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Posts Tagged ‘Manga’

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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This is probably my final read for this year’s edition of ‘January In Japan‘.

I Saw It‘ is Keiji Nakazawa’s memoir, about the time when he was a child when the atomic bombing of Hiroshima happened, and how he and his family survived it and what happened in the aftermath. It is said that this was the first (or probably one of the first) memoirs which described factual, historical events in comic form, and this led to other books like Art Spiegelman’sMaus‘. From that perspective, ‘I Saw It‘ broke new ground and was a pioneering work.

As Nakazawa’s book is a memoir, it is more about his family and how they survived this terrifying period in history. The atomic bombing is interwoven into the story of his family and their community. It is a heartbreaking book because it shows how horrific things like the atomic bombing, and war in general, impact normal people and change their lives beyond imagination. It is also a book which is beautiful in parts. The book is also a beautiful love letter to Nakazawa’s mother. It made me remember Romain Gary’s ode to his mother, ‘Promise at Dawn‘.

I loved ‘I Saw It‘. It is an important book and it is a must-read. Nakazawa used his memoir as inspiration to write a longer fictional manga series called ‘Barefoot Gen‘. I want to read that sometime.

I am sharing some pages from the book, to give you a feel for the story and the artwork. I have included a couple of pages depicting the bombing, but have avoided the pages depicting the more horrifying, heartbreaking scenes.

Have you read Keiji Nakazawa’sI Saw It‘? What do you think about it?

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I first heard of ‘Death Note‘ by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata years back when I was discussing manga comics with a friend. My friend said that it was her favourite. Later, I discovered that it was a cult classic. One day in my book club, there was a long discussion on ‘Death Note‘ and I discovered that some of my book club members were huge ‘Death Note‘ fans. So I thought that one day I should read it. That day turned out to be today.

The story told in ‘Death Note‘ goes like this. Shinigami are a kind of supernatural beings who live in their own realm. One of them is important to us – his name is Ryuk. Ryuk has a notebook called ‘Death Note’. The thing about this notebook is that when a human being’s name is written on it with a date and time, that person will die at the appointed time. One day Ryuk accidentally drops the Death Note into the human world. And a high school teenager called Light Yagami finds it. The Death Note has instructions in it on how it can be used. Light reads it and he doesn’t believe it. He thinks it is all a prank. Does Light discover the true secret of the notebook? What does he do with it? What does Ryuk have to say about it? You have to read the book to find out.

I loved the first volume of ‘Death Note‘. I was expecting it to be dark and scary, and looking at the way Ryuk is represented, he does look extremely scary. But the book is anything but. It is cool and stylish, the story is fast-paced, and Ryuk belies his scary looks – he is actually cool and stylish and charming, speaks some wonderful lines, and he is one of my favourite characters from the story. How his character develops across the subsequent volumes, I have to wait and see. The story is mostly a cat-and-mouse game of two people trying to trap each other and it is quite gripping. The artwork is nice. I can’t wait to read the second part and find out what happens next.

Have you read ‘Death Note‘? What do you think about it?

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ES : Eternal Sabbath‘ by Fuyumi Soryo was the first manga comic I ever got. I never got around to reading it. Today, finally, I did.

A nameless protagonist starts telling us the story. He is a young man. He tells us that he can get into other people’s minds, manipulate and change their thoughts, make them think that he is one of their friends. But he doesn’t do any harm. He is mostly indifferent to what is happening around. Sometimes he is curious. Very rarely, he intervenes in a situation to do something good. When he intervenes in a particular case, the affected person ends up in a hospital. As the case is strange it is investigated by the researchers in the medical university. Kujyou, who is a talented researcher is assigned this task. She discovers that our nameless narrator is involved in this. And she tracks him down. And sparks fly. You should read the book to find out what happens next.

ES‘ was a breezy read. The pages just flew, and before I knew, I had reached the last page. The artwork was beautiful, especially the pages depicting dreams and people’s minds and the feelings and desires inside them. The narrator and Kujyou were fascinating characters. There were some fascinating revelations in the end and there were also a few open ends which makes us want to read the next part.

Sharing some pictures from the book here.

Traditional book’s first page – this is one of my favourite pages from any manga comic, which asks us to stop.

First page of the story

Second page of the story

Kujyou

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

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