Fluid behavior during the evolution of the plate boundary fault (pbf) from a trench to seismogenic depths is the central problem when evaluating the relationship between fluids and seismicity in subduction zones. Ocean Drilling Program Legs 190 and 196 at the toe region of the Nankai accretionary margin reveal that fluid-filled dilatant fractures and underconsolidated underthrust sediments lead to an elevated fluid pressure in and below the pbf, respectively. The pbf with elevated fluid pressure extends down-dip to 35 km, resulting in the absence of seismic behavior at shallow depths and mechanical decoupling between accreted and underthrust sediments. Underconsolidated underthrust sediments are primarily caused by rapid tectonic loading compared to the rate of fluid escape in underthrust sediments and secondarily by a lowpermeability cap due to the compactively deformed pbf. Fluid-filled dilatant fractures represent the overconsolidate state within the pbf, which is caused by the generation of high fluid pressure after compactive deformations.
The exhumed plate boundary rocks (i.e., tectonic melange) in the Shimanto accretionary complex indicate that the underthrust sediments became rocks due to dewatering, pressure solution, and other diagenetic reactions, thus acquiring elastic strength. The pbf in the upper part of the seismogenic depths was weak due to elevated fluid pressure, this facilitated the downward step of the pbf and the underplating of underthrust rocks. The pbf under low effective stress was unlikely to nucleate the instability; however the fluid-related repeated deformations, which probably reflect the seismic cycle in the subduction zone, could be recorded. The coseismic deformations were attributed to hydraulic implosion breccias, injection of ultracataclasite, and fluid inclusion stretching in the pbf. Implosion breccias suggest rapid depressurization associated with the passage of the rupture through dilational jog. Other deformations represent shear heating and fluidization along the narrow ultracataclasite layer, which could enhance the propagation of instability at the pbf in the upper parts of the seismogenic depths.