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World War II manga

edited May 2011 in Manga/Comics
I've been running a panel at some cons called Anime and The Japanese Experience of War, which has been pretty well received. As a follow up, I'm thinking of doing something about manga from and about WW II and looking for suggestions about what to read. I have read relatively little manga so please if you know of something -- no matter how seemingly obvious -- please mention it or drop me a line.



  • Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths and Barefoot Gen spring to mind.
  • I just heard mention of Onwards over on the new Boing Boing podcast. I'm really looking forward to reading it. Thanks!
  • Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths
    Just got this in the box yesterday.
    Barefoot Gen spring to mind.
    Ordered this.
  • ADOLF!

    Unfortunately incredibly hard to get in the U.S. There are scanlations on various sites though, maybe even outright scans of the U.S. edition.
  • edited June 2016
    I guess this is the best place to post this.

    I finished reading Shigeru Mizuki's Showa: A history of Japan. Mizuki is of course the author of Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths and like that work (which I plan on reading soon) it deals a lot with World War II.

    Showa is rather interesting. On one hand it is somewhat of an autobiography as Mizuki lived through the entirety of the Showa era and tells his personal story of growing up, his obsession with Yokai, being sent to the front during WWII, almost dying of Malaria and losing an arm, fraternizing with the tribespeople near where he was stationed, returning home after the war only to find poverty until finally he finds success as a mangaka.

    However, the work alternates chapters of Mizuki's personal story with chapters summarizing the events unfolding in Japan and parts of the rest of the world with impact on japan. The economic collapse in the late 1920s, the rise of militarism, the second Sino-Japanese war turning to the Pacific War, Japan's defeat and occupation, poverty and the rise of Japan as an industrial nation afterward. It is actually in that regard somewhat of a history textbook and the fact that Mizuki lived and suffered through most of it gives it a personal and relatable note.

    (Plus I rather enjoyed some stuff that was mentioned that related to other works e.g. 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa, i.e. what a big deal the Tokyo World Expo was and the bowling fad striking Japan in the 70s)

    What makes Showa somewhat weird is the art. Mizuki exclusively draws himself and his family in a cartoonish style, while basically all the outside stuff is drawn in a realistic style, sometimes even incorporating photos. The styles are fluid and will alternate but sometimes even occupy the same panel. This is most notable when Nezumi-Otoko, a character Mizuki borrowed from his own GeGeGe no Kitaro and who serves as the narrator, enters historical scenes and even interacts with historical people.

    The only real criticism I have is that World War II occupies a bit too much space for the work. Showa is currently published by Drawn and Quarterly in four enormous books of ~540 pages each. The second volume is titled "1939-1944" and but that alone is not the entierety of WWII in "Showa" as parts of Volume 1 are already spent on it (even more if you, like the Japanese, already consider the second Sino-Japanese War part of WWII) and even half of the 3rd volume discuss World War II. Yes, WWII is very important in a historical standpoint but some things are enough and even Mizuki himself said that he should have shortened it.

    However, this alone does not detract from the work in whole. It's very good if a bit expensive. I paid about 100€ total for all four volumes to get the series but I think it is worth it and very much something you could give people to read even if they are not fans of manga.
    Post edited by chaosof99 on
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