Manga Fan Tarō Asō is a Frontrunner to Lead Japan (Updated)
posted on by Egan Loo
Update: More stock information added.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has resigned Wednesday after his conservative faction lost control of the upper parliamentary house in the July 29 elections, and Tarō Asō, a self-proclaimed manga fan and the secretary general of Abe's ironically named Liberal Democratic Party, is a frontrunner to replace Abe. According to Kyodo News, Asō and the other LDP executives are planning to vote on a successor as soon as September 19.
The Associated Press (via the Forbes website) notes that Japanese stocks in general fell on the news, as highlighted by a 0.50% drop in the Nikkei market index. However, stocks for the secondhand manga and anime store chain Mandarake Inc rose 12.95% today on speculation of Asō's possible candidacy. According to another report in The Wall Street Journal, shares of Broccoli, which runs the Gamers! chain of character goods stores, went up 71%, closing at 157 yen (about US$1.34).
Anime production company GDH also benefited from the news, posting an 8.2% increase in stock price, to Y51,400 (US$451), as did We've, Inc. (up 14%, closing at Y34,500/US$303). Other related companies whose stocks rose today include Kadokawa Shoten (2.66%), Dentsu (0.62%), Production I.G (5.84%), Bandai Visual (4.21%), Mag Garden (2.17%), Namco Bandai (1.6%), and TV Tokyo (1.67%). Hiroaki Kuromachi, an analyst with Bear Stearns, predicts that if Asō is indeed confirmed for the position, share prices of "Asō-related" (anime, manga and fandom) companies stand to rise up to another 10%.
In addition to openly talking about his manga-reading habit ("about 10 to 20 [manga magazines] a week"), Asō announced the first International Manga Awards this year as Abe's former foreign minister. He held a campaign rally in the Akihabara otaku cultural shopping district last year, and his former vice foreign minister, Katsuhito Asano, met with the finalists of the International Cosplay Summit last month. Also last month, Asō posted a Japanese essay about how manga has spread internationally and how the term "manga" has entered the vocabularies of other languages, similar to how "sushi," "tsunami," and "karaoke" have.
When Asō was foreign minister, his ministry increasingly used manga to communicate its message, particularly through specially commissioned Detective Conan manga pamphlets and complimentary copies of the Barefoot Gen manga at a nuclear non-proliferation meeting. He also called upon French presidential candidate Segolene Royal to "read a little bit more" manga after Royal criticized manga for a perceived high degree of tolerance for expressions of violence and pornography.
Asō's party has been criticized for a series of financial and governmental scandals, and commentators view the recent electoral defeat as a backlash from voters. Asō is also known for his controversial, nationalistic stances during his tenure as foreign minister.
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