My favorite 2014 book is Showa 1939-1944 by Shigeru Mizuki, which is the second volume in Mizkuki's "Showa" series. The four-volume series is Mizuki's graphic history of Japan's Showa period, from 1926 to 1989. Mizuki is an award-winning cartoonist and leading figure among Japanese manga artists.
In Showa 1939-1944, Mizuki offers a critical perspective on Second World War-era Japan by someone who lived through it. Readers of Keiji Nakazawa's classic Barefoot Gen series will find the perspective of Showa familiar: Uncompromising in its portrayal of a ruthless and incompetent Japanese ruling class, without ceding an inch to the imperial violence of its rivals in the U.S. and UK.
The volume weaves an overarching history with Mizuki's personal narrative. As a young person during the war, Mizuki described the weight of death hanging over the heads of Japan's youth as they were drafted into the imperial military. He recounts his alienation under an increasingly repressive state, and his isolation among a patriotic population. In the end, Mizuki himself is drafted.
The book skillfully switches back and forth between this individual account and Japan's lightning campaign across the Pacific, its seeming invincibility at first, only to see its victories become defeats as the tide turns in favor of the U.S. Written with Mizuki's dark humor, fast-paced and gripping storytelling and breathtaking artwork, Showa is perfect for lovers of realistic comics and critical histories of Japanese empire.