1F was published in English as Ichi-F: A Worker's Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant by Kodansha Comics USA on March 7, 2017 in a single omnibus. It was also published in Spanish by Norma Editorial from February 19 to September 23, 2016 and in Italian by Star Comics from March 19 to May 18, 2016.
Before reading 1F, I'd seen a variety of reviews online. Thankfully I ignored several of them and read the manga anyway. It's a very detailed story of the life that workers faced (and still face) at the epicenter of an unimaginable disaster.
The value of the manga is that it doesn't attempt to diagnose or encompass the entirety of the Fukushima disaster. There are many other well-researched and compelling books that can offer readers that experience. What 1F provides is the chance to experience the daily routine that defines the perilous existence of those who have chosen to face a set of dangers that most
of us would avoid at all costs.
1F can, at times, be dull. It can also be frustrating, especially when it describes the conflicted nature of most employees at the site: they're proud of their work but aren't always welcomed in the communities they're helping, they're working hard but know that the system by which jobs and wages are allocated frequently enriches middlemen at the expense of the people putting their health at serious risk, and they know that they can't do much about any of the high-level problems that make their lives more difficult.
The real difficulty lies in assigning some sort of exact valuation to this narrative. Its informational content is absolutely indispensable to anyone seriously interested in what's gone on at Fukushima. On the other hand, the artwork is rather pedestrian and you certainly won't get anything in terms of character development. I think that these latter concerns are a much bigger issue for non-Japanese readers because we're just not familiar with the utterly pervasive nature of manga in Japanese society. Manga is, of course, primarily for entertainment, but it's used for just about anything else too. Westerners may have "XYZ for Dummies" books, but in Japan manga is perfectly acceptable as a mode of communication that encompasses much more serious work.
1F may not be for everyone, but it's indispensable for anyone who wants a unique and exceptionally well-observed account of what only a few very brave individuals have endured to make Japan safer and more secure.
The subtitle may be A Worker's Graphic Account of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, but they meant 'graphic' in the graphic novel sense, not graphic in the violent or shocking sense. The biggest surprise to the story may actually be how low key it is. There are undoubtedly dangers to working at the Fukushima reactor site, but the place is hardly a nuclear hellscape and rigorous safety standards mean only the most flagrantly careless will be affected by radiation. If mangaka Kazuto Tatsuta has any beef with anyone in his memoir, it's with media outlets who constantly sensationalize the Fukushima clean-up to push their agenda
or simply sell newspapers. He admits others might want a more politically adamant manga, but all he felt confident offering were his own observations to counter shoddy journalism.
The art is quite detailed when drawing locations and facilities, although people are a little more basic. Layouts are simple, straightforward, and easy to follow. Kazuto Tatsuta may be a worker with the Fukushima clean-up operation, but he's also had a number of professional manga gigs so Ichi-F doesn't look amateur.
Kazuto Tatsuta isn't actually the author's real name, in fact the names of all the characters involved are changed to protect privacy. Otherwise, it seems pointless to analyze characters in an autobiographical manga.
Ichi-F will be interesting to anyone with an interest in the Fukushima disaster.