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In stores now: SHOWA 1939-1944

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Perhaps you've been reading the first volume of Shigeru Mizuki's epic, Eisner-nominated Showa series r-eee-ally slowly, savouring the stories so it doesn't have to end. Or maybe you devoured the 500+ pages as quickly as possible and are now itching to find out what happens next. Well, I've good news for, gekiga lovers-the second volume, Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan, is in stores now!

Showa 1939-1944 is every bit as action-packed and beautifully drawn as its predecessor, continuing in Mizuki's engaging, incredibly readable style that's part history lesson and part rare look at a an average person's experience during Showa-era Japan.

This volume covers the final moments before World War II, Shigeru's draft, and his subsequent experiences in the army. Before being sent off, teenaged Shigeru is seen as 'useless' by his family. Even after leaving home, he innocently believes things to be comfortable and pleasant. But he is soon exposed to the horrors of war, and is forced to grow up very quickly.

Nezumi-Otoko aids the narration, stopping in now and then from the future to interview this younger, past-tense Shigeru about how he might have been feeling at the time.  Is there a narrative device Mizuki has not mastered? Nope. There's a passage toward the novel's beginning in which Shigeru speaks to Nezumi about his upcoming enlistment, movingly explaining how he's turned to philosophy and religion to try and explain his 'inevitable' death.

Showa 1939-1944 is a powerful volume in which you get to know Mizuki in a different way than you do through his semi-autobiographical Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (which also speaks to his experiences during World War II). So go! Take a trip to your local comics shop and add this hefty (but in no way dense) tome to your summer reading list. My only word of warning is that Showa 1939-1944 ends with quite the cliffhanger!
And if you don't already, be sure to follow Showa's very dedicated translator, the terrific Zack Davisson, on Twitter