Photo/IllutrationBuronson, center, writer of the “Fist of the North Star,” unveils full-size replicas of manhole cover designs themed on the original manga series at the Saku city government office in Nagano Prefecture. (Hiromu Tsuchiya)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

SAKU, Nagano Prefecture--Characters from a post-apocalyptic manga series will soon grace manhole covers here.

“Fist of the North Star” covers bear color images of Kenshiro, the story's protagonist, his archrival Raoh, Toki and Jagi--four brothers trained in the Hokuto Shinken martial arts style. Yuria, Rei and Thouzer also appear.

“They came out really great,” Buronson, the manga's author, who hails from the city, said at an event to unveil full-size replicas of the seven covers. “I’m thrilled if I can help out Saku, even in a small way.”

The 72-year-old artist is assisting the municipal government with the project to promote the area.

The covers cost 3.58 million yen ($33,900) to produce. Buronson, whose real name is Yoshiyuki Okamura, and his long-time collaborator, illustrator Tetsuo Hara, provided the original drawings for free.

The covers will replace ones at seven spots on sidewalks near the Tateshina exit of JR Sakudaira Station in early September.

The covers are to be installed in locations that when seen from the sky, they appear to form a 300-meter-long Big Dipper, in a play on the manga’s original title, “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the Big Dipper). A signboard explaining the design will also be set up.

The artworks get coated with a special resin that gives them a slip-resistant finish before they are mounted on the cast-iron lids, which are about 63 centimeters in diameter.

The city also plans to issue collectible cards for the new covers that share information about their designs, backgrounds and locations.

It plans to issue 4,000 official manhole cards by the end of the year, at the earliest, after registering them with the Gesuido Koho Platform (sewage publicity platform), which comprises sewage-related entities.

Collecting manhole cards bearing unique local designs has become a trend across Japan.