dress up in brand-name clothes, and he splits the cost of meals.
Chihuahua: “ That’s totally different from the general image of a rich man, isn’t it?
Manabe “ Yes. On the other hand, there are people who gather girls at an abandoned school in the countryside and let them have an athletic meet in the nude. It’s interesting.”
Chihuahua: “ I look forward to reading it in manga form. In terms of future subjects, I am interested in ‘overseas migrant workers. Perhaps because of the recession in Japan, it is becoming more and more common for girls to go abroad to make a living. There are girls who can speak English well who spend two months visiting American brothels, make a lot of money, and then come back home.
Manabe: “ After the shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, I have a feeling that I want to depict what people in their 40s and 50s are going through. However, I still cannot depict subjects that are beyond my limits. It is difficult for me to depict subjects that I cannot fully understand, such as religion.
The duo’s pursuit of realism in their coverage of the underworld will continue in the future.
From the August 12, 2022 issue of “FRIDAY
PHOTO： Hiroyuki Komatsu