Manga artist draws amazing parallels between fiction and reality.

The last two years have thrown us all a curveball, with the coronavirus pandemic completely changing the world in ways we never could’ve predicted, making reality feel like a surreal scene from a movie or a page out of a Japanese manga.

One manga that comes to mind during these times is Virus Fang, which has become a hot topic lately for the way it depicts the pandemic-gripped society we’re currently living in. That wouldn’t be surprising if the work was written in the past couple of years, but what’s giving everyone goosebumps is the fact that it was written 25 years ago.

That’s right — this virus-centric manga was written around a quarter of a century before the pandemic, and it reads like a prophecy for what we’re all experiencing today. Adding an extra layer of eeriness to it all is the fact that it was written by Yoshimi Seki, an acclaimed horror manga artist.

Before we get into the manga, let’s take a quick look at the author’s background. 64-year-old Seki is known for a particular style of horror that juxtaposes shojo-style manga with doomsday storylines, highlighting the gruesomeness of humankind rather than ghosts or other mysterious phenomena.

Seki’s Madhouse, for example, tells the story of a family who moves next door to a house where a murder occurred. It contains a series of shocking and surreal scenarios, including an encounter with the old man from next door, who enters the house naked, licks raw fish from the refrigerator and suddenly defecates.

Madhouse

Seki is a popular author with a cult following, and her works are often described as “manga that’ll leave you traumatised”. That’s certainly true of the manga currently creating a buzz online — Virus Fang, from Yoshimi Seki’s Mad Papa Masterpiece Collection.

Virus Fang was first published in 1997.

The story revolves around the main character of Hitomi, a third-year junior high school student studying for the high school entrance exams, a time of intense stress for students in Japan.

Against this bubbling backdrop of stress and tension, news arrives that Influenza D, which has an extremely high infectivity and fatality rate, has spread overseas, with the number of deaths exceeding 30,000. Despite a travel ban being put in place to stop people from affected countries visiting, people in Japan end up becoming infected with the virus, and a sense of fear and panic begins to permeate towns and schools.

With no vaccine or cure in sight, people become swept up in hoaxes, including the belief that “ambulances take patients straight to the crematorium”.

What’s particularly interesting about this work is that rather than focus on the fear of the disease, it accurately depicts a world struggling to cope with the spread of a virus…and the mindset of people who are easily misled by hoaxes.

Throughout the manga, it’s clear that human psychology is more frightening than the illness itself, and this is expressed through events where:

・ People begin to scramble for masks, causing prices to skyrocket

・ Shady “virus prevention products” are sold at high prices

・ Schools close, companies close, and going out is restricted

・ The medical system collapses

・ Fear of infection sparks animosity between close friends

・ Chaos ensues everywhere due to hoaxes and rumours

It’s often said that fact is stranger than fiction, but in the case of this manga, fiction has become a true reflection of reality. Those six plot points above sound a lot like everything we’ve experienced these past two years, although the price of masks increased three-fold in Japan instead of 100-fold as they do in the manga.

▼ According to this scene, masks were 5,000 yen (US$43.40) one day, 500,000 yen the next.

While the behaviour of panicked, confused individuals plays a big role in the manga, correct preventive measures and attitudes are also addressed, through the father of the main character, who works as a pharmacist. Hitomi’s father acts as the voice of reason throughout the story, asserting from the start that people should wear masks, gargle and wash their hands as basic ways to prevent infection.

In one scene, while watching the news on TV, there’s a poignant moment between father and daughter, where he tells her:

“Perhaps irresponsible rumours and hoaxes are more frightening than viruses…”

Sadly, this father’s premonition from 25 years ago has proven to be right today.

To prevent infection during a pandemic, you don’t just need to rely on vaccines, cures, and proper hygiene. You also need to arm yourself with knowledge, in order to shield yourself from hoaxes and rumours that have no truth to them.

It’s a theme that makes its presence felt throughout the manga, and it’s one we can learn from today in this pandemic era. Fear can make people react in unusual ways, and Seki’s experience in exploring the dark side of human nature gave her a foresight into the challenges we face today.

Seki’s Virus Fang is hard to find in print, but electronic versions can be purchased online (see links below) or read for free on Kindle Unlimited. And if you’d like to check out another manga filled with pandemic predictions that reflect reality, don’t forget to take a look at Akira, which went one step further by adding the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to the prophecy.

Related: Amazon Japan, Comic Cmore, Renta!, Book Live, Manga Oukoku 
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