Posts Tagged ‘Manga Comics’

I discovered ‘Showa : A History of Japan‘ by Shigeru Mizuki last year. I have coveted it since then 😊 Finally last week I took the plunge and ordered it and got the final volume a few days back.

Mizuki’s book is a 4-volume nonfiction manga comic. It describes the history of the Showa era in Japan starting from 1926 when Emperor Hirohito was crowned and it continues till 1989 which was the end of the Showa era. So it gives a significant account of 20th century history through a Japanese point of view. Each volume has an introduction, a different one, and the artwork is exquisite.

In the best manga tradition, I have put the volumes in the picture in the classic manga order. You have to start with the book on the top right and then proceed to the top left and go counterclockwise to the bottom left and then bottom right, to view the covers in sequence 😊

I started reading the first part ‘Showa 1926 – 1939 : A History of Japan‘ as soon as I got it a few days back. This first part of the 4-part book covers the history of Japan from the beginning of the Showa era in 1926 till the beginning of the Second World War.

The book has two strands of stories which are woven together. The first is the history of Japan as the title indicates. The second is the author’s own memoir. So we get to see the Japan of that era through both the big and the everyday – the major political and social happenings and things which are considered news, and the everyday happenings of the author’s own life. Shigeru Mizuki does an interesting thing to differentiate between these two story strands – the artwork is very different. For the historical events and happenings he uses a realistic style of art, while for the memoir part he uses a comic style of art. It is fascinating. We hear the story through the author’s voice, but sometimes (or many times) a new narrator comes on the scene and takes the story forward or handles the transition between history and memoir. This new narrator is a yokai character (a supernatural being from Japanese folklore) called Nezumi Otoko (translated in English as Rat-man). Nezumi is a fascinating narrator and I loved this aspect of the book – a supernatural being narrating history.

I know only the broad outlines of Japanese history in the 20th century and I learnt a lot from this book. One of the interesting things that I learnt was how hard it was for democracy to put down roots in Japan. The book describes how the military felt that the civilian government wasn’t decisive enough and how military officers repeatedly tried orchestrating coups to overthrow the civilian government (once even assassinating the Prime Minister).

I loved Shigeru Mizuki’s style of storytelling – dispassionate, sometimes critical but always sticking to the facts, and following the golden rule ‘Show, don’t tell’.

I loved the first part of ‘Showa‘. I can’t wait to start the second part.

I’m sharing the pictures of some of the pages to give you a feel of the artwork. The first picture is the comic style artwork for the memoir. The second and third pictures are the realistic style artwork for historical events. The fourth picture has Nezumi Otoko narrating the story.

Have you read ‘Showa‘? What do you think about it?

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My first book for Women in Translation Month in August is ‘Barakamon‘ by Satsuki Yoshino. I got it as a birthday present from one of my favourite friends. I read the first part of this multiple volume Manga comic series which has been translated by Krista Shipley and Karie Shipley.


Barakamon tells the story of a young twenty-something calligrapher, Seishuu Handa. He is successful though he is young, having won many awards for his work. But he loses it when an elderly man criticizes his work and Handa knocks this critic down. Overnight, he becomes a person to be avoided by the calligraphy community. To recover from this, he takes a break and moves to an island. He thinks that the island will be calm and he can practice calligraphy in peace till things become better at home. Unfortunately, he hasn’t reckoned with the islanders. They are curious and intrusive, they walk into his home whenever they feel like it and he discovers that some children have established a base at his home for hanging out and playing games. This annoys him no end and disturbs his peace. But gradually he warms up to the islanders, because they have big hearts and help him when he is in need. Naru, a young girl who is in elementary school, becomes his best friend, always hangs out at his place and is his guide to the ways of life is the island. The experiences and adventures that Handa and Naru have, form the rest of the book.

I loved ‘Barakamon‘ for the way it contrasted city life and island life through the eyes of Handa. I also loved the charming island characters. My favourite character was Naru – she was really cool and awesome, always smiling and always upto something. There were no bad characters in the story and there were no black-and-white situations, and this made the story very realistic, which I loved very much.

In some places I found the translation odd – for example one of the characters said ‘Sonny‘ and many of the characters said ‘Yer‘. I am sure they did not speak that way in Japanese. But there was a note at the end of the book which said that people in that island spoke a dialect which was different from the Japanese spoken in cities and because the translators wanted to highlight that, they used words like this. I was happy to read that explanation, because it shone light on the challenges of translating dialect from one language to another.

I was also reading a Manga comic after a long time and it was an interesting experience to read from the back to the front and read the graphic panels and the dialogues from the right to the left. It annoyed me no end at the beginning, and I frequently found myself reading it the ‘wrong’ way, but at some point I got used to the Manga way and it was fun.

I loved the first part of ‘Barakamon‘. I can’t wait to read the second part.

Have you read ‘Barakamon‘? What do you think about it? Do you like Manga comics?

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