Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Addendum Review: Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki

A few months ago I reviewed a graphic novel by legendary Japanese artist Shigeru Mizuki and released to English-speaking audiences by Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly. Quite simply, it was fantastic and towards the end of the review I mentioned there was a follow-up coming in June 2014. Well, I recently read that second volume and have to say it is even better than the previous edition. The most recent portion of Mizuki's epic account of Japan in the early 20th century, Showa: A History of Japan 1939-1944  took his story into the late 30s and early 40s which saw the Empire of Japan attack the United States of America and the bulk of the war in the Pacific. 

Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan, Shigeru Mizuki, Drawn and Quarterly, 2013, pp. 548, C$24.95
I don't have much substantively to add to my previous review, but have captured some choice images for you to enjoy and hopefully this will give you an additional sense of just how masterfully drawn and insightfully told both of these books are. Simply put, Muzuki is an outstanding storyteller and I hope you read/buy/enjoy these remarkable books. Suffice it to say, Showa 1939-1944 gets a near perfect 4.7/5 STARS (the highest we've ever given) and so you really enjoy the images below, we've captioned them with some history to explain their historical significance. Thanks for stopping by!   

This panel is especially interesting. We all know of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which was signed by the Soviet and Nazi foreign ministers in August 1939 and promised non-aggression between those two totalitarian states. But the treaty had Pacific ramifications too. Because of their invasion of Manchuria (China), the Japanese also had an undeclared border war with the Soviet Union in the late 1930s which was of concern to both governments. Earlier, in November 1936, the Nazis and Japanese has also signed an Anti-Comintern Pact against the Russians and then in April 1941, the Japanese and Soviets, in an effort to limit exposure on their western and eastern flanks, signed a Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact. Apparently Hitler was not very pleased. 

An image from a Japanese warship on the eve of the Pearl Harbor Attack. While President Roosevelt had made efforts to involve the US in the Second World War, it was the Pearl Harbor attack that brought the Americans into the war in a very violent fashion. Shortly after the Japanese declared war, the Germans followed suit.    

Mizuki's scene from the Battle of Midway which took place in June 1942, seven months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Midway Atoll is north-west of the Hawaiian archipelago and was considered a key strategic location of the Pacific. The Battle of Midway itself is considered one of the most important battles of the Pacific war and Japanese war leader Admiral-Marshal Isoroku Yamamoto proved quite prophetic when he promised his government: "I can run wild for six months … after that, I have no expectation of success". Yamamoto was very close to the mark because Midway was the turning point of the Pacific War and started the American push into the Japanese "Co-Prosperity Sphere".  The Harvard trained and English-speaking Yamamoto said in reference to Pearl Harbour: "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." He was right there too. 

The USS Enterprise. The "Big E" was the most decorated US naval ship in the entire war.  

An image from the Battle of Sunda Straight. Mizuki's black and white images of air and sea battles are hauntingly serious and accurate.  

Here's more use of black and white to describe the naval war in the south Pacific Ocean. 

But despite Mizuki discussing a very serious topic, he also takes care to maintain levity, wit and humour throughout the story...

...and at one point even includes an instance where he had a very disgusting mishap with an army latrine. Uck!

But ultimately Mizuki comes back to the futility and waist of the Japanese war effort and the derangement of Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō. Here the prime minister talks about a Japanese parade down Whitehall (London) and imperial battleships in New York harbor.

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