home home about drawn and quarterly news artists shop shopping cart
Drawn and Quarterly Your Shopping Cart
Home About Artists Shop Events Press New Blog 211 Bernard Store Blog


News Briefs featuring Shigeru Mizuki

( back )


The Strangers Bookshelf details a first encounter with Shigeru Mizuki

Updated September 10, 2013


"NonNonBa by Shigeru Mizuki - A Manga Review"

The Strangers Bookshelf, July 4, 2013'

One day while browsing the Public library for some research on Japanese folklore, especially stories about yokai ( Japanese spirit monsters) I came across NonNonBā by Shigeru Mizuki. I have heard alot about Mr. Mizuki’s work, and have been waiting for quite some time to get my hands on some of his manga. So being my lucky day I swooped in with my library card in hand to claim my prize.

A few things that you need to know about Shigeru Mizuki is is that he is a specialist in stories of Yokai. He is also considered to be the forefather of yokai manga and is one of the most respected cartoonist in the entire medium of Manga. Mr. Mizuki is also a member of the Japanese society of cultural anthropology and has traveled to over 60 countries to engage in fieldwork of spirit folklore. One of his most endearing works is GeGeGe no Kitarō, which is the story about a yokai boy who fights for peace between humans and yokai. Mr Mizuki has also won several awards and accolades including Kodansha Manga Award, Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize and the Eisner Award. In 2007 he received the Best Comic Book award for NonNonBā at the Angoulęme International Comics Festival. So with all this in mind I sat down with a nice cup of chai tea and had an enjoyable experience reading NonNonBā.

NonNonBā is autobiographical in nature as Shigeru Mizuki sets out to tell how an elderly neighbor whom his family called “NonNonBā’ inspired him to draw pictures and manga of Yokai. Set in the San-In region of Honshu, which includes Mizuki’s childhood home of Sakaiminato in the Tottori Prefecture which was rich in folklore of about “the eight million gods”. Many of these stories were collected by the scholar Laficadio Hearn in the now classic Kwaidan.

NonNonBā herself was a interesting person. In the Sakaiminato area people who served Buddha were referred to as “Non Non-san” and so the nickname of Non Non Obasan (grandmother Non Non) was shortened to NonNonBā. Her influence on Shigeru Mizuki was wonderful, compelling and literally life changing.

She was for one reason for another always at Shigeru’s house telling him about the Tanabata star festival, or the O-Bon festival of the dead, about origins of various holidays or the nature of yokai. Doted on by this grandmotherly figure the young boy Shigeru gradually became fascinated by yokai, the more of NonNonBā’s that he listed to the more keenly aware he became of the supernatural world until eventually yokai became the focus of his life. Because of NonNonBā’s teachings, Shigeru Mizuki did not learn about yokai from books. Instead he became a part of a oral story telling tradition of the region and learned to recognize the role of yokai in everyday life, thanks to NonNonBā storytelling and teachings.

Within this wonderful manga graphic novel are vivid descriptions of Yokai that are woven together with fantastic tales and beautifully rendered artwork. Mizuki literally takes you back in time to his youth and upbringing. I highly recommend reading NonNonBā even if you are not into comics or graphic novels, with it’s beautiful story telling I guarantee that NonNonBā will whisk you away, to a pleasant realm on a rainy afternoon. Who knows you might even meet the Azuki-Hakari in your travels.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

NonNonBa




  Kotaku: Shigeru Mizuki "One of Japan's greatest" manga artists

Updated April 4, 2013


"One of Japan's Greatest (and Oldest) Manga Artists, Eating a McDonald's Hamburger."

Brian Ashcraft
Kotaku, 4 March 2013

Shigeru Mizuki is best known as the creator of GeGeGe no Kitaro. Before becoming a famous manga artist, he survived serving in World War II, catching malaria and having his arm blown off. Now at a spritely 90 years old, he's eating burgers. Good for him!

Usually, greasy fast food might be rough on elderly people's stomachs—and the stereotype in Japan is that old people really don't like hamburgers. But Mizuki seems to be enjoying this McDonald's "Texas Burger."

Heck, the entire Twitter feed for Mizuki's production company is him eating burgers and Japanese sweets, as well as working.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

          



Paste review of NonNonBa

Updated April 3, 2013


"Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up"

Hillary Brown
Paste Magazine, 8 August 2012

As opposed to Flannery O’Connor’s early works, I’m not sure you need any familiarity with Shigeru Mizuki’s oeuvre to enjoy NonNonBa. An autobiographical tale of the Japanese comics artist famed for his stories of yokai (monsters and spirits), it meanders and digresses, but its visual style is interesting and its content equally so. Rather than placing the focus entirely on the grandmotherly figure from whom it gets its title and Shigeru got his fascination with yokai, it wanders off to scenes of his parents’ financial difficulties, his childhood gang of boys and their “wars” against others, his journey to pacifism, and the like. Examined as a whole, this tendency produces a somewhat disjointed narrative, but the unexpected nature of certain paths is also appealing. Shigeru’s visuals, too, are odd, with caricatured, cartoony figures often appearing in front of extremely detailed backgrounds or what appear to be slightly altered photo reproductions. The story ventures into dark places, dealing with death, ruin, hunger, rising nationalism, cruelty, slavery and more, but for all that, it never feels either excessively sunny or depressing, striking the matter-of-fact middle ground that E.B. White made familiar in his children’s literature.


 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

NonNonBa




  PopMatters gives NonNonBa a 9/10

Updated April 3, 2013


"Shigeru Mizuki's Stories of Yokai: 'Nonnonba'"

Jeremy Estes
PopMatters, 7 September 2012

Imagine you’re in your bed, alone at night. Maybe you’ve just woken up from strange dream, or you’ve tossed and turned all night. Then, you hear a noise. It’s the house settling, or a branch scraping at the window, but you close your eyes tight just in case. You feel motion, something moving, in your room, but when you open your eyes there’s nothing there.

Or maybe there is. In the eyes of Shige, also known as Gege, the protagonist of Shigeru Mizuki’s semi autobiographical NonNonBa, our world is constantly visited by yokai, spirits, from other realms. Nonnonba is an elderly woman in Gege’s life, a grandmother figure, who’s his guide to all the things creeping in our rooms at night, possessing hungry travelers, and taking the souls of the young out to sea. Her stories are often instructional, like the importance of keeping a home clean to ward off the “dirt licker” akaname.

Mizuki has dreamed of other worlds since he was young, and his lifetime passion for yokai is the basis for this book. He’s considered a master of stories of yokai, but his work remains largely untranslated into English.

His previous work, 2011’s Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths is a semi autobiographical work based on his time in the Japanese army during World War II. Though that book’s title sounds grand, it’s actually sarcastic. Mizuki’s portrayal of his fellow grunts during the war shows a group of bored and exhausted young men who believe in the fight, though mostly because they have no other choice. Their lives are filled with bad weather, dwindling rations, and long lines at the brothel. There are moments of tragedy and gore, all of which show war as an equally routine, pointless, and alarming part of life. For American readers, we get to see the other side of a story we’ve been telling ourselves for generations. It’s virtually the same: a bunch of young men who’d rather be somewhere else.

Of course, that’s a defining characteristic of the young, and Gege is no different. He runs around the neighborhood fighting with rival gangs, playing games, and fighting with his brothers. He’s a country boy fascinated with things city folk find common, like elevators and doughnuts, but it’s the spirit world which most fascinates him. Nonnonba nurtures this side of Gege, telling him tales of the seemingly infinite yokai which occasionally inhabit our world.

NonNonBa is more than just a coming of age story, it’s a portrait of the artist as a young yokai enthusiast. To Gege the yokai are real, and his interactions with them increase the more he learns about them. A wart on his hand gives him answers to a math test, and another gives him tips on how to draw. Gege’s no good at math without the wart, but he’s passionate about art. Drawing and telling stories brings Gege closer to the spirit world.

In the book’s most moving sequence Gege illustrates a journey through the hundred thousand worlds of the Buddhist paradise for an ailing friend. When he’s finished drawing his friend is dead. The deaths of schoolmates and neighbors from accident or illness has a profound effect on Gege, and through art and the yokai he learns to deal with these tragedies.

Nonnonba fuels Gege’s interest in yokai, but he inherited his father’s love of stories. Gege’s father runs a local movie house and dreams of schooling the bumpkins of their town in the art of cinema. Though he’s mostly portrayed as a pretentious goofball, Gege’s father offers him incredible storytelling advice. Gege is concerned about getting a drawing as close to reality as possible, and his father says, “...it’s not just the reality of things that moves people.” Straight facts can drown out the poetry, the beauty of a great story. It’s clearly an idea Mizuki too to heart.

The characters in the book are strange and expressive, none more so than Nonnonba herself. She’s wrinkled and hunched, with giant eyes and a tiny pursed mouth. Mizuki’s backgrounds are realistic and precise, a sharp contrast to his characters. This brings forth the power of place in one’s memory, the sense of placing oneself somewhere specific in a time that’s long passed. Mizuki does this beautifully, creating a whole world on the page, just like his counterpart, Gege.

During an encounter with the yokai Azuki-Hakari, Gege asks the spirit why he scares people. The yokai answers, “It is what I’m destined to do. Why were you born into your family? Why do you draw stories that no one has asked for?” Nonnonba answers this question with humor and heart, that delicate combination which works only in the hands of a very few.

9/10
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

NonNonBa




Courierpress reviews Shigeru Mizyki's latest graphic novel.

Updated January 14, 2013


Comics: 'Taxes, the Tea Party and Those Revolting Rebels' and more

By ANDREW A. SMITH / Scripps Howard News Service
Posted October 3, 2012 at 6 a.m.

-- Americans tend to think of the Japanese enemy in World War II as implacable, fanatical, faceless and terrifying. A new graphic novel by one of Japan's most celebrated manga artists shows the truth behind the (Western) legend.

"Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths" (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95) follows some new recruits in a Japanese company on New Britain in what is now Papua New Guinea, from their arrival in 1943 to their deaths in 1945. I guess that's a spoiler of a sort, but really, you don't expect any other outcome when you experience these soldier's daily lives -- physical abuse from their superiors, starvation, irrational orders and more. And their deaths are due entirely to a culture we barely understand; when 81 soldiers miraculously survive a suicide attack, their commanders send them back on a second suicide attack to avoid losing face (and force several officers and NCOs to suicide).

"Deaths" is written and drawn by someone who knows this story, because he lived it. Writer/artist Shigeru Mizuki, now 90, is not only one of Japan's most celebrated manga artists, but a veteran of World War II, which claimed one of his arms. And the only reason he survived is because he was hospitalized with battle injuries and malaria when his company was sent to its death.

"Deaths" may prove strange to American eyes for reasons aside from content. For one thing, Drawn & Quarterly opted to present it as it originally appeared, which means reading back to front, right to left. Secondly, Mizuki is one of the founders of the manga style that draws realistic backgrounds with cartoony human characters -- who revert to a grotesque, photo-realistic depiction in death.

Both roadblocks evaporate fairly quickly, given the story's lively pace, rough humor, endearing characterizations ... and suffocating sense of inevitable doom.

 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  NonNonBa reviewed by the Rover

Updated August 27, 2012


Secret Garden
Nononba, by Shigeru Mizuki, Drawn & Quarterly

by GEORGIA WEBBER
19.08.2012

Children are constantly reminded that they know nothing of the world. Adults act as if they couldn’t understand, so no use trying to explain. Other children posit guesses or deliver information accompanied by shrugs or exaggerated confidence. Our childhood experiences drift rootless in the fog of unknown contexts, despite our interaction with it. A future of knowledge awaits us.
In Shigeru Mizuki’s semi-autobiographical work, written when he was in his eighties, Nononba, the illusion of knowing is peeled back to reveal mystery as beauty, spirits as practicality, and respect as imperative to wonder.
The story follows Gege, a young boy growing up in rural Japan, and his relationship to the yokai (Japanese spirits) through an elderly woman in the community. Nononba, as she is familiarly called, is a prayer hand and occasional housekeeper who spends a lot of time at Gege’s house, helping the family and telling stories of the yokai and their domains.
As Gege works to make sense of difficult events in his life, Nononba tells him of Akaname, the dirt-licker, who will come to lick the dirt off your walls if you don’t clean them well enough. For those who pray only in times of need, a selfish prayer will bring an Otoroshi down from the shrine gates. If you embark on a long journey without eating or bringing food, you may find yourself paralyzed by the Hungry Gods.
Not all of the yokai represent moralistic lessons, however; the creaking steps you hear behind you when walking at night could well be Mr.Sticky, a yokai who walks in noisy sandals. All youneed to do to send him away is step to the side of the road and say, “Mr.Sticky, please, after you.”
In Mizuki’s style, the backgrounds are ornate and detailed, conveying realism within the world of the story, juxtaposed by highly stylized characterization. In reading this translation, you might find yourself doubling back to read the panels in the correct order (top right to bottom left), but it also takes time to adjust to Mizuki’s visual language. There are certain expressive cues that all characters display–for example, the puff of air emitting from a nostril indicates exasperation, or a stressed emotion, usually anger or frustration–but each character also possesses unique physical features, and adjusting to their general expressions behind their sometimes overwhelming physicality take a little getting used to. At least, until their personalities sweep you away into their world.
The yokai are conveyed in a different style altogether, recognizable from Japanese folk art, with grand features rendered in great detail–almost a mix of the natural world Mizuki represents and the exaggerated and cartoonish characters he generates within it. The yokai also remain part of the background to the characters for the beginning of the story, never seen by those who speak of them. But as the story progresses, and Gege’s thoughts and drawings turn more and more towards these unseen spirits, they begin to show themselves to him–even speak with him–and become incorporated into the story as recurring characters.
Though his family and friends often scoff when Gege makes reference to the yokai, they all enjoy reading his illustrated stories about them. It is because of his stories that one yokai in particular, Azuki-Hakari, chooses to interact with Gege, and show him its true image so that Gege can draw it accurately. Drawing is Gege’s way of understanding the world, particularly the parts he can’t make sense of within himself.As his internal life unfolds, the yokai begin to come to him more often, though it is unclear as to whether or not these interactions take place in dreams or reality. As Gege learns, this doesn’t matter. The respect he regards them with is fundamental, and despite the disbelief of his peers and family, he continues to explore and take part in this spiritual existence, and is rewarded by more and more dream-like interactions with the yokai.
By the end of the novel, a childhood has been lived, and you, the witness, will have been moved. The experiences of Gege range from tender and heartbreaking to brutal and self-actualizing–a coming of age story too rich to draw any one conclusion. Except, perhaps, that looking inside ourselves and valuing our individual experiences of the world–however mysterious they may be–might actually connect us more deeply to it. Reading this graphic novel could be your first step.
Georgia Webber is a Toronto-born cartoonist living in Montreal. Whenever she’s not obsessing over comics, she can be found fixing bikes, serving coffee, studying languages, and doing yoga. She loves learning and sharing her knowledge through workshops, discussions, and generally hanging out. She welcomes your inquiries, enthusiasm and conversation on any of these subjects.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

NonNonBa




Shigeru Mizuki's "NonNonBa" reviewed by Paste Magazine

Updated August 27, 2012


Comic Book & Graphic Novel Round-Up (8/8/12)


August 8, 2012
BY HILLARY BROWN

NonNonBa>br>by Shigeru Mizuki
Drawn + Quarterly, 2012
Rating: 7.2

As opposed to Flannery O’Connor’s early works, I’m not sure you need any familiarity with Shigeru Mizuki’s oeuvre to enjoy NonNonBa. An autobiographical tale of the Japanese comics artist famed for his stories of yokai (monsters and spirits), it meanders and digresses, but its visual style is interesting and its content equally so. Rather than placing the focus entirely on the grandmotherly figure from whom it gets its title and Shigeru got his fascination with yokai, it wanders off to scenes of his parents’ financial difficulties, his childhood gang of boys and their “wars” against others, his journey to pacifism, and the like. Examined as a whole, this tendency produces a somewhat disjointed narrative, but the unexpected nature of certain paths is also appealing. Shigeru’s visuals, too, are odd, with caricatured, cartoony figures often appearing in front of extremely detailed backgrounds or what appear to be slightly altered photo reproductions. The story ventures into dark places, dealing with death, ruin, hunger, rising nationalism, cruelty, slavery and more, but for all that, it never feels either excessively sunny or depressing, striking the matter-of-fact middle ground that E.B. White made familiar in his children’s literature. (HB)
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

NonNonBa




  Comics Alliance reviews Mizuki's "NonNonBa"

Updated July 25, 2012


'NonNonBa' by Shigeru Mizuki Mixes Memoir and Fantasy into a Manga Classic [Review]


Jun 29th 2012
By: J. Caleb Mozzocco

If Shigeru Mizuki's NonNonBa were just the childhood memoir of an extremely talented and influential first-generation manga artist, it would be something well worth reading. If it were just a family drama set in the transitional, pre-war years of Japan, when the old, traditional ways were being replaced by the new ways of a more modern, industrialized world, it would be well worth reading. And if it were just a cataloging and collection of various species and characters of yokai (or Japanese spirit monsters), it would be well worth reading.

It's the fact that it is all three at once that makes NonNonBa a must-read, a classic work that is important as it is charming.

The book is newly available in English thanks to Drawn and Quarterly, who previously published Mizuki's Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, and it is named for the character around whom so much of the our young protagonist Gege's life seems to revolve.

"NonNonBa" is a contraction and corruption of NonNon Obaasan, the latter Japanese for grandmother and the former the title given to people who served Buddha. Her profession, mentioned in passing, is that of a "prayer hand," someone who made their living praying for those who were ill to get better, although she also worked as a housekeeper for Gege's family and others in their neighborhood.

Her role in his life, however, was as his unofficial guide to the spirit world, which, in the rural Sakaiminato of the 1930s as seen through a child's eyes, overlapped and permeated the real world in the same way that the fairy world intersected and often pierced the folk experience of the British isles in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. No one young Gege knew had ever been on an elevator, or eaten a doughnut -- not until he and his brothers take a 12-mile journey to taste their first one, anyway -- and word of a train that ran under the ground in Tokyo was dismissed as simply too fantastic to believe.

In such a setting, under such circumstances, are ghosts and demons really such bizarre things for a child to believe in?

The devoutly religious and highly superstitious NonNonBa, born in the previous century, knows all of the yokai, and all about them -- their names, their habits, how not to anger them, what to do if you do anger them -- and she shares her knowledge with Gege. And even before growing up to be a professional and famous manga artist, Gege shared that knowledge with others, in little stories he writes and draws and passes around to his friends and family to read.



The book, a 400+ page doorstop, is broken into chapters, many of which are devoted to particular episodes involving various yokai: Zauki-Hakari, Otoroshi, Mr. Sticky, The Wart Yokai, Akaname the Dirt-Licker, Nekomata, The Hungry Ghosts, Slippery Lads, the Suiko/Water Tiger and The Waargh (a ghost so named for its cry of "Waargh!")

Mizuki rather ingeniously grants his yokai characters an ambiguous, equivocal degree of reality within the story. Are they real, or do they just exist in the imaginations of NonNonBa, Gege and other characters? Mizuki shows the reader the yokai, whereas the characters almost never see them with their own eyes -- with one, climactic exception which nevertheless is somewhat uncertain in nature -- but rather feel them and their effects.

For example, when NonNonBa and Gege cross paths with Mr. Sticky, an invisible yokai who follows travelers at night, the sound of his footsteps echoing behind them, Mizuki designs the creature for us to see, but the characters never have that opportunity. Others appear to Gege in his dreams or his sometimes fevered imagination, or appear in stories being recounted to him.

While the stories featuring the yokai are often somewhat standalone and episodic, NonNonBa is a graphic novel in the truest sense of the word (even though its 1977 creation predates the popular usage of that term by years), as young Gege comes of age and we see the various struggles of his family, and a few even more unfortunate girls who enter and leave our hero's life suddenly.



It seems somewhat redundant to note that Mizuki's art features cartoony characters in a highly realistically rendered environment, as it is manga, after all, and that's one of the signifiers that differentiates Japanese comics from those of other countries, but the distance of the gulf between the cartoonishness of the characters and the realism of the environment.



Mizuki's humans are as cartoonish as the characters in your average American newspaper gag strip (some barely even look human), and their emotions are similarly outsized, as they go cross-eyed with fear, exhale little clouds through their nostrils and sweat like sprinkler heads. The yokai themselves are richly varied in design, with some as simple as a little black cloud with staring white eyes and others looking as if they were pulled straight from classical Japanese art.

In that respect, the way they are drawn reflects their nature within the narrative.



Given his subject matter and skill at relating it, it's little wonder that Mizuki is regarded as a cultural treasure in Japan, having won just about every award a manga-ka or Japanese citizen can win and having been named to the Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology. His hometown of Sakaiminato has a street decorated with over 100 bronze statues of his yokai characters and a museum. And while awards and statues are nice, there's no better monument to Mizuki than the comics he made. Comics like this one.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

NonNonBa




"NonNonBa" reviewed on Comics Worth Reading

Updated July 25, 2012


Review by Ed Sizemore

Shigeru Mizuki is a cultural icon. His manga GeGeGe no Kitaro is credited with igniting the modern day fascination with Japanese folktales. Mizuki is recognized as a expert on yokai (supernatural beings) and was one of the first people to attempt to catalog all the local legends of yokai throughout Japan. He has truly helped the Japanese people connect with and appreciate their own cultural heritage.

I discovered Mizuki when I attended an exhibit for his Fifty-Three Stations of the Yokaido Road. There I was introduced not just to Kitaro, but to Mizuki’s legacy in Japan. Mizuki has written works about World War II, Hitler, and other subjects. He’s considered to be one of the great masters of manga and was quickly added to my list of must-read Japanese authors.

Drawn & Quarterly partially answered my prayers last year when they published Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. Finally, an English-speaking audience was getting access to this great manga creator! However, I was still waiting for a chance to read the yokai stories that made him so famous to begin with.

Finally, the wait is over. Drawn & Quarterly listened to my prayers and just recently published NonNonBa. Like Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, this book is a work of fiction based on Mizuki’s own experiences. It takes place in the rural Japan of the 1930s. Like the rest of the world, Japanese culture was in flux as it began the transition to a more industrial economy.

NonNonBa is nostalgic, but not sentimental. Mizuki is certainly looking back on his childhood with great fondness. However, he is also willing to be honest about many of the brutal realities that existed at that time in Japan. During the course of the book, one of Mizuki’s friends drowns, another dies from illness, and a third is sold to a geisha house. Local kids form gangs and have brutal fights over honor and territory rights. It’s a sober reminder that the good ol’ days had their dark moments, too.

His family isn’t spared from criticism. His father is shown to be shiftless and a bit of a dreamer. His lack of ambition means the family is always just one step above the poverty line. His father is a Tokyo University graduate in the days when having a college degree was rare. He’s able to exploit this fact when looking for work. Otherwise, his resume of failed jobs would keep employers from even considering him.

The person treated with great kindness is the title character NonNonBa. The term refers to elderly women who served at the local Buddhist shire. Specifically, she is the person who introduces Mizuki to the world of the yokai. She is part grandmother and part wise woman. Mizuki does a brilliant job of making the reader as fascinated with and enamored of her as he was and still is.

At the same time, Mizuki show us that she was a woman out of place. She lived and breathed the old, pre-modern world, filled with yokai, both benevolent and malicious. They were as real for her as any other forest creature. Most people have written off these spirit beings as superstition. Mizuki finds himself attracted to this older world view and quickly adapts it for himself. His own experiences seem to reaffirm the existence of yokai and their influence on our lives.

Artistically, this book is more accessible than Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. There isn’t the jarring juxtaposition of hyperreal backgrounds and cartoony figures. The characters and their backgrounds blend naturally in this book. The designs for the yokai are delightfully imaginative. They can be terrifying or simply strange beings. I break out in a smile every time Azuki-Hakari shows up; he looks like a dwarf with a huge grin.

NonNonBa is an engaging book. Mizuki perfectly captures the realities of both being a child and the rural past. There are the joys of being young and discovering the world and yourself for the first time. There are heartbreaks as you discover death and betrayal, too. Technology brings new wonders, but also brings a separation from nature. Trying to find a way to navigate in all this chaos is difficult for the young and old alike. Mizuki makes us feel that struggle so poignantly.

This is a book that richly rewards those who read it slowly and thoughtfully. I’m not saying you’ll start believing in yokai. You will begin to appreciate the past, and your own past, better. Mizuki does what all my favorite writers do. He takes me to a new world and gets me lost in it. He makes it a place I want to visit again and again. Anyone that enjoys a finely crafted story and characters so real you’ll swear you’ve met them yourself will love this book. I can’t wait to reread it.

A fitting epilogue to this review is Drawn and Quarterly’s recent announcement that in 2013 they will be publishing the GeGeGe no Kitaro series under the title Kitaro. I’ve very excited to finally get to read such an influential and beloved series. I’ve already put in my pre-order with Amazon.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

NonNonBa




  D+Q to Publish Mizuki's "Kitaro" in 2013

Updated June 21, 2012


Drawn and Quarterly to Publish Shigeru Mizuki's Kitaro in 2013
By Deb Aoki, About.com
June 19, 2012

At the recent Book Expo America show in New York City, Drawn and Quarterly announced that they'll be adding another title to their collection of classic tales by manga legend Shigeru Mizuki. This time, they've acquired the rights to publish Mizuki's most famous, beloved and influential series, Kitaro (a.k.a. GeGeGe no Kitaro). Drawn and Quarterly's edition of Kitaro is tentatively scheduled for release in "early 2013."

So what and who is Kitaro? Well, if you've enjoyed stories like Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Black Bird, and Natsume's Book of Friends, you've partly got Shigeru Mizuki and Kitaro to thank for that. You see, Kitaro is probably one of the most popular manga series based in the world of yokai, or the Japanese demons/spirits/creatures of the night.

Kitaro is a yokai boy, who is one of the last living members of the Yurei Zoku (Ghost Tribe). With the help of his father (who is basically an eyeball with legs) and an assortment of yokai friends, Kitaro tries to keep the peace between the human and spirit world.
Kitaro (or Hakaba no Kitarō - Kitaro of the Graveyard) is based on kamishibai (paper play) stories that were popular in the early days of manga. The first Kitaro manga stories by Mizuki were introduced to readers in 1959 in the pages of Shonen Magazine, a magazine for young boys. Kitaro stories have also been published in avant-garde manga magazine Garo. Kitaro has also been adapted into several anime series, and recently, a live-action movie version of Kitaro's adventures was made in 2007.

While Kitaro has influenced several generations of Japanese manga artists, few readers in North America have read this series (with the exception of a lucky few who found some of the very out-of-print Kodansha bilingual editions of GeGeGe no Kitaro that were published in 2002.)

It's not yet clear if Drawn & Quarterly is publishing a single "greatest hits" or a few volumes of Kitaro, ala VIZ Media's abbreviated runs for long-running series like Golgo 13 and Oishinbo, or if they plan to publish several volumes, like their lovely editions of Moomin. Hopefully, more details will emerge as the publication date draws near.

In the meantime, if you want to get a taste of Shigeru Mizuki's yokai tales, check out NonNonBa. NonNonBa is a semi-autobiographical tale of Mizuki's childhood, and the woman who introduced him to the world of yokai, a family friend / elderly woman he knew as NonNonBa. You can also check out a preview of NonNonBa (PDF) via DrawnandQuarterly.com.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

          



PW Comics World Critic's Poll 2011: ONWARDS, PAYING FOR IT, THE DEATH-RAY

Updated January 11, 2012


January 10, 2012

TWO VOTES
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)
Set in World War II on a pacific island, this fictionalized memoir offers a detailed and comic record of life in the Japanese Imperial army as a prelude to a horrific and tragic account of the awful fate of its soldiers. An unforgettable account of the nightmare of war.—CR

Paying For It, Chester Brown (Drawn & Quarterly)
The foreword by Crumb is great, and Brown's matter-of-factness in telling the kind of story he's telling is something to behold.—GD

The Death-Ray, Daniel Clowes (Drawn and Quarterly)
The superhero myth is taken to a it’s logical, bleak conclusion in a tale of emotionally stunted white-trash kids who encounter a force beyond their moral abilities. Although Clowes is aware of how small-minded his protagonists are, he never entirely loses sympathy for their plight.—HM
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Chester Brown
Daniel Clowes
Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured products

The Death-Ray
Paying For It
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  Autobio comics on AV Club: ONWARDS, MY NEW YORK DIARY, I NEVER LIKED YOU

Updated January 10, 2012


December 15, 2011
Sam Adams

Shigeru Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a stunning account of life as a Japanese soldier during World War II that could only have come from the pen of a veteran, but he also avails himself of the fiction author’s ability to reorganize and compress as needed.

Julie Doucet’s My New York Diary is the closest the former Dirty Plotte cartoonist has gotten to memoir, but it’s still deliberately unreliable, chronicling her six-month attempt to live in New York City with the lucid strangeness of a fever dream.

The Essentials:

4. I Never Liked You by Chester Brown
A slim but painful volume, told in Brown’s characteristically deadpan style, recounting his adolescence with melancholy wit. The tiny panels adrift in a sea of blank space are like flashes of memory torn from the past; they fit together, but not without gaps.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Chester Brown
Julie Doucet
Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured products

I Never Liked You: The New Definitive Edition
My New York Diary
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




iFanboy awaits Mizuki's NON NON BA

Updated January 9, 2012


January 5, 2012
Molly McIsaac

NonNonBa
By Shigeru Mizuki
Release Date: March 27, 2012
This is a bit different than my usual manga selections (which tend to consist of shoujo and horror manga), as this is a psuedo memoir that is family friendly. However, it is by Shigeru Mizuki who is basically the forefather of demon (or yokai – spirit monsters) manga. It is a lighthearted story about the things in his life that brought him his fascination with the occult. It focuses on his grandmother – a grumpy old lady by the name of NonNonBa – who taught him to traverse the spirit world when he was little.

 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

NonNonBa




  ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS on The Cultural Gutter

Updated January 9, 2012


Carol Borden
January 5, 2012

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (Drawn & Quarterly) Shigeru Mizuki
An affecting and elegaic account of serving in the Japanese Imperial Army in Papua New Guinea during the Second World War. Starving, killed by malaria, dengue fever and crocodiles, harassed and abused by their superiors, and ultimately sent to their deaths because of a commander’s pride. Mizuki’s cartoonish drawings of his characters humanizes them more than real than if he had rendered them realistically against his exquisitely detailed realistic backgrounds and the ghostly, faceless enemy. Mizuki includes some gorgeously detailed nature studies and horrific drawings of war and the dead.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




ONWARDS, HARK!, PAYING FOR IT, on read/RANT's 10 Best Graphic Novels of 2011

Updated January 9, 2012


Cal C.

10: Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki

Originally published almost 40 years ago, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths only very recently got its first official publication in English. History buffs, particularly those interested in World War II, will find a lot to love in this semi-autobiographical story of a Japanese soldier fighting in the war. Shigeru himself was a soldier, and this book is based on his experiences fighting under Japanese commanders in a losing battle against American forces. From the non-stop hunger and disease to the sometimes-abusive, sometimes-incompetent commanding officers, Shigeru’s manga Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is dark, weird and realistic, but most of all, it’s unique. From the blend of cartoony character design and ultra-realistic scenery to the point of view that most Americans will never get about World War II, it’s a must-read book. Though flawed and occasionally unfocused, it’s fascinating and, frankly, a blast to read.


7: Hark! A Vagrant, by Kate Beaton

Perhaps the most light-hearted work on my list, Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant has been building on online fanbase for years, but her strips popularity has gone to the next level with the release of its first paperback collection. Having a knowledge of history (or at least an interest) helps, as Beaton’s jokes are often far cleverer for those familiar with the characters and times she’s riffing on, but anyone with a sense of humor will find an awful lot to love here. Beaton’s cartoony art could be seen as simplistic, but it’s a fantastic fit for her witty jokes, often giving her characters ridiculous, exaggerated appearances that only highlight the features she’s lampooning. Anyone in the mood to laugh should grab this book as soon as possible.


2: Paying For It, Chester Brown

Brutally honest, emotionally distant, and at times darkly hilarious, Chester Brown’s autiobiographical Paying For It is an undeniable success. The book is an utterly non-sensual look at the life of a man who, deciding to forego the hassle of romantic love, starts frequenting a variety – a huge variety – of escorts. Brown’s simplistic art and paneling and totally deadpan storytelling take a couple chapters to adjust to, but end up paying off hugely as Brown’s life gets weirder and weirder. Though it periodically devolves into a slightly irritating didacticism, particularly in Brown’s arguments with friends about the morality of prostitution, it is an endlessly readable book with some fascinating ideas and pitch-perfect execution.

 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Chester Brown
Shigeru Mizuki
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Paying For It
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
Hark! A Vagrant




  ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS "will draw you in" says NPR

Updated January 3, 2012


December 21, 2011
Dan Kois

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
by Shigeru Mizuki and Jocelyne Allen•
Paperback, 368
When he was 21, Shigeru Mizuki was drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army and sent to Papua New Guinea, site of one of the fiercest battles of the Pacific campaign. When his unit was completely wiped out by Australian forces, Mizuki heroically struggled back to base, only to be reprimanded by his superiors for surviving. This classic 1973 manga, based on Mizuki's wartime experiences, explores with crystalline irony the absurdities of life during wartime. The moon-faced Japanese grunts in Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths face a catch-22 even more insane than Yossarian's: In an army devoted to engineering the glorious deaths of its soldiers, only in failure can success be ensured. Translated into English for the first time, this is a powerful, maddening and at times bitterly funny war story — a revealing look at World War II from the opposite side.

Check out their except of ONWARDS.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




PURE PAJAMAS, DEATH-RAY, ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS among Montreal Gazette's top picks of 2011

Updated January 2, 2012


December 29, 2011
Ian McGillis

Regular readers of Montreal Mirror cartoonist Marc Bell will embrace Pure Pajamas (Drawn & Quarterly, 96 pages, $22.95), a collection from a sui generis artist whose characters’ small heads and huge feet bear the unmistakable influence of R. Crumb, but whose work takes a more benign, childlike view of humanity and its discontents. Don’t let the small page count mislead you: There’s enough going on in a typical Bell page to keep you absorbed for as long as most whole books would.

Also: The Death-Ray, by Daniel Clowes (Drawn & Quarterly, 48 pages, $19.95) makes one of the Ghost World author’s most sought-after limited edition comics available in book form for the first time; Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly, 368 pages, $24.95) sees the father of modern manga telling a shattering Second World War tale of soldiers betrayed by their commanders.

 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Marc Bell
Daniel Clowes
Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured products

The Death-Ray
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
Pure Pajamas




  MTV Geek calls ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLES DEATHS "important" on Best Manga of 2011 list

Updated January 2, 2012


November 28, 2011
Brigid Alverson

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
By Shigeru Mizuki

This is not a fun manga to read, but it is an important one. Shigeru Mizuki was in a Japanese infantry unit during World War II, and he drew on his own experiences in this story of enlisted men who are mistreated by their superiors and ultimately ordered to go on a suicide charge in order to avoid the dishonor of surviving. Mizuki depicts the brutality of ordinary life behind the battle lines as well as the violence of war, and this is not an easy story to read, but its historical importance and the lessons it holds for the future are undeniable.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




Paste calls ONWARDS "brutally honest" along side DEATH-RAY on Best Reissues/Collections of 2011

Updated January 2, 2012


December 4, 2011Garrett Martin, Hillary Brown and Sean Edgar

4. The Death-Ray
by Daniel Clowes
Drawn & Quaterly

Clowes’ gloomy Bildungsroman about teenage disillusionment and vigilante justice focuses on an arrogant and mostly friendless teenager who gets superpowers from a forbidden vice in the late 1970s. Egged on by his angry punk friend, he uses those powers to beat up bullies and other wrong-doers. Eventually the stakes are raised from mere beatings to weighing judgment on the merits of existence itself. Clowes’ literary superhero tale explores the combination of condescension, guilt, and self-righteousness common to both adolescence and superhero vigilantism. (GM)

3. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
by Shigeru Mizuki
Drawn & Quarterly

Mizuki’s powerful counterpoint to America’s enduring love affair with World War II doesn’t belittle America or make the Allies look disreputable. Even as American bullets rip through Mizuki’s characters, the true villains remain the Japanese leaders who send their men to pointless deaths. Mizuki based this 1973 book on his experiences at New Britain in Papua New Guinea near the end of the war. Mizuki’s soldiers realize and resent their treatment as cannon fodder by glory-seeking officers and a military culture that views surrender or imprisonment as dishonorable. Mizuki makes Japan’s leadership look as bad as any jingoistic American World War II movie, but replaces the offensive racial stereotypes of Western entertainment with realistic depictions of normal men trapped in a horrible situation. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a brutally honest and human look at an unfortunate group of men more dehumanized by their own commanders than their enemies. (GM)
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Daniel Clowes
Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured products

The Death-Ray
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  TOKYOPOP names ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS among best manga of 2011

Updated January 2, 2012


4. Noble Effort - While it may not be as fun to read as Sailor Moon, Shigeru Mizuki's Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths is certainly a very important read. Drawing from his time spent as an infantryman during World War II, Mizuki crafted a harrowing tale of the brutality of life during wartime, full of lessons that still ring true today.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS tops Best Manga of 2011 lists!

Updated January 2, 2012


Deb Aoki

1. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths - 15 critics' lists

Author/Artist: Shigeru Mizuki
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

"Mizuki’s powerful counterpoint to America’s enduring love affair with World War II doesn’t belittle America or make the Allies look disreputable. Even as American bullets rip through Mizuki’s characters, the true villains remain the Japanese leaders who send their men to pointless deaths. "
- Garrett Martin, Paste Magazine
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  Flavorwire lists HARK!, ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS among most "buzzed-about" of 2011

Updated January 2, 2012


December 30, 2011
Emily Temple

Onward to Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki

Originally published in 1973, Noble Deaths is the first comic by Japanese cartoonist Shigeru Mizuki to see an English translation. It’s a brutal introduction. Following a doomed platoon of Japanese soldiers in World War II and using moments from his own wartime experience, Mizuki mixes terror and gallows humor so well that a single panel can operate as a delivery device for both. This is a painful comic, an upsetting one, but it’s also very, very funny. It shouldn’t be ignored.

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton’s gotten exponentially more popular over the last few years, and there’s no easier explanation than just pointing at her comics and saying “that’s why.” In a lot of ways, she’s almost impossible to pin down. Her influences range all over the place; it’s not a surprise to see her shift from a belligerent, chain-smoking Wonder Woman over to a hyper-literate takedown of the Brontë sisters. She’s a master of emotion, with the most expressive faces you’ll find outside of a Jaime Hernandez comic. In terms of humor, Beaton is setting the bar for everybody else right now. She’s amazing.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Shigeru Mizuki
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
Hark! A Vagrant




NPR lists ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS, HARK!, BIG QUESTIONS among best of 2011!

Updated December 29, 2011


December 22, 2011
Glen Weldon

Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths

A masterful, searing and unforgettable semi-autobiographical manga that presents the last days of World War II from the point of view of Japanese infantrymen.


Big Questions

A singular, and singularly effective, art comic. Highly recommended. By, among others, me.


Hark! A Vagrant!

I could go on and on about how great, how funny, how smart this book is. Oh, wait, I already did.
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Anders Nilsen
Shigeru Mizuki
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Big Questions (paperback)
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
Hark! A Vagrant




  Mizuki's ONWARDS ranks on CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2011!

Updated December 29, 2011


December 27th, 2011

51. Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths
Written & Illustrated by Shigeru Mizuki
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

"Shigeru Mizuki draws on his own experiences in the Japanese army in this unsparing look at a doomed unit sent on a suicide mission in the last days of World War II."

-- CBR Columnist & Robot 6 Writer Brigid Alverson
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




DEATH-RAY, ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS, WORTMAN'S NEW YORK make AV Club's Best list!

Updated December 29, 2011


December 29, 2011
Noel Murray

Top Three Reprints

1. Daniel Clowes, The Death-Ray (D&Q)
Previously available as an unwieldy oversized magazine, the contents of Eightball #23 are now the graphic novel they always should’ve been, packaging Daniel Clowes’ meltdown of superhero mythology under a sturdy hardcover. Broken into one- or two-page chapters—drawn in a range of styles, from simple cartoons to naturalistic sketches to full-scale, dynamic action layouts—The Death-Ray is narrated by Andy, a tense, middle-aged loner who recalls his high-school years in the late ’70s, when he was a scrawny outsider who acquired superhuman strength and a weapon capable of disintegrating its targets without leaving a trace. With a keenly developed sense of justice and no super-villains to battle, Andy and his proto-slacker sidekick began a covert terror campaign, directed at the jerks in their lives. The Death-Ray can be read as a critique of American foreign policy, or a kiss-off to superheroes, but it’s also another of Clowes’ keen dissections of teen ennui, with the details of a young man’s first cigarette and his first punk-rock album serving as more than just coming-of-age signifiers. In the devastating final two pages, Clowes returns to Andy in the present day and sucks the air out of the piece, as fireworks pop and the hero explains that the petty grudges of young adulthood never fade, but resolve themselves into a system of values, guiding the way the world is run.

3. Shigeru Mizuki, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (D&Q)
Based on Shigeru Mizuki’s memories of fighting in World War II, the 1973 graphic novel Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths combines detailed, often beautiful illustrations of small Pacific islands with characters rendered far less elaborately, setting up the climactic suicide mission of the book’s title, where men become little more than meat. A character dies roughly every 10 pages in this 368-page book, typically in ways that are more blackly comic than tragic. Soldiers get shot while sneaking off to extract a few drops of water from tree roots, or they choke while trying to carry fish in their mouths. Those are the kind of quirky details that could only come from personal experience, and they’re mixed in with page after page of soldiers dealing with hunger, illness, horniness, and the dehumanizing abuse from their superiors. It’s hard to picture the Imperial Army as the robotic fanatics of legend after reading Onward, with its mass of rounded faces all yearning for an extra spoonful of rice and one last shot at getting laid before they charge into the abyss.

Top Five Archival Collections

5. Denys Wortman, Denys Wortman’s New York: Portrait Of The City In The 1930s And 1940s (D&Q)
Denys Wortman drew cartoons and illustrations for multiple New York magazines and newspapers between the ’20s and ’50s, but never became as well known as some of his peers, perhaps because his dense panels, sketchy lines and whimsical captions lost some charm when reduced to a quarter-page. The James Sturm and Brandon Elston-edited Denys Wortman’s New York: Portrait Of The City In The 1930s and 1940s arranges hundreds of Wortman originals—saved in a shed by his son—into a tour through the city over the course of a single day. The impressions of city life over a half-century ago are invaluable, but even better, Denys Wortman’s New York features one panel per large-sized page, which does due justice to the artist’s detailed, dynamic drawings of fire escapes, busy lunch counters, jumping dance halls, and dimly lit parlors.
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Daniel Clowes
Denys Wortman
Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured products

Denys Wortman's New York
The Death-Ray
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  New York Magazine calls ONWARDS one of the Great Comics From Outside America

Updated August 3, 2011


From one of the greatest manga-ka comes the essential story of World War II from the perspective of the grunts in a doomed Japanese Army unit in New Guinea.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




Japan Times reviews ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated August 1, 2011


Shigeru Mizuki's "Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths" begins with a gallery of the faces of each of the 30 main characters.

News photo

Although none of these portraits could be called realistic, each is idiosyncratic enough to be instantly recognizable and distinct from each of the others. That we can tell one from the other is, perhaps, the point: these young men, Mizuki shows us, were not a nameless and faceless mass marching toward their "noble deaths," but sons and brothers, husbands and lovers, human beings caught up in something beyond their control.

It becomes painfully clear, as we move through the pages of Mizuki's "90 percent fact[ual]" account of a detachment of Japanese soldiers sent, in 1943, to an island in the New Guinean archipelago, that their superiors did not see things that way. For them, the grunts "were not even thought of as human beings."

"We were instead," Mizuki explains, "creatures lower than a horse." Reading, in the clean prose of Mizuki's afterword, that "soldiers and socks were consumables; a soldier ranked no higher than a cat," we are appalled that human life was held in such low regard. Seeing it in the pages of Mizuki's manga we experience this degradation of humanity in a way painfully visceral.

Start with the beauty of Mizuki's drawings. The figures who populate Mizuki's frames tend to be simple, if amusing and psychologically rich, caricatures.

The background against which they move, however, is often realistic and exquisitely detailed. This is true of the two double-page spreads with which the comic begins, one of the ships at sea on their way to New Guinea, and one of the troops arriving, the island's palm trees in the foreground, the ships seen through them, just off the coast. These spreads -- the ocean, the tropical beauty -- lull the reader just as the young soldiers allow themselves to be comforted by the hope that their mission might be other than hellish.

"I heard they have papaya trees where we're headed," one of the young men remarks, and hitting the beach another exults, "It is almost just like heaven."

Such notions are soon expunged by the casual brutality of the officers, and the increasingly dangerous blunders of the hapless recruits. Early in the book some of these mishaps are played for laughs, as they might have been in another comic that came out of World War II, George Baker's "Sad Sack," but the brutality quickly grows in intensity, the mishaps become life-ending disasters. Baker's comics appeared in official military publications. Mizuki's, it becomes clear, never could.

Throughout the tale the officers cite historical precedent -- "When the great Dai-Nanko fought the rebels at Minato River ... ," "When we remember Master Kusunoki ..." -- to inspire the men, or, more precisely, to justify the harsh conditions under which they struggle. The problem is, the soldiers on the ground in New Guinea are not idealized historical paragons, but human beings. Perhaps the strongest of all the instincts that drive us is the survival instinct, the one that tells us we must not die.

When a few of the all-too-human soldiers in New Guinea have the temerity to obey this instinct and return from what is intended to be a suicide mission, it is not seen as a happy event, but rather a major problem for the division commander.

To return from a suicide mission is, he says, "to violate the military code that is most fundamental ... the order for a suicide charge must be obeyed."

A lieutenant is sent to deal with the problem, and told that he "may use whatever means necessary," to rectify the situation. The meaning of the euphemism is clear.

Some of the men who have, as the lieutenant puts it, "the audacity to be alive," are induced to kill themselves. Others die when the superior U.S. forces bomb their position. The survivors embark on a second suicide attack. This one is entirely "successful."

The last man to die is the artist -- he'd been asked, earlier, to illustrate a set of hanafuda cards for the platoon leader -- who is, apparently, a stand-in for Mizuki. One is grateful that Mizuki's account is only ninety percent factual, that he lived to tell the tale.

By restricting the action of "Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths" to the island where the men fight and die Mizuki is able for the most part to elide the question of whether the soldiers he writes about were fighting on the good side or the bad. He makes it clear that, for those doing the fighting and dying, such questions are not of paramount importance.

Indeed, thanks to works like Mizuki's, which remind us that the cannon fodder on both sides are human, we come to see how meaningless such distinctions can be.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  Publishers Weekly interviews Chris Oliveros about ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated July 14, 2011


The story opens with whores and closes with mass graves. Huge explosions and carnage pepper the body of the narrative and there is a splash of dry humor, albeit on the morbid side. It may sound like a summer blockbuster but Onward Towards Our Nobel Deaths, Shigeru Mizuki's semi-autobiographical account of life as a soldier in the Japanese Army during World War II, is something crueler and more heartbreaking than any Hollywood movie.
"It wasn't easy for us to choose the first Mizuki title to publish," said Drawn and Quarterly publisher, Chris Oliveros. "Ultimately, we thought that Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is an excellent introduction to his work for North American readers. It is a deeply personal and moving account (which he claims to be "90% fact") of his experiences in WWII. It's a subject matter that readers have knowledge of and thus can relate to on a certain level."

Set in the Pacific Islands during World War II, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths tells the story of a platoon of Japanese soldiers in the Imperial Army sent on a mission to occupy and hold the position on a remote island. It is, however, a mission of slow death as Japanese soldiers are expected to die in combat. Returning home would only bring shame and dishonor to themselves and their families.


Mizuki is a celebrated mangaka both in Japan and abroad. His enduring hit series, Ge-ge-ge-no-Kitaro, ran for 10 years starting in 1959 and was adapted to both large and small screens as a live action movie, an animation movie, a video game, and has been adapted as televised animation a number of times. In his hometown, Sakaiminato, there is a road named after him. And outside of Japan, Mizuki has won the Best Album award at Angouleme for his other yokai (monster) manga series, NonNonBa.

Both the above manga series focus on monsters with an element of humor, and Mizuki is recognized as a master of the yokai genre. However, Onward focuses on a different sort of horror, and while most Americans are familiar with World War II, Shigeru's account is a painful account specific to Japan and the horrific wrong turn that blind devotion can lead too.

The book opens with a line of 70 soldiers outside of a comfort station on an island in Papa New Guinea, right before the soldiers are to be deployed. They're trying to convince the comfort women (women recruited to have sex with the soldiers and not compensated) to take more clients, essentially, themselves. In refusing, the women serenade them with the song Prostitute's Lament: "Wilting in the day/blooming at night....Can't hate hateful johns/Why am I stuck working this shitty job?"

The song is revisited many times later in the book, towards the middle of the narrative, when one of the battalions is sent on a suicide mission, and at the end, when the remaining troops are outnumbered, outgunned, battered, and at the mercy of a single-minded commanding officer who is about to send them to their deaths in the name of the Emperor. "Why am I stuck working this shitty job?" The soldiers sing loudly and their song is a clear indication of their powerlessness and disposability.

"To my knowledge, there is no other equivalent in American/Western comics," Oliveros said of the book. "While American comics have often explored the subject of war, there has been no other first-hand account of a soldier's experiences, as Mizuki has accomplished so eloquently with Onward." Eloquent and, dissimilar to Alan's War, Emanuel Guibert's biographical account of a G.I. in Europe during WWII, and void of romance, Onward Towards Our Nobel Deaths does not dally with fanciful ideas of redemption or vengeance. Instead, it's a plain story of sadness and disappointment, not of one man against the system, but of a group of men who are abandoned. "Those whores," one soldier says as they are sent to their deaths, "got it way better than us."

Onward joins the growing library of gekiga published by Drawn and Quarterly. Gekiga, roughly translated as "dramatic pictures," is a manga genre that often focuses on the serious and tragic nature of life and can be compared to American indie or alternative comics. Mizuki is the fourth creator of the group of mangaka credited with creating gekiga in the late 1950s, a group that also includes gekiga pioneers Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Seiichi Hayashi, and Susumu Katsumata.

The Canadian publisher has done well with its manga selection as Oliveros points to positive reader reception for works that the company has meticulously hand-picked to add to their publishing line. Similarly, other independent comics publishers in the U.S. like Top Shelf and Fantagraphics have deliberately steered clear of commercial manga, instead publishing alternative manga that fits into their own overall visions of comics and illustrated narratives.

"The more personal and innovative work of manga legends such as Mizuki and Yoshihiro Tatsumi shares a natural affinity and aesthetic with many of the Western authors published by D+Q," Oliveros said. "These books are at home within our publishing program."
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS by SHIGERU MIZUKI reviewed by North Adams Transcript

Updated July 11, 2011


Journalism in graphic novels? Help me here. Sure, there's a graphic account of the war on terror and even an illustrated interpretation of the 9/11 report. My favorite of the last few years is Diedle Lefevre's collaboration with graphic-novelist Emmanuel Guibert and designer Frederic Lemercier The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan With Doctors Without Borders. Documenting the late photo-journalist's 1986 travels in Northern Afghanistan with the famous NGO, it's a beautiful mix of Lefevre's black-and-white photographs and Guibert's and Lemercier's strip illustrations from the poor, remote center of the war against Soviet occupation. And there's Guy Delisle's Burma Chronicles, the most comic of the bunch, his flat-head account of existence in Myanmar with his NGO-employed wife (where do you buy diapers?) and Pyongyang, a revealing account of travels and work in North Korea with his trusty translator/handler.

What guys like these have done proves journalism, the documenting of a time and place and the who-what-why, the history, even if not so comic, is especially suited to graphic depictions.

The most daring, relevant and wonderfully drawn of this group is Joe Sacco. His comic-Gonzo style visualizes troubles in Serbia, Palestine and giving us a sense of everyday life as well as the injustice--and worse--that have gone on there. The most recent is Footnotes In Gaza...

Sacco, author-illustrator of Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 is the premier graphic journalist, the creator of detailed, investigative comics that are no laughing matter. He approaches his subject in classic Gonzo style, making his personal story part of the larger narrative, giving his reporting its wide-eyed, contemporary background imposed on, in Footnotes's case, events over 50 years old. He concentrates on collecting personal accounts to make up for a lack of official documentation. Perspective--no pun intended-- is everything in his work.

Sacco traveled to Gaza in 2001 with reporter Chris Hedges for Harper's magazine and soon returned to collect accounts of massacres that occurred during the '56 Suez conflict. As readers of Palestine know, his sympathies are with the Palestinian people, disqualifying him as journalist to a certain thinking. Yet no one can deny the reality he saw there, it's reported elsewhere, rarely, but it's there to be reported. The Palestinians suffer overwhelming shortages and joblessness, repression and the effects of what amounts to war. Sacco takes time to express sympathy for Israelis thrust into terrible situations, as well as disapproval of some Palestinian actions. These brief vignettes offer precious little balance in a badly out-of-balance situation.

How far can a comic's believability go? In his introduction, Sacco acknowledges the "scant" official documentation he saw as well as the reliability of oral testimony. He secured some documentation by sending researchers into the Israel State Archives and the archives of the Israel Defense Forces (listed and quoted in the Appendix). He issues the hope that his work will cause some Israeli veterans to come forward with accounts of their own.

Sacco also cautions readers not to see his illustrations as fact. Despite using historical photos when drawing his half-century ago landscapes, he says that drawing comes with "a measure of refraction" and should be seen as such. (It's surprising how little things change in his depictions from 1956 to then-present day.)

Sacco draws complications of life in Gaza; the waste, the shortages, the crowds, the filth. He finds that the half of Gaza's workforce which once worked in Israel had found themselves replaced there by Thai, Romanian and Chinese workers.

Invited by a United Nations Relief Worker Agency employee to visit a home in Khan Younis, Sacco sweats and becomes claustrophobic at the tight conditions in which the 11 people live. He hears what little work is available to them, hunting scrap or winning a rare teaching position funded by the UN RWA. He is told the Palestinian Authority hires police whose only duty is to collect salaries. The most well-off man he meets works for an American aid-agency as a facilitator of "democratization." "Basically, it's bullshit," says the man.

When the accounts of the massacre come, they are illustrated in horror and inexplicable cruelty. Some of Sacco's most extreme panel's are over-sized Hieronymus Bosh-like nightmares depicting killing, detention and states of cruel pandemonium. Cross-hatched scenes of darkness, or those with the story-teller super-imposed on his own story, are done to chilling effect.

Unlike Palestine, the art work doesn't change as the narrative continues but maintains a direct, composed style. The portraits are all of a kind, similar in mood and expression. Footnotes' best illustration come from finding just the right combination of action and composition. The scatter of spent shell casings on a blank background paints a picture of what just happened.

Comic touches are few. A restaurant menu is rolled open to reveal "Bombings! Assassinations! Incursions!" Sacco makes laughs at his own expense. His over-characterized face--large lips, receding hairline, eyes constantly whited out behind large, round spectacles--is the only one not drawn seriously. He makes fun of the press corp and their proclivity to drink and party even as duty calls. These moments recall the indifferent press in the movies The Year of Living Dangerously and Under Fire.

The party scenes illustrate frustration and promise somehow existing just beyond the murderous bickering. Among the international crowd of reporters and NGOs are "hepcat Arabs from Ramallah and right-on Jews from Tel Aviv sharing salads and grooving to the same post-bop jazz. Are the dark-haired cuties who jump up when the dance beat kicks in Palestinian or Israeli?...Ahhh, even in the belly of the world's most intractable conflict there's a glimmer of hope in which to exalt!"

In a series of almost four wordless pages he runs a final account of the massacre as it has settled in his mind, his perspective inside the punished crowd, as if in attempt to develop a difficult empathy.

War time Manga first published in 1973 and finally available in our country offers World War 2 from the viewpoint of our enemies. In fact this is a fictionalized memoir -- Mizuki calls it "90% true" -- of the author’s service on a small island in New Guinea.

In Mizuki’s presentation, average Joe Japanese soldiers contend with the island’s greatest dangers -- malaria and alligators -- until the American army shows up and begins to push inward. Young and inexperienced, with a focus more on their tummies and libidos, the Japanese soldiers don’t take seriously the cultural expectation of their military careers -- an honorable death in service to their country. Their commanding officers take it very seriously, though, and the reality of a suicide charge clashes with their personal fears.

Mizuki peppers the tale with an amiable goofiness that captures the period and his experience, but it is filtered through a graphic rage at what he and his fellow soldiers experienced. Sometimes grim and gruesome, "Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths" is a powerful revelation of the price of war on all sides, and the expectations of national service that hold countries above men.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  The Globe and Mail enjoys ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated July 11, 2011


Shigeru Mizuki is one of Japan's greatest illustrators, a master of both realism and manga. This, his first book rendered into English, is a powerful anti-war document. Combining cartoonish drawings of men with naturalistic ones of landscape and mayhem, Mizuki crafts a fictionalized memoir based on his experience as a draftee in Japan's Imperial Army in 1943. The setting is the South Pacific island of Rabaul, now Papua New Guinea, where we follow the fate of a battalion of men as they come under onslaught from vastly superior U.S. forces. The results are both comic and grim, vulgar and affecting. The entire book is spent in the company of individuals longing for home and real food and the comfort of women, while their arrogant commanders urge them on to suicide missions. Mizuki's affection for ordinary grunts is clear on every page; his disdain for their "superiors" palpable.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS is Manga Worth Reading

Updated June 30, 2011


Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is the semi-autobiographical story (in the afterward, Mizuki tells us 90% of it is true) of Japanese soldiers stationed on New Britain Island in the Papua New Guinean Archipelago during Word War II. Mizuki’s stand-in is Private Second Class Maruyama. Life on the tropical island is hard for the Japanese soldiers. They battle hunger, malaria, abusive squad leaders, and finally US fighting forces.

One thing that stands out when reading Japanese experiences of World War II is how hungry everyone is. In Barefoot Gen and Grave of the Fireflies, we see the civilian population starving and people dying of malnutrition. Mizuki tells us that soldiers faired no better. Maruyama is living off of a cup of rice a day, so the soldiers become adept at harvesting wild fruits and vegetables. Thankfully, New Britain is rich in plant life, and they’re able to gather bananas, papaya, and potatoes. I’m amazed the Japanese were able to hold out as long as they did in the war, given the severe food shortages they were experiencing. It’s also a testament to humanity’s ability to survive.

Next, I was shocked by the level of abuse Maruyama and his fellow rookies suffer. The squad leader tells them, “New recruits are like tatami mats: the more you beat them, the better they are.” (Page 68) True to his word, every night he lines up the new recruits and smacks them. When a guy breaks his arm, the squad beats him before sending him off to the doctor. Mizuki made my experiences in Naval boot camp seem like a lazy Sunday walk in the park compared to the daily reality he faced.
I’m worried that Americans are going to find a lot of this book very familiar. First, the scenes of the soldiers talking about how pointless the war is, and the terrible living conditions in particular, reminded me of Platoon. The scenes exposing the mindless bureaucracy of the army are similar to episodes of M.A.S.H. There’s been no shortage of war stories with an anti-war message in post-Vietnam America.

Second, the noble death referred to in the title is a suicide charge Major Tadokoro commands for the battalion. Some of the soldiers had the audacity to actually survive. When the General in charge of the region hears about it, he orders the surviving officers be tried for cowardice. Movie buffs are going to recognize a very similar scenario from Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory. That film was based on the true story of a French Army unit in World War I. It’s eerie to see that kind of military insanity carried out again 30 years later in the other half of the world.

This isn’t to say that Mizuki hasn’t written a wonderful book. I’m just worried that Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is going to be lost in the sea of anti-war writings already present in America, when the real value of Mizuki’s book is to show us the human faces on the other side of the battlefield. The Japanese have doubts and fears about war, too. By the end, many of the Japanese soldiers were acutely aware they were fighting a losing battle, but they had no way out. The book puts to shame the horrendous propaganda and stereotypes we used during World War II.

Mizuki’s art can be a bit of a shock. (Fred Schodt talks about it briefly in his introduction to the book.) Mizuki chose to use highly detailed and realistic backgrounds, while keeping the characters very cartoony looking. Some people are going to be put off by the juxtaposition. I found after a couple of pages, I didn’t notice the difference. Considering some of the grim events depicted in the book, keeping the characters less realistic is a wise choice. It helps establish an emotional distance for the reader. Also, things can get pretty bizarre at times; the cartoony-looking characters can help the reader keep a sense of humor about it all.

There is a small translation error in regards to Tadokoro’s rank. At the beginning of the book, he is called a Lieutenant Colonel, and later in the book, he is referred to as Major. That would mean that he had been demoted, but his rank insignia shows him to be a Major from beginning to end. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful translation that is a delight to read.

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths should be required World War II reading alongside works like Maus and Barefoot Gen. Anyone who picks up this book will be enriched by the experience. Mizuki has provided us an honest look from the Japanese soldier’s perspective of the war. The book is as complex as the situations and the people it depicts. It’s a taste of what a great artist Mizuki is. Let’s hope we will get to feast on the rest of his works.

 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  Book Dragon loves ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated June 27, 2011


In case you had any doubt, let me tell you immediately that this devastating story of wartime death and destruction "is 90% fact," as its venerable creator Shigeru Mizuki reveals in the "Afterword." At almost 90 years old, he remains one of Japan's most revered manga artists. Available for the first time in English translation, Onward represents Mizuki's own experiences during World War II when he was drafted into Japan's Imperial Army and shipped out to the village of Rabaul on what is now Papua New Guinea. "It was one of the worst places to be sent in the war," writes renowned manga expert Frederik L. Schodt in his introduction, "and quickly became a showcase for some of the worst aspects of the Imperial Army."

Mizuki blends a jarring style of highly realistic backgrounds (the ships in transit on the open waters loaded with soldiers, the makeshift army camp huts, even the palm trees) with caricatured, cartoon-ish figures. The message is instantly clear: the soldiers (and a few prostitutes who appear briefly in the opening pages) are anything but human, in fact they are even less than the surrounding foliage, the threatening war planes, the waiting crows. Not until these bodies are blown up, dismembered, scattered in pieces do they finally become "real."

The effect is a massive human tragedy. Fresh, young soldiers are sent to war. Their incoming rank on the military totem pole is so ridiculously low that they are merely fodder for the commanders' machinations, and ultimately the enemy's weapons. They are regularly abused, starved, punished without reason by their so-called commanding officers.

Because of a twisted loyalty to their country, suicide is not only expected, it's demanded of these hopeless men. Never mind their families waiting at home, wives, elderly parents, their young children ... because the only way they will go home is in pieces, whether as a hurriedly amputated finger, or an ash-filled box for the lucky who even have any remains. All others will rot and recede back into the bloodied earth.

Somehow, Mizuki survived to record these hellish experiences; decades later, he continues to bear witness to the wasteful decimation. With daily reports of death and destruction somewhere in the world, this almost-40 year-old manga is literally a graphic reminder of the true price of war, any war, all wars: we pay with our humanity.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




Words Without Borders reviews ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated June 27, 2011


The Japanese story form known as manga-with its extended plotlines and distinct pictorial style-falls somewhere between graphic novel and comic book. Widely read in Japan, where it is a $4 billion industry, manga depicts stories of everything from shogunate sword fights to the lives of high-school tennis stars. A typical work may contain several shorter storylines and can range from 200 to 400 pages in length. Despite the genre's popularity in Japan, important works of manga are only now beginning to appear in translation in the US market. Shigeru Mizuki's 1973 Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is one such work, lovingly released this May by Montreal publisher Drawn & Quarterly.

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths fictionalizes the real-life experiences of the author while he was stationed on the Pacific island of New Britain (part of present-day Papua New Guinea) in 1943 during World War II. The story opens with the Japanese troops as they prepare for an imminent attack by Allied forces. The superior officers are edgy and the troops hungry. Dengue fever and malaria have swept through the barracks. Discipline is brutally enforced, as officers command their troops to sacrifice themselves on banzai suicide charges. To refuse an order is to invite instant execution.

Grim though the circumstances are, Mizuki manages to portray compassionate characters in the midst of the chaos. The soldiers scheme for food and duck their backbreaking chores whenever possible, foraging for plantains or coconuts. When one soldier goes missing on a river, the infantry worriedly search for the culprit. (The leading suspect is an alligator.) Later, another officer orders an unnecessary banzai suicide charge that his troops refuse. Instead of approving the execution of the troops, until then the custom among ranking officers, the superior officers in this case do everything in their power to work around the order and exonerate the troops, although to no avail.

The skillful artwork helps personalize the story. Palms hang over beaches in exquisite detail, with the jungle foliage practically bursting from the page. The machinery of war-the guns, the planes, the bombs-is also intricately drawn. At the same time, the characters themselves are drawn awkwardly, with thickly scratched lines that seem to blur into caricature. The juxtaposition of hyper-specific war materiel with the cartoonish-looking characters makes the horror of the battles more approachable in a way. These things are not happening to real people, but to comical characters who slap each other and slip on patches of mud with slapstick bluster. But the elaborately detailed images of weapons insist upon the unavoidable presence of violence.

There are moments when the numerous characters are difficult to distinguish. Sometimes it seems that Shigeru Mizuki could have drawn the characters with more detail instead of drawing yet another vine in the jungle and made it easier to follow the storyline. The cast of characters in the opening pages helps the reader distinguish between them, but not much. The realistic scenery contrasting with cartoonish characters is a hallmark of Shigeru Mizuki's style throughout his manga career. In this work, though, his idiosyncrasies can lead to confusion.

Still, when the Allied "enemy" arrives, Mizuki expertly handles the battle scenes. The faces of the invading force are grimly shadowed and realistic, contrasting with the caricatures of the Japanese, while the battle rages with bone-shattering explosions. Shrapnel rips apart the fleeing soldiers, splattering internal organs and appendages across half-page panels.

An interesting point of comparison is Emmanuel Guibert's graphic novel Alan's War (FirstSecond, 2008), which, like Mizuki's, deals with World War II, although Guibert portrayed the experiences of an American veteran who had served in Europe. That poignant work was more a contemplative memoir than Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, which for its part feels like a war diary. Shigeru Mizuki's story achieves its reflective tone through the detailed images of parrots and hibiscus flowers rather than dialogue. Only once do the characters directly comment on the broader meaning of the war. In this instance, the company medical lieutenant explains:

But you know isn't that how life is? ... It's like a leap, crossing from one peak to another ... Anything that gets in the way of that leap is no good. Whether it's a system or what have you, it's evil ... Life is the will of the gods! It's the will of nature!

The army, the doctor scoffs, "is the most diseased thing humanity has ever seen." This passage, while an isolated moment, provides a welcome insight into the moral questions underpinning the war. This is a fictional work, so it is difficult to guess whether Mizuki himself identifies with the character, but the doctor's meditations enrich the narrative nonetheless.

In real life, Shigeru Mizuki experienced much of the trauma depicted in the graphic novel. He was posted at Rabaul in New Britain, his arm was blown off by an Allied bomb, and he suffered through a bout of malaria. In spite of all the hardship, he still managed to befriend the indigenous Tolai people, and was invited to marry into the tribe and remain on the island. Only the intervention of a doctor convinced him to return to Japan where he began his prolific manga career.

Jocelyne Allen's translation allows the simple dialogue to move smoothly along. The conversations are not overly complex and rarely last more than a few panels at a time. Only the translations of the songs come across as odd, mostly because the lyrics do not rhyme in English and the words lack context. It is not clear if there was more Allen could have done to ameliorate this effect. For example, here are the translated lyrics for "The Prostitute's Lament," an old Japanese war song:

A blossom that falls in the red light district
Wilting in the day
Blooming at night
Can't hate nasty Johns
Forced smiles for smug pimps
Why am I stuck working this shitty job
No way out
All for my parents

"[N]asty Johns" reads a little strangely, and so too does "smug pimps," but it is difficult to critique lyrics without their underlying tune. (In this instance, as the notes at the back of the book tell us, the music for "The Prostitute's Lament" has been lost.) The rest of the story isn't hampered by such awkwardness and reads very clearly, a tribute to the able translation.

Though the work bears some of its author's characteristic gestures, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths isn't representative of Shigeru Mizuki's wider oeuvre at all. Mizuki is better known in Japan for his long-running series Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro-about a spirit child who protects humans from nefarious spirits-than for his serious works. The fact that Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths provides just a small taste of Shigeru Mizuki's sixty-year manga career should not take away from its ability to stand on its own. It is an epic portrait of a soldier during one of the most brutal battles of World War II. This translation (and its stunning gilded cover) is a welcome addition to the collection of any graphic-novel enthusiast.

 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  Uptown reviews ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated June 27, 2011


Irony knows no international boundaries.

According to one historical view, American comics - brought to Japan by GIs during the U.S. occupation (1945-1952) - had a formative impact on Japanese manga. Decades later, manga's reciprocal influence contributed to American comics' gradual ascendancy as a respected art.

Yet even Japanese comics struggled for generations at home with a similar stigma: manga was seen as children's entertainment. And so, just as the term "graphic novel" was introduced to lend comics prestige in North America, some Japanese artists turned to alternative vocabulary.

One of Japan's living legends of so-called gekiga ("picture stories") is Shigeru Mizuki, the artist behind Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. While originally published in 1973, Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly's new translation marks the first time Mizuki's work has been made available in English, thus opening a previously inaccessible chest for North American comics fans.

And what a trove it is. A powerful anti-war tale based "90%" on history, the book is as captivating a read - comics or otherwise - as you'll find. And the decision to retain the traditional Japanese format for comics (i.e., a right-to-left orientation) makes the literal act of reading an experience unto itself.

The semi-autobiographical story focuses on a conscripted Japanese soldier, Maruyama, who's stationed in the South Pacific during the Second World?War. When Allied forces press inland, a Japanese officer decides on a final response: a suicide charge. If they cannot win, the troops will die gloriously instead.

But when the intended charge is botched, many of the men rendezvous safely in Japanese territory. When the military higher-ups hear of this, there's a scandal: how can they dare show their cowardly faces? And so the decision is made to charge yet again. Victory or death.

To tell his powerful tale, Mizuki takes a distinctive graphic approach - he juxtaposes realistic landscapes, war machines and scenes of bloody aftermaths with highly caricatured human figures. The two styles harmoniously enable a remarkable cumulative effect.

Caricature, with its wider range of expressive possibilities, may allow an artist to make characters more human; their personalities can be given outward visual form. The cartoonish, exaggerated figures in the Japanese ranks have a warmth and appeal that involves us immediately in their plight.

By contrast, the realistic detail reminds us that these were real men who really fought and really died in a real place. And the interplay allows Mizuki to bring that point home, with stretches of broad comedy punctuated by startling, abrupt violence.

All this culminates in a truly horrifying series of final pages that captures the deep-seated human fear of stupid, meaningless death. War robs from these men the dignity and autonomy all human beings should rightfully exercise over their own fates.

And on that point, there is such anger in Onward...: Mizuki, who lost so many of his army friends in real life, unquestionably harboured great rage towards the military establishment. All those men, sacrificed for a vain, fanatic ideal that wasn't their own.

Inhumanity, too, knows no borders.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




The Gazette celebrates ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated June 27, 2011


Any writers harboring dreams that their books might outlive them might want to pay a visit to Sakaiminato, Japan, birthplace of Shigeru Mizuki. Never heard of him, you say? Well, the people of Sakaiminato sure have. A whole street there is dedicated to the man and his work, lined with bronze figures of his fictional characters and comprising a museum. The scene might be a bit reminiscent of other shrines to writers worldwide, including the one to Lucy Maud Montgomery in Prince Edward Island (its popularity fuelled, of course, largely by Japanese Anne of Green Gables devotees) but for one crucial fact: Shigeri Mizuki is still with us.

Leaving aside the thought of how strange it must feel to see yourself so commemorated while still very much alive, consider how strange it is that a writer so feted at home could be so unknown internationally, beyond a tight fraternity of manga cultists. In fact, it's only now, thanks to Montreal's Drawn & Quarterly, that the 89-year-old Mizuki is getting his first translation into English.

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, first published in Japan in 1973, is the lightly fictionalized ("90 per cent fact" in the words of the author in his Afterword) memoir of Mizuki's experience as an Imperial Army soldier fighting with a regiment on New Britain Island in New Guinea in the waning days of World War II. For Japan, the war was already all but lost; rumours were reaching even as far as the South Pacific that cities at home were being bombed, and Mizuki and his fellow soldiers-demoralized, hungry, prone to malaria and amoebic dysentery-couldn't help but wonder what they were doing in this far-flung outpost, and why they were being forced to such extreme lengths to hold it.

One striking feature of Mizuki's memoir is how it demystifies the Japanese military experience and shows the universality of the soldier's life. These men, like soldiers everywhere, grumble about their superiors, sing bawdy bonding songs, and wish they could go home. In other crucial ways, though, this is a uniquely Japanese story. The fanatically hierarchical nature of the Imperial Army is underlined: the image of commanding officers casually striking their underlings is one of the book's visual motifs. So is the human toll of the Army's gyokusai philosophy, the dictate that when surrender is the only other option, a suicide charge is the only honourable form of defeat. Mizuki's anger on behalf of his fellow soldiers at being made fodder for a practice that often spared those of higher rank (he himself returned home from the war having lost an arm) radiates from the book's pages, but he keeps the book's tone on the right side of polemic, letting the soldier's-eye story speak for itself.

Visually, Mizuki's style is a blend, at first a bit jarring but soon quite affecting, of the cartoon-like (his depiction of the soldiers themselves) and the meticulously detailed and realistic (the backdrops against which the action takes place). Caricaturing the human figures has the effect of individualizing them, while showing their surroundings in near-photographic verisimilitude (albeit in black-and-white) emphasizes that these are, indeed, historical events. The book as a whole is presented in the traditional Japanese manner, to be read right to left-i.e. what most will think of as "backwards"-even within individual panels. Anyone new to this practice and thinking it might be difficult, fear not: it's amazing how fast you get used to it. Within a few pages it felt easy for me, and by halfway through it was completely unconscious. The only tricky part came after I'd finished, when going back to a standard Western book felt like an adjustment.

 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  Japan Today reviews ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATH

Updated June 27, 2011


Shigeru Mizuki is probably best known to manga and animation lovers as the creator of "Hakaba no Kitaro" (Kitaro of the Graveyard), which morphed into the uber-popular "Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro." The series, a screen staple since the '60s, features a one-eyed, 350-year-old "yokai" (spirit monster) boy and a cast of other ghoulish friends who battle to save humans from other evil "yokai."

Fans of "Ge Ge Ge...," though, may not realize that Mizuki has published some serious illustrated historical fiction based on his experiences as a Japanese soldier in Papua New Guinea during World War II, where he watched countless friends die, contracted malaria, and lost his left arm during an American air raid. His wartime manga, though, is not limited to the fighting in the South Pacific: he also depicted Japanese atrocities in China and Korea ("War and Japan," 1991) as well as a graphic biography of Adolph Hitler (1971) that highlighted Nazi war crimes to a younger Japanese population.

Mizuki's graphic novel "Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths" was first published in 1973 and was considered a groundbreaking account of the war. Set in the Papua New Guinean archipelago, this autobiographical story recounts the experiences of two companies of soldiers in the Imperial Army as they deal with the American landings. This is further compounded by the devastating consequences of "gyokusai," the Japanese belief that it's a soldier's duty to die honorably for their country--whether in last-gasp battle or by falling on their sword.

The book opens with serio-comic depictions of army life. They talk of home and the food they miss, family and women. They recount nights in the brothels and sing songs together about Yoshiwara nights: "blooming in the night and wilting in the day." Mizuki portrays men from all walks of life: doctors, teachers, boys just graduated but not yet men. There is the usual camaraderie, built between conscripts due to the physical and autocratic leadership of their superiors. The soldiers are browbeaten, slapped, punched, overworked and ordered to perform the most ignominious tasks. Officers are hard, unfeeling and never questioning of authority.

The simple cartoon drawings of the men and their plight are interspersed with incredibly detailed line drawings in an almost photo-realistic style of their lush surroundings.

As the stories progress, these detailed pictures gradually become more graphic and intense. Added into the meticulous drawings of lush environs are injured and dying men, limbs and body parts, corpses and trenches of dead and mutilated soldiers.
In time, both the general rank and file and the officers must come to grips with the fact that they will be dying for their country on this small scrap of the Pacific. That nobody will get out alive and that the "honorable" death is not the natural choice.

Mizuki manages to show the epiphanies of the men--and even more so the officers--as it dawns on them that they have options. Those memories forgotten in the desperation of battle--the scents of home, the taste of "anpan," their first blushing experiences with a woman, their family--now bring the reality of their situation home. They vacillate between the choices of strategic retreat that would extend their lives but have them die diseased and malnourished "like dogs," or dying with bellies full during a "banzai" suicide charge. In the end, regardless of their opinions on the matter, none can escape their fate as soldiers in the Imperial Army.

"Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths" portrays the human side of the Japanese soldier and his suffering, much like "Letters From Iwo Jima" did. Unlike "Letters," "Onwards" is written in a startling comic form by a man who lived through the experience. Now available in English, both history buffs and manga fans alike are sure to find something new and thought-provoking in its pages.

click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




PRI's The World garners SHIGERU MIZUKI with praise!

Updated June 27, 2011


Like Joe Shuster, the man who co-created comics hero Superman, Shigeru Mizuki is best known by his creations. In Japan, manga readers know the name Mizuki. But they know him better through his stories of benevolent goblins or yokai.

Some of Mizuki's manga narratives also deal with his experience as a soldier in World War II. And one of his most famous Soin Gyokusai Seyo! (Translated as Onward towards Our Noble Deaths) has just been published in North America (Drawn + Quarterly, 2011). But it's not like the super-hero stuff you'll find in classic American war comics.

Sgt. Rock is one of those classic characters of war comic books in which fantasy meets reality. After all, he used to shoot down Nazi warplanes with just a submachine gun.

The war comics of Shigeru Mizuki are very different. They're more like poetry meets reality. Think Terrence Malick's 1998 war movie "The Thin Red Line" and the philosophy of war expressed by the hard-nosed Sgt. Walsh played by Sean Penn. Remember Sgt. Walsh berating the lower ranking Private Witt for going AWOL?

"What difference you think you can make, one single man, in all this madness?" Mizuki askes. "If you die, it's going to be for nothing. There's not some other world out there where everything's going to be okay. There's just this one."

That's the same vision sketched out in pen and ink by Shigeru Mizuki in "Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths." Only, for the Japanese soldiers he portrays, the vision is even worse.

Mizuki's manga is set during a final and seemingly unwinnable campaign in New Guinea in World War II. The story centers on the agony faced by a Japanese platoon of soldiers whose commander orders them on a suicide mission. He sends them into battle and tells them national honor depends on them dying. They must not return home alive.

It's a grim tale, told with a peppering of humor. It's not comic relief though. When I met Mizuki at his small studio on the outskirts of Tokyo, he told me that for him and his fellow soldiers in New Guinea, joking was key to their survival.

Surrounded in his office by action figures of his myriad of manga characters that he's created over 50 years, 89 year-old Mizuki told me that he only wrote what actually happened.

"All the conversations in the book," he says, "they did take place. It was so boring digging trenches, so we had to have a laugh. Otherwise we wouldn't have made it. Every single day, it was just digging trenches."

During the fighting in New Guinea, the Japanese fought the Americans. In one Allied air raid, Mizuki lost his left arm. He was also pitted against his own ruthless superior officers, and the elements.

Writer and manga afficionado Fred Schodt is the author of "Manga Manga! The World of Japanese Comics." He has met Mizuki several times, and knows his life story better than most.

Schodt says Mizuki and his fellow Japanese soldiers "were eating bugs and grass, they were practically starving. (Mizuki) himself also developed malaria, nearly died, and was nursed back to life in New Guinea by some of the natives."

Interestingly, it was in New Guinea where Mizuki discovered what would become a lifelong interest in primitive occult practices and folklore, and that in turn fed his heightened interest in Japan's yokai after the war.

But it was the war itself and Mizuki's own brutal experience during it that pre-occupied his thoughts when he returned to Japan. Fred Schodt says that when Mizuki finally wrote "Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths" in 1973, he was motivated by two things.

"He had this built up anger about what he'd experienced in World War II, and he had this drive to sort of tell people about it," says Schodt. "But it was also occurring at a time when there was a great political convulsion in Japan. Just a few years before he brought out the book, the streets were convulsed with riots, universities were shut, and there was a profound anti-war movement in Japan - anti-Vietnam war, and also by extension, anti-all war."

Schodt makes the point that after World Word II, Japan was so completely destroyed, there weren't many people who were in favor of war anyway. But Mizuki was unique in that, as an artist, he used his work to oppose the war.

That makes "Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths" an anti-war graphic novel. It challenges the blind obedience within chains-of-command, in this case proud senior officers with life-and-death control over subordinates.

Mizuki conveys his pen and ink messages with a surreal combination of cartoon-like people superimposed against harsh realistic renderings of their environment. That's one of the trademarks of his style. Caricatures of soldiers, for example, are crushed on their suicide mission by very real looking American tanks. It's odd but effective.

Mizuki is cited as one of two or three leading innovators of manga in Japan. That role won't change. But his masterpieces have been overshadowed by volumes of recent pulp manga whose narratives are mostly banal accounts of modern daily life.

Shigeru Mizuki says he wishes that would change. He wants to see more "decent" mangas.

"Mangas with more depth," he tells me in Japanese. "Normal mangas," he says with a slight smile. "So many mangas have been ridiculous and yes they do sell. But they need to have more substance."

Mizuki is working on new material, a story currently serialized in a Japanese magazine. But he's not written any stories yet based on the tragic events of March 11, although he has commented on the disaster in his own way.

A few days after the earthquake and tsunami, the New York Times published an illustration by Mizuki on its op-ed page. It shows a hand emerging from an eddy at sea, outstretched, grasping for help.

When I asked Mizuki to explain it, he said, "Modern Japan is drowning. It's lost its sense of traditionalism. Though," he reflects, "during World War II, Japan might have been too Japanese." Mizuki believes perhaps Japan is now entering an international era.

Somewhere between being subsumed by the rest of the world, and being too Japanese, Mizuki sees a middle space, where the bright lights of modern Japan don't blind its citizens from the past. And where a story like the one Mizuki tells in "Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths" may inspire younger manga artists address Japan's many current challenges.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  PopMatters celebrates the power of ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATH

Updated June 16, 2011


Shigeru Mizuki is a landmark figure in the development of manga (Japanese comics), but only now is his work being translated into English. His epic graphic novel, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, is a gritty tale of World War II and far removed from the fantasy work which as made him a superstar in Japan. Nevertheless, the book is a powerful one, and well deserves the attention of any fan of the genre.

The first thing that strikes the reader about Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is its heft. At 362 densely packed pages, the story feels as weighty as its subject matter. The opening pages present a list of characters, as you might get in a novel by Dostoevsky or Flaubert; Mizuki's story contains no fewer than 30 named characters, each favored with a distinctive visual characteristic. Many of these characters are differentiated in only the most general of terms-this one thinks only of food, this one of women, this one of duty-but the scale of the story is nevertheless impressive.

The author is aiming here for a depth and breadth of story that few other graphic artists attempt. The fact that the book dates from the '70s-a time when American comics were concerned with Spider-Man and The Justice League, and even "underground" comix emphasized small-scale stories-makes Mizuki's ambition all the more remarkable.

The story itself is tragic. A company of soldiers occupies the island of New Britain, a scrap of an island in the New Guinea archipelago, in 1943. They are ordered to hold the island, whatever the cost. When the enemy arrives in the form of Australians and Americans, that cost becomes ludicrously high.

A lone group of soldiers, clinging to the defense of the island, is ordered to make a suicidal charge against the far more numerous and better-equipped enemy. The attack, naturally, is a failure. By some quirk it's even a failure as a suicide charge, as some of the men manage to fall back and regroup, where they await orders from the rear. However, their heroic sacrifice has already been reported to the officers in command, leaving a dilemma that offers only one terrible, pointless solution.

As an American whose parents lived through World War II, I grew up hearing stories of Japanese relentlessness and implacability. Documentaries like the BBC's The World at War reinforced the message: Japanese soldiers placed honor above all, seeing death not only as their duty but their highest achievement; they would fight and die and kill to the last man, even in a lost cause. Most of all, I grew up with the understanding that Japanese military discipline was beyond compromise.

Mizuki challenges these assumptions and many others. Not only did he serve in the Japanese army during the war-losing an arm in the process-but Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is based upon his personal experience. The time and place of events is a matter of historical record, as is the order for the suicide charge. Mizuki's injury was the only thing that kept him out of the final battle.

This, then, is a rarity for the Western reader: an example of Japanese military dissent circa World War II. Although the book was first published in 1973, it provides a fascinating glimpse into the Imperial Army of the 1940s. The glimpse is not an inspiring one. Morale is low, food is scarce, women are chattel, superior officers are brutish and cruel. Physical humiliation of young soldiers is commonplace. Soldiers die in a variety of absurd, pointless, stupid and unheroic ways. At one point, when a sergeant is apparently eaten by a crocodile, the enlisted men rejoice. So much for discipline.

Just as striking as the story is the artwork. Mizuki utilizes a powerful two-pronged approach. Meticulous, almost photo-realistic images are used for landscapes and backgrounds as well as for military encounters: planes in the sky, ships shelling the beaches and so on. Island mountain ranges and palm-shrouded beaches are presented with rich texture as the eye plays over them restlessly.

These landscapes are populated with cartoony human figures delineated in simple line drawings and differentiated with a singular characteristic: this one's buck teeth, that one's razor stubble, this one's squinting eyes, that one's heavy chin. There is some repetition to these visual cues, so not all characters are instantly identifiable. Given that the war setting emphasizes conformity among the men, and thematically suggests that it is this uniformity that leads to the tragedy that awaits them, this visual sameness is not a criticism of the book.

Indeed, there is little here to criticize. Perhaps some of the transitions are a bit abrupt, maybe some of the characterization could be sharper. Overall, though, this is an immensely powerful story, a cry of rage against the futility of war and the stupidity of the military mindset. Anyone interested in the topic-and perhaps especially anyone who is not-is encouraged to take a look.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




Publishers Weekly gives a starred review to ONWARDS TOWARD OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated June 9, 2011


The first English translation of the work of 90-year-old Mizuki, a celebrated gekiga and manga artist in Japan for more than 40 years, is based on Mizuki's own experiences in the Imperial Army in WWII. The story follows the fate of doomed troops fighting in New Guinea as they face hunger, malaria, and the brutality of their own officers, who administer nightly beatings. Mizuki illustrates the soldiers in a "cartoony" style, but uses a detailed, realistic style for his backgrounds and landscape panels, capturing the beauty and desolation of the remote locate. The dual styles underline the complexity of the story, which alternates between broad comedy mocking the absurdity of the army's hierarchy and growing horror at the abuse of the infantrymen and the officers' commitment to the idea that one must die for one's country. First published in Japan in 1973, Mizuki's graphic novel remains a powerful condemnation of war, worthy to stand beside the greatest antiwar comics.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  The Graphic Novel Reporter reviews MIZUKI's ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated June 9, 2011


Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths chronicles the last days of a doomed unit of the Japanese Imperial Army in the last days of World War II. In an afterword, Shigeru Mizuki describes the story as "90 percent fact," and because it is drawn from his own experiences in a very similar unit, it is at heart 100 percent true. Like Maruyama, the main character in the book, Mizuki was an enlisted man in a unit in Raibaul, which is now part of Papua New Guinea, and like Maruyama, he lost all his army buddies in the war.

The first half of the book is a tale of steadily increasing misery; The soldiers are poorly fed, suffering from untreated diseases, and forced to work in dangerous conditions. Enlisted men were regarded as less than human by the Japanese army brass, who refer to them as "worms." Nonetheless, their humanity shines through in their vastly different personalities, their memories of home, and their humor. Even the cruel Sergeant Honda, who dispenses blows as casually as orders, shows rare empathy when he gives his boot to Maruyama (who lost his in a gross but funny incident involving a latrine and a rice bucket) and declares his intention to go barefoot. The soldiers may be less than human to their commanders, but they are very much alive to the reader—which makes it so terrible when we see them die horribly, one by one, from jungle diseases, accidents, or just plain stupidity.

As the book progresses, the enemy closes in, and the Japanese commander, Tadokoro, makes the decision that the unit must hurl itself against the Allies in one last suicide charge. This is not the only option, or even the best one—the charge will buy the soldiers behind them a few days at most, while Tadokoro's staff argues that if they retreat to the mountains and fight guerilla-style, they can hold off the enemy for months. Tadokoro is convinced that it is nobler to face the enemy directly and die in battle, and he is determined to lead his soldiers to this noble death.

What follows is not what was expected: A portion of the unit survives the attack, presenting a problem for their commanders in the rear (who opposed a suicide charge to begin with). The soldiers' deaths have already been announced; Their nobility has been celebrated. The conversations that follow are worthy of the finest wartime satire, as the commanding officers debate whether to send the men back to their deaths or spare the useless carnage. Even the superior officers have their doubts, especially when it comes to compelling individual soldiers to commit suicide, but in the end, the Japanese sense of honor wins out over human empathy.

Mizuki's style is rather odd and a bit jarring at first: He draws the soldiers as simple, cartoonlike caricatures and lavishes a great deal of detail on the backgrounds, rendering the battleground scenes with almost photographic detail. While this is a bit jarring at first, the soldiers' cartoony faces convey their personalities quickly to the reader. Mizuki does not spare the reader the horrors of war; deaths and injuries are depicted in gruesome detail, and when, at the end, a gravely wounded Maruyama suddenly has a realistic face, the effect is horrific.

The book includes a foreword by scholar Frederick Schodt, an afterword by Mizuki, an interview with Mizuki, and extensive translators' notes, all of which help the reader place the story in its proper context and understand some of the cultural nuances (such as the songs the soldiers sing during the worst of times). These are all helpful, but at its essence, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a story that anyone can understand, a story of both the nobility of human spirit and the absurdity of war.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS reviewed by Flex Your Geek

Updated June 2, 2011


First published in 1973 but only translated into English this year " Onwards.. " is the fictionalised manga memoir of Shigeru Mizuki's time spent fighting in the Imperial Japanese army during World War two. The first impression I got as I read this great work was that it reminded me of the HBO series" the Pacific" but from the Japanese viewpoint and I was also struck by the similarities to the amazing film " letters from Iwo Jima, " and I can honestly say that if you have watched or read either of those then this manga comicbook should go to the top of your pile of things that you will enjoy, I guarantee you will not be disapointed.

Mizuki weaves a human tale of the realities of war and troops faced with the terrible order that they must die for their country at all costs and never entertain the ideas of retreat and surrender. This is war at its most horrible and yet also most poignant as the reality of combat is bought to life with simple yet detailed art and a terrfying growing realisation as you read that no one is going to get out alive. This story could be even grimmer than it is but along the way Mizuki mixes dark humour into the plot line and I feel this only adds to the overall poignancy of the tale and the fact that war is a dehumanising nightmare but that if you didn't laugh you would only cry so let's jsut get on with it.

Overall an uncomfortable but entertaining read that should go down well with war
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS and PAYING FOR IT named some of the summer's hottest graphic novels

Updated June 2, 2011


Shigeru Mizuki is the preeminent figure of Gekiga manga and one of the most famous working cartoonists in Japan today--a true living legend. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is his first book to be translated into English and is a semiautobiographical account of the desperate final weeks of a Japanese infantry unit at the end of World War II. The soldiers are told that they must go into battle and die for the honor of their country, with certain execution facing them if they return alive. Mizuki was a soldier himself (he was severely injured and lost an arm) and uses his experiences to convey the devastating consequences and moral depravity of the war.

Chester Brown has never shied away from tackling controversial subjects in his work. In his 1992 book, The Playboy, he explored his personal history with pornography. His bestselling 2003 graphic novel, Louis Riel, was a biographical examination of an extreme political figure. The book won wide acclaim and cemented Brown's reputation as a true innovator. Paying for It is a natural progression for Brown as it combines the personal and sexual aspects of his autobiographical work with the polemical drive of Louis Riel. Brown calmly lays out the facts of how he became not only a willing participant in but a vocal proponent of one of the world's most hot-button topics--prostitution. While this may appear overly sensational and just plain implausible to some, Brown's story stands for itself. Paying for It offers an entirely contemporary exploration of sex work--from the timid john who rides his bike to his escorts, wonders how to tip so as not to offend, and reads Dan Savage for advice, to the modern-day transactions complete with online reviews, seemingly willing participants, and clean apartments devoid of cliched street corners, drugs, or pimps.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Chester Brown
Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured products

Paying For It
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




Bookgasm adores REUNION and ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated May 26, 2011


Having recently attended my high school reunion, I can sympathize with Pascal Girard's extreme anxiety in going to his approaching 10th, in his autobiographical graphic novel, REUNION. I wasn't among the popular crowd, either, so the thought of seeing those people again after a decade of not seeing them was terrifying. I agonized over it for months; Girard does the same for 152 pages.

In his sparse, simple cartoony style, he frets and fears the get-together so much that he forgets to RSVP with payment. He also tells little lies to classmates to appear "better" -- or at least better off -- and sheds several pounds in hopes of landing That Girl. Dream on!

REUNION is real, wry and cathartic, knowing someone had a worse time than you. (And actually, mine was fun. Decades are great equalizers.)

On the flip side of fun but an equal plane of quality is another new release from Drawn & Quarterly, Shigeru Mizuki's ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS. Appearing in its first English translation, the Japanese work was originally published in 1973.

Set in New Guinea at the end of 1943, the World War II tale is like any other you might read, with the marked exception of being told through the POV of one of America's then-enemies. Just looking at most of the situations or dialogue, you wouldn't know it, suggesting that war is indeed hell, no matter your allegiance.

ONWARD's three-page cast of characters that opens the 368-page volume is quite intimidating, but Mizuki's story is presented so episodically, familiarity with each and every officer isn't required. They sing dirty songs, talk about getting laid, and -- when the shit hits the fan -- fight. Those battle scenes are depicted largely without words, save for sound effects, and they stunning.

Mizuki's art is close in nature to Osamu Tezuka; ditto his grounded, epic storytelling, especially at the bitter end, so RIYL and all that jazz.
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Pascal Girard
Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured products

Reunion
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  Onion AV Club reviews ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS

Updated May 26, 2011


Shigeru Mizuki's 1973 graphic novel Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (D&Q) takes the concept of the broadly outlined hero to an even more sublime level. Based on Mizuki's memories of fighting in World War II, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths opens with three pages of tiny heads, laying out the book's 30 major characters, but it's really not that necessary to memorize all those names and ranks. Here's what matters: which ones are the officers and which are the grunts. It's easy to tell the two apart because the former are usually slapping the latter silly.

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a remarkable work that connects on a number of levels, all unified by Mizuki's mordant sense of humor. A character dies roughly every 10 pages in this 350-page book, typically in ways that are more blackly comic than tragic. Soldiers get shot while sneaking off to extract a few drops of water from tree roots, or they choke while trying to carry fish in their mouths. Those are the kind of quirky details that could only come from personal experience, and they're mixed in with page after page of soldiers dealing with hunger, illness, horniness, and the dehumanizing abuse of their superiors.

Mizuki combines detailed, often beautiful illustrations of small Pacific islands with characters rendered far less elaborately, setting up the climactic suicide mission of the book's title, where the men become little more than meat. In a brief interview included in the appendix, Mizuki says that Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths didn't draw much attention when it was published in Japan, perhaps because there wasn't much demand for WWII stories in the land of the people who lost. Now though, the book seems more invaluable than ever. In popular culture, the Japanese perspective on the war has largely been defined by the West. But it's going to be hard to picture the Imperial Army as robotic fanatics after reading Onward, with its mass of rounded faces all yearning for an extra spoonful of rice and one last shot at getting laid before they charge into the abyss.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS by SHIGERU MIZUKI reviewed by Japan's leading English-language paper

Updated May 12, 2011


Shigeru Mizuki was barely into his 20s when he got drafted by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II and was deployed to Rabaul, in what is now Papua New Guinea. There, he lost an arm.

But he survived. Despite having only one hand with which to draw and write, Mizuki eventually became one of Japan's most famous mangaka. Gegege no Kitaro and Akuma-kun are among his most popular creations.

He also wrote a graphic novel based on his war experiences, published as Soin Gyokusai Seyo! in 1973. This week it became the first of Mizuki's works to be published in English, as Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths.

In an afterword to the English edition, Mizuki describes the story of Japanese soldiers in Rabaul as "90 percent fact."

Manga expert Frederik Schodt writes in the introduction that if not for his injuries, Mizuki would have been part of a unit that was sent on a suicide charge. Amazingly, they survived. But their commanding officers did not welcome this news. "Since the men's 'glorious death' had already been reported to headquarters, [they were] sent back to the front with orders not to return alive."

This inspired the manga's climactic events, and it helps explain why even today Mizuki states, "Whenever I write a story about the war, I can't help the blind rage that surges up in me."

Mizuki's artwork in this book is a mix of styles. His realistic depictions of Rabaul's lush tropical vegetation and his stippled images of gigantic cloud formations must have taken many hours of work per frame. But the characters who populate these scenes are drawn in a very simple, undetailed and cartoony way.

This technique is effective in the case of Maj. Tadokoro, who makes the decision for the suicide charge. His walleyed stare emphasizes that he is out of touch with reality. He seems to think of himself more as a figure from an epic poem than as a man responsible for the lives of fellow humans in the real world.

Unfortunately, the highly simplified portraiture often makes other characters hard to tell apart--and the story has a large cast. Moreover, when one man is killed by an explosion, his minimally sketched head flies away like a rapidly deflating balloon. I should have been horrified, but instead I just thought it looked silly.

Although someone dies every few pages, the book doesn't build up much emotional power until near the end, when two men who have been manipulated into committing ritual suicide tearfully wonder what their families in Japan will be told about them. Otherwise, references to the outside world are few, and the characters themselves display little emotion even when one of their comrades is, for example, eaten by a crocodile.

The most interesting character interactions involve officers discussing the problem of men surviving a suicide mission. Their comments and decisions are perfectly logical--but they build on the insane premise that mass suicide missions should be a standard practice.

Nearly the only sane voice in these discussions belongs to an army doctor who asks, "What's so strategic about losing men with bright futures in a suicide charge?"

"Bright futures" may be a cliche, but in real life hundreds of young men died while their wounded comrade Mizuki, who is now 89 years old, went on to become a popular and highly influential manga artist.

What would those other men have gone on to do, had they not been ordered to die?
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  Newsarama reviews ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS by SHIGERU MIZUKI

Updated May 12, 2011


This book is excellent. It is, according to the interview with its author Shigeru Mizuki printed within, the first of his books to be published in English – I can only hope we’re soon flooded by Mizuki translations. I’d like to drown in them.

A veteran of World War II, Mizuki based Onward Towards Our Nobles Deaths on his experiences in the Pacific theatre. Now, there are two types of war stories: tales of noble men (and women) accomplishing amazing things in horrifying circumstances, and sagas showing the ugly futility of it all. I enjoy the former, but my peacenik sensibilities are far more in line with the latter. And Mizuki appeals to my side of the equation very strongly.

With upwards of thirty named characters, Onward doesn’t spend much time getting to know the cast outside of their military roles, but Mizuki spends plenty of time sympathizing with each man within the extreme expectations placed upon them by the military. The ongoing theme of the book deals with the men being ordered into a pointless suicide charge, contrasted against the high-level brass who fret they’ll be made fools when they report the squad killed only to find out that not everyone participated in the charge.

Mizuki threads a little comedy, absurdism, theatrical speeches about the honor of death, through Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, preventing it from becoming a moribund book. It’s still quite dark, and tragic, but mostly, it’s a reminder that for every hero found in war, there are thousands of senseless losses.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




Dig Boston calls SHIGERU MIZUKI a badass

Updated May 12, 2011


A young Shigeru Mizuki was just starting to show a knack for illustration when he was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second World War. Mizuki survived, albeit barely, losing his drawing arm to an Allied bombing raid.

Balltastically, Mizuki recovered, re-teaching himself how to doodle with his non-dominant arm and going on to become one of Japan's preeminent cartoonists and folktale-tellers. Biography, short form: Mizuki is a badass.

Considering his rugby tackle with death, it's not too surprising that the man isn't the biggest fan of war, as this semi-autobiographical work - available in English translation for the first time - makes pretty frickin' crystal. The "semi-" part of the statement comes near the end, when Mizuki imagines the mandatory death order that his unit narrowly avoided was actually carried out. He details every moment of agony, confusion and despair as a bunch of terrified teenagers go off and die for no reason, in the most sobering meditation on the cost of human conflict I've ever read.

Review, short form: Mizuki is a badass.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




  SHIGERU MIZUKI's ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS lauded as ideal for cultural understanding

Updated May 12, 2011


An award winning Japanese cartoonist offers his own story of service in the Emperor's army. Apolitical and at first disinterested in the required military service, Mizuki quickly came to develop a sense of personal offense at how his comrades were treated with disrespect by their commanders. Originally published in Japan in 1973, this memoir shows the decline of Japanese bravado in the face of troop losses and Allied bombs. Mizuki differentiates each of his characters here, not only physically but in displaying and relaying temperaments in word and action. This is a war story that gives ready access to American readers who know little of Japanese foot soldiers' experiences during World War II; the medium of classic manga is just right for the content.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




Westword counts SHIGERU MIZUKI's ONWARD TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS as a best new-release

Updated May 12, 2011


Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki
Generally speaking, when Americans think of manga, they envision children fighting robotic dragons while driving a flying car through a rainbow-tornado in a futuristic city. That's not always the case, and more often that not, manga is a platform for telling deeply personal stories. Case in point: Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a semi-autobiographical account of Mizuki's final weeks in the Japanese infantry at the end of World War II. It wasn't a pretty time: Soldiers were told they could either trudge deeper beyond enemy lines in what were essentially suicide missions or return home and face execution. Mizuki tackles this topic with the wherewithal of someone who was deeply involved and understood the consequences on both ends.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured product

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths





copyright ©2010 drawn & quarterly