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Friday, 1 November 2013

Shigeru Mizuki's Showa: A History of Japan 1926-1939

This is an auspicious year for lovers of gegika, and probably just lovers of comics in general: in 2013, Drawn & Quarterly has published not one, but two translated collections of the peerless Shigeru Mizuki's work. First we had the first volume of his Kitaro comics, which I wrote about excitedly here. And now we've got the first volume of his History of Japan series, spanning the years 1926-1939 of the Showa (or "peace"/"harmony") period!

First of all, this cover is utterly gorgeous. And even better in real life than in a photo, I'm telling you!


This is no dry history book, of course. Mizuki gives us two parallel narratives, which allow him to fully showcase his varied drawing talents. The first is a fairly detached or "objective" history of the events of that period, the drawings for which are rendered in a detailed, realistic style. (Mizuki sometimes even incorporates historical photographs into the work.)


I mean, look at this! If only all history texts could be half as stunning...


The other narrative is that of Mizuki's own childhood and young adulthood during the Showa period, which readers of Nonnonba (Drawn & Quarterly, 2012) will be familiar with. The drawing styles in these sections is in stark contrast to the historical narrative drawings - loose and playful. Here we have young Mizuki and a friend being followed by a yokai spirit in clackity sandals...


Wise and loving Nonnonba, Mizuki's grandmother figure who was immortalized in Nonnonba, is present here as well.


Nezumi Otoko (Rat Man), a regular from Kitaro, guest stars as well, providing historical narration and offering a bridge between Mezuki's childhood world of boy gangs and spirits, and the heavy events taking place on the war front of his homeland.

Anyway, Showa is a real gem. If you've never read Mizuki before, this could be a good place to start. And if you are already familiar with his work, surely you will want to get your hands on it immediately!


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