"Ayako" is a social drama that depicts the fall of an old family in the Tohoku (northern) region after Japan's defeat in the war in 1945. Ayako, the youngest child in the Tenge family, is an illegitimate child between Sakuemon, a large landowner and the head of the family, and Sue, wife of Sakuemon's first son, Ichiro.
Sakuemon's second son, Jiro, has just returned from the war and is involved in the assassination of the head of the leftist party's local chapter in his hometown, Yodoyama. He is witnessed washing his bloodstained shirt by Ayako and Oryo, and kills Oryo. Ichiro, fearful of disgracing the family name, lets Jiro escape and shuts Ayako in an old storehouse. Time passes by and Ayako grows into a beautiful young lady in the storehouse. One day the storehouse is destroyed because of road construction, and Ayako is finally set free after 20 years of confinement. But for Ayako, who has the pure heart of an innocent girl, the world is filled with dangerous and greedy people.
January 25, 1972 to June 25, 1973
Appeared serially in "Big Comic" (Shogakukan Inc.)
After Japan lost the war in 1945, the country experienced the collapse of its traditional values and was forced to undergo a period of drastic change. A policy of agricultural reform was carried out as part of GHQ (General Headquarters) democratization policy, under which the government bought lands from large landowners and sold them to tenant farmers. As a result, rich landowners in the rural areas lost their power.
"Ayako" is unique because it depicts this tumultuous period of Japanese history through the eyes of a girl named Ayako who is locked up in a storehouse for a long period. The murder of the president of Japan Railways in the story reminds the reader of the "Shimoyama incident" that actually occurred in the post-war period of chaos.
In "Ayako," Tezuka Osamu writes about various social discrepancies and gaps that were generated in the period between defeat in the war and reconstruction of the economy. The "Shimoyama incident," in which Sadanori Shimoyama, the first president of the Japan Railway Corporation, died a mysterious death in a railroad accident, occurred in 1949. At that time, people speculated that it was either a suicide or that he was murdered by the GHQ, and the event remains a mystery even today.