By Kanta Ishida / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterThis week’s manga
By Katsuhisa Minami (Kodansha)
Imagine Duke Togo, the protagonist of “Golgo 13,” ditching his cherished rifle to lead a brand new life as an ordinary citizen.
Such a manga actually exists. “Yukemuri Sniper” (Sniper in the hot spring steam), written by Yuho Hijikata and illustrated by Tadashi Matsumori, is just that, the story of a retired hit man who starts a new life working at a hot spring inn. Storywriter Hijikata, better known by his other pen name Marei Karibu, unfortunately passed away in January 2018.
While “The Fable” may or may not be a work that captures his legacy, it is undoubtedly another masterpiece about a killer’s second life.
The story is about a gifted killer nicknamed “Fable” for his unbelievable talent for murder. His boss orders him to leave his job for a year, during which he is forbidden to kill. Together with a woman who pretends to be his sister, Fable moves to Osaka and starts living under the alias Akira Sato. He finds an ¥800-per-hour part-time job and lives peacefully. However, due to his frank, sincere personality, he often gets involved in other people’s troubles.
Akira has been trained to be an assassin since childhood, and has an abnormal personality that feels no emotion when killing others. On the other hand, he takes pride in his professionalism and is genuine and serious in this regard. Considering Akira’s personal history, it’s moving to witness the process whereby he discovers his talent for drawing crude but charming illustrations at his part-time job, and experiences the joy of being useful to others.
Fable’s boss correctly suspects that Akira’s savant syndrome — a form of autism in which those afflicted possess a variety of advanced talents — is the reason for his killing abilities. The late artist Kiyoshi Yamashita is an example of someone with savant syndrome, and Akira’s vague expression resembles that of Yamashita in the TV drama series “Hadaka no Taisho” (The naked boss).
It is revealed that Fable’s boss forced him to go on vacation out of a parent-like compassion, as he wants Akira, who behaves like an assassination robot, to live like an ordinary person in society.
Akira later becomes embroiled in a violent conflict involving a local yakuza group that leads to cruel killings between the two sides. In spite of this, the manga continues to be upbeat since Akira escapes without killing anyone. We are reminded of the value of living in the present by Akira, who cherishes his simple life.
“The Fable” is subtly filled with positive lessons.