A revolutionary reworking for Marx's 'Kapital'

Treatise on capitalism to be turned into manga comic 140 years after publication

Karl Marx, the German revolutionary who predicted that capitalism would crumble under the weight of its own contradictions, is making a comeback – in the form of a comic.

More than 140 years after Marx's Das Kapital was released on an initially baffled world, its dense exploration of political economy and alienation is to be splashed across speech bubbles on the pages of a Japanese manga.

Set for release next month, the comic is expected to be a bestseller. A string of publications have found success capitalising on Japan's growing inequalities and economic insecurity.

The world's second largest economy slipped into recession this week for the first time since 2001. More than a third of the workforce is employed part time and with profits dropping even at manufacturing powerhouses like Sony and Toyota, millions of young Japanese are pessimistic about the future.

The economic turmoil has provided fertile ground for critics of free-market capitalism. A manga rendering of Kanikosen, a 1929 proletarian classic about the exploitation of fishing boat workers, sold more than half a million copies this year; introductions to Das Kapital and other Marxist tomes were rushed out in its wake. A book by a former broker berating Wall Street bankers is one of the year's bestsellers.

"Poverty has been a growing and visible problem for some time, but now people are looking for answers about why it is returning," said Kaori Katada, a lecturer in social welfare. "That's why they're turning to these books."

Japan's prolific comic culture has for years distilled complex issues into pocket-sized, graphic books that can be read in the office or in transit.

History, war and Japan's tortured relationship with China have all been grist to manga artists; East Press, which is publishing Das Kapital, has a catalogue of similar titles such as Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, Dante's Divine Comedy, Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, and Shakespeare's King Lear.

Previews suggest that the Marx comic has not shirked on the original's details. Exploited salarymen come to terms with Marx's central concept: that they are the sole source of capitalism's wealth. Along the way, they take a tour of commodity fetishism, market value and the law of declining profits.

"I think many young people in Japan are afraid of the future, and that fear is sometimes turning to anger," said Kosuke Hashimoto, an anti-poverty activist. "Reading comics might only be the start."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence