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Showa, 1939-1944: A History of Japan

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A master cartoonist and war vet details Japan’s involvement in World War II Showa 1939–1944: A History of Japan continues the award-winning author Shigeru Mizuki’s autobiographical and historical account of Showa-era Japan. This volume covers the final moments of the lead-up to World War II and the first few years of the Pacific War, and is a chilling reminder of the harshn A master cartoonist and war vet details Japan’s involvement in World War II Showa 1939–1944: A History of Japan continues the award-winning author Shigeru Mizuki’s autobiographical and historical account of Showa-era Japan. This volume covers the final moments of the lead-up to World War II and the first few years of the Pacific War, and is a chilling reminder of the harshness of life in Japan during this highly militarized epoch. Mizuki writes affectingly about the impact on the Japanese populace of world-changing moments, including the devastating Second Sino-Japanese War, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the first half of the Pacific War. On a personal level, these years mark a dramatic transformation in Mizuki’s life, too. His idyllic childhood in the countryside comes to a definitive end when he’s drafted into the army and shipped off to the tiny island of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. His life becomes a constant struggle for survival, not only against the constant Allied attacks but against the harsh discipline of the Japanese army officers. During his time in Rabaul, Mizuki comes to understand the misery and beauty of the island itself, a place that will permanently mark him and haunt him for the rest of his life.


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A master cartoonist and war vet details Japan’s involvement in World War II Showa 1939–1944: A History of Japan continues the award-winning author Shigeru Mizuki’s autobiographical and historical account of Showa-era Japan. This volume covers the final moments of the lead-up to World War II and the first few years of the Pacific War, and is a chilling reminder of the harshn A master cartoonist and war vet details Japan’s involvement in World War II Showa 1939–1944: A History of Japan continues the award-winning author Shigeru Mizuki’s autobiographical and historical account of Showa-era Japan. This volume covers the final moments of the lead-up to World War II and the first few years of the Pacific War, and is a chilling reminder of the harshness of life in Japan during this highly militarized epoch. Mizuki writes affectingly about the impact on the Japanese populace of world-changing moments, including the devastating Second Sino-Japanese War, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the first half of the Pacific War. On a personal level, these years mark a dramatic transformation in Mizuki’s life, too. His idyllic childhood in the countryside comes to a definitive end when he’s drafted into the army and shipped off to the tiny island of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. His life becomes a constant struggle for survival, not only against the constant Allied attacks but against the harsh discipline of the Japanese army officers. During his time in Rabaul, Mizuki comes to understand the misery and beauty of the island itself, a place that will permanently mark him and haunt him for the rest of his life.

30 review for Showa, 1939-1944: A History of Japan

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    This is the second volume of Mizuki's epic history of Japan, this one focused on the WWII years, which of course is one of the central tragic events of Japanese (and world) contemporary history. A comics history of Japan? Will it simply be dumbed down? Esteemed historian Frederik Schodt writes a great introduction to tell you why you should read this: Mizuki, who is best known for Kitaro, and his study of Japanese Yokai (the supernatural) and his sense of humor, takes a personal and fresh approa This is the second volume of Mizuki's epic history of Japan, this one focused on the WWII years, which of course is one of the central tragic events of Japanese (and world) contemporary history. A comics history of Japan? Will it simply be dumbed down? Esteemed historian Frederik Schodt writes a great introduction to tell you why you should read this: Mizuki, who is best known for Kitaro, and his study of Japanese Yokai (the supernatural) and his sense of humor, takes a personal and fresh approach to the material, without ignoring the events. And Mizuki was a soldier, as he tells us in his sharply and sadly ascerbic Onward to Our Noble Deaths, a perspective that gets folded into this uniquely intimate and entertaining and sometimes brutally angry pacifist account of these years. In this volume, he documents the terrible Second Sino-Japanese War, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the first half of the Pacific War. Some of it is truncated, even in this 500 page book; The Bataan Death March gets only two frames attention. And the "Comfort Women" sexual slavery gets one reference, on one page. But on the whole it is great, educational, and an amazing account of these years from one man's perspective. On to volume three!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Sherriff

    My eldest is going through junior high school in Japan and I was happy to hear she was studying aspects of the Second World War. As far as I can tell from her textbook (and I could well be missing something) those aspects are the Nazis and the Holocaust, and that's about it. To be fair, there was no room on the double page spread covering the war to refer to any part Japan had to play in it, I suppose talking about genocide in Germany is distressing enough for 12-year-olds without bringing up Jap My eldest is going through junior high school in Japan and I was happy to hear she was studying aspects of the Second World War. As far as I can tell from her textbook (and I could well be missing something) those aspects are the Nazis and the Holocaust, and that's about it. To be fair, there was no room on the double page spread covering the war to refer to any part Japan had to play in it, I suppose talking about genocide in Germany is distressing enough for 12-year-olds without bringing up Japan's less than auspicious past in Nanking or its own mini-genocide inflicted on the Chinese by Unit 731. Much easier to start with the Nazis and Anne Frank and all that. The trouble is, I doubt it will develop into much more introspection, which would be fascinating, if not to my daughter, then at least to her old man. So I don't look to Japan's schools to learn much about the war. That's what comic books are for. I enjoyed the English translation of the first instalment of Shigeru Mizuki's Showa manga covering 1926-1939, so I just had to get the second (covering 1939-1944). You might quibble that a manga can only skirt the surface of such a momentous time, and yeah, it does at times feel like a school history textbook, jam-packed with just enough facts to tell the story of The Key Events of the war. The Bataan Death March receives little more than two frames (and an aside from Mizuki that as horrific as it was, the death toll was as much to do with the heat and general Japanese unpreparedness to deal with POWs as anything particularly evil. And "Comfort Women" sexual slavery receives just a fleeting reference, on one page. But don't get me wrong, Mizuki is no revisionist. He's relaying the war through his experiences. He has undisguised contempt for the architects of war and has no time for jingoism. He's just trying to explain what happened, point to where it all went wrong, and get the hell out of the firing line. Pulp the textbooks and replace them with Mizuki's manga. We might all learn something then. Download my starter library for free here - http://eepurl.com/bFkt0X

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Volume 2 of 4 of Mizuki's graphic history/memoir. This volume largely concerns the Pacific battles of World War II, and his time in the Army. Impeccable art and great storytelling. This series is outstanding. Volume 2 of 4 of Mizuki's graphic history/memoir. This volume largely concerns the Pacific battles of World War II, and his time in the Army. Impeccable art and great storytelling. This series is outstanding.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    This series is just all sorts of good. If we didn't know there were further volumes in the series, we'd be tempted to call the ending of this book a "cliffhanger." It's a little-known fact that Mizuki actually perished in WWII, but came back as a zombie, which explains the longevity of his career, and his predilection for tales of yokai and other ghoulish subjects ... All kidding aside, I find this Japanese view of the war fascinating. On to volume 3! This series is just all sorts of good. If we didn't know there were further volumes in the series, we'd be tempted to call the ending of this book a "cliffhanger." It's a little-known fact that Mizuki actually perished in WWII, but came back as a zombie, which explains the longevity of his career, and his predilection for tales of yokai and other ghoulish subjects ... All kidding aside, I find this Japanese view of the war fascinating. On to volume 3!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    The second volume of this series continues to amaze me...truly in the same category as Maus.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I picked up the first volume of this work, SHOWA 1926-1939 on a whim in a bookstore and I am glad that I did. I have long been fascinated by Japan's descent into political chaos and militarism as a fascinating case of political pathology (comparable to ancient Athens' descent as shown by the Arginusae verdict in the Peloponnesian war - look it up!) However, it is hard to find work in English on this topic that isn't heavily specialist academic, little translated Japanese work exists, and I am no I picked up the first volume of this work, SHOWA 1926-1939 on a whim in a bookstore and I am glad that I did. I have long been fascinated by Japan's descent into political chaos and militarism as a fascinating case of political pathology (comparable to ancient Athens' descent as shown by the Arginusae verdict in the Peloponnesian war - look it up!) However, it is hard to find work in English on this topic that isn't heavily specialist academic, little translated Japanese work exists, and I am not about to learn Japanese at this point in my life. Hence these volumes of Mizuki are welcome, even if they are imperfect. I was unsure at first whether or not I liked Mizuki's weaving of autobiography and history, but I have grown to like it, at least in his hands. It helps break the doom-bell ring of the history by parcelling it into more easily digested chunks, as his own biography is well told and compelling. A central issue Mizuki faces at this point is that it is hard to tell the story of the politicians and the generals because their decisions were in hindsight so incredibly stupid. Mizuki confirms other accounts I have read about the brutal lot of the ordinary Japanese soldier where each could daily expect a savage beating from superiors from senior enlisted ranks on up. Contrary to racist depictions of a half century or so ago, individual Japanese soldiers were far from fanatical, but certain superior officers were, and there was no way to collectively organize to stop it. As with some politicians today in the US and elsewhere, the response to failed policies is to exhort greater sacrifice on the part of subordinates and followers, never to reconsider their own failures. I will not name names here, but suffice to say that there are both left and right wing examples aplenty in 2018, unfortunately. I cannot give this book 5 stars, although I did like it very much, because it is strewn with minor historical errors, which have the unfortunate effect of making one question the entire historiography. I was able to identify these errors in this book, particularly the material related to the Solomons Campaign (Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Rendova/Munga, etc), through other histories such as those by Eric Bergerud, James Hornfischer, and Richard B. Frank. For instance, on pp. 386-389 Mizuki discusses the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, one of the seven brutal naval battles around Guadalcanal (far more American sailors died at Guadalcanal than did soldiers and Marines ashore). While other information is correct, the book says the Japanese "damaged... four destroyers and the battleship SARATOGA." Actually the Japanese sank one American destroyer and badly damaged two others. However, we never had a *battleship* SARATOGA but rather a heavy carrier converted from a battlecruiser in the 1920, the real USS SARATOGA. What makes this really weird is that earlier, on p. 365, Mizuki correctly notes that Japanese submarines heavily damaged the real SARATOGA and sank USS WASP (Japanese submarines in the Coral Sea were more effective at times than the surface navy, and the area became feared and known to the Americans as "Torpedo Junction"). On p. 394, Mizuki claims that a barrage from the Japanese battleship HIEI put the USS SAN FRANCISCO "out of control" and caused the American heavy cruiser to destroy five American ships, the cruiser ATLANTA and four destroyers. While the SAN FRANCISCO *did* accidentally fire on the ATLANTA and cause heavy damage, the barrage from the HIEI came *after* this incident and the SAN FRANCISCO did not sink five American ships. Oddly, Mizuki does a disservice to his own countrymen here. Actually, the vast majority of the damage to American ships in this and other battles was caused by the excellent discipline and fighting abilities of the Imperial Japanese Navy itself. At this point in the war, Allied radar was in its infancy, and Japanese visual night techniques and equipment performed better. Further, the Japanese had before the war trained extensively in night battles, giving them a considerable edge. Finally, the Japanese had the superlative Type 93 torpedo (which the Americans later called the "Long Lance"). The Type 93 used oxygen, not air as the oxidizer for its torpedoes, which made them fast and long ranged, and unlike the torpedoes of the US and Nazi Germany, Japanese torpedoes actually exploded when they hit the target. At the Battle of Savo Island - the first of the Guadalcanal naval battles, the Japanese opened the attack with a masterful torpedo attack which crippled several ships. Only after the torpedoes hit did they open up with their guns, totally surprising the Allied fleet. In short, the Japanese were very well equipped in the early war, although various structural deficiencies became apparent mid and late war - as detailed in Evans and Peattie's superb 2012 book KAIGUN. In the end, although both sides inflicted heavy losses on the other around Guadalcanal, the American economy of the time could replace these losses, and the Japanese economy could not. Finally, on p.397, at the Second Naval Battle of Guadalcanal (two days after the first, above), Mizuki claims that the US lost a battleship - not true, although the US Navy did indeed lose three destroyers and the Japanese indeed lost one battleship and one destroyer. What *did* happen in the battle, in which the American side consisted of two battleships and four destroyers (having no cruisers available due to heavy losses in the preceding months), was that while the USS WASHINGTON performed brilliantly and destroyed the Japanese battleship KIRISHIMA with superbly radar directed fire, her companion, USS SOUTH DAKOTA, was knocked out the fight, having previously suffered from epically incompetent engineering that shut down her entire electrical system and made her unable to fight. Against orders, the SOUTH DAKOTA's Chief Engineer locked down the ship's breaker panel, which caused the entire electrical system to "go into series" and short out. I have not to date encountered an account by someone serving in this ship at the time, but it must have been terrifying. Rumors are that this officer was not merely court-martialed, but "cashiered" - that is, run out of the Navy entirely. I have no idea if these errors were in the original Japanese or if the translator was somehow responsible. Nevertheless, the net effect of a concatenation of errors of this type is often to cause the reader to question the author in ways that can be injurious to accepting the author's account. For my part, it incurs less doubt per se than anger at this level of sloppy work. Because of my knowledge of this topic, I generally trust the broad outlines of Mizuki's account. He has generally been highly accurate with respect to the Japanese side (the information that matters most to me anyway) and his general argument rings true to my ears. Despite my critiques above, the emotive impact of this series is so great and the insight into the world of the Japanese soldier and civilian is so vivid that this is well worth reading for anyone interested in this period, in Japan, or who likes graphic non-fiction generally.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I can’t help rating this in comparison to the first book, which I thought much better. I suppose it couldn’t be helped as Japan entered into all-out war, but I’m not a huge fan of battle histories in any case and this was way too much of interchangeable bam-bam-bam for me, interspersed with accounts of how Mizuki was constantly beaten by his superiors. It didn’t have the wide range of personalities nor the nuanced exploration of the intersection of politics, economy and culture of the first book I can’t help rating this in comparison to the first book, which I thought much better. I suppose it couldn’t be helped as Japan entered into all-out war, but I’m not a huge fan of battle histories in any case and this was way too much of interchangeable bam-bam-bam for me, interspersed with accounts of how Mizuki was constantly beaten by his superiors. It didn’t have the wide range of personalities nor the nuanced exploration of the intersection of politics, economy and culture of the first book. Again, down to the subject matter, but it was less compelling for me.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    What a wonderful book! I can't believe there's two more towering volumes left in this series. I was correct in my assumption that I'd enjoy this one more than the first volume because it goes more into the part of Mizuki's life that I'm less familiar with. It was fascinating to see his family's reaction to him entering the army and eventually being sent to the front. Mizuki makes himself out to have been quite an idiot. I'm not sure how accurate that is but it was interesting to see Mizuki being What a wonderful book! I can't believe there's two more towering volumes left in this series. I was correct in my assumption that I'd enjoy this one more than the first volume because it goes more into the part of Mizuki's life that I'm less familiar with. It was fascinating to see his family's reaction to him entering the army and eventually being sent to the front. Mizuki makes himself out to have been quite an idiot. I'm not sure how accurate that is but it was interesting to see Mizuki being bullied by his peers. At first he's hit for being a goof, but it slowly dissolves from discipline, to bullying, to just outright cruelty. I got very lost trying to follow the overarching plot of the war between Japan and the USA, as well as the other battles Japan was fighting in the Asian countries. I would have enjoyed the book better if I was a bit more familiar with the ins and outs of the various battles. Besides for Pearl Harbor and the nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki (that incident won't be covered until the next volume), I'll admit I have a very limited knowledge of that part of WWII. The plane and ship battles are truly shocking in the book. It's such a surprise for the historical part to go from talking heads to depicting real warfare. It made those parts of the book even more intense than they would otherwise be in a book focused solely on action. The book ends on quite the cliffhanger. Mizuki is in serious danger, of course we know he comes out alive - but I believe he also loses his arm at some point. It'll be interesting to see how Mizuki's personal war story is resolved.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David

    I really love these titles from both a literary perspective, and for their historical account. The combination of memoir, history and humor make it a very enjoyable read. This installment focuses heavily on World War 2 and the actual warfare. For anyone who is interested in Japanese history, this is absolutely a must read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Derek Royal

    Almost the entirety of this volume is consumed with Japan's military history...which is understandable, given the temporal frame. Lots and LOTS of highly detailed battle scenes. Almost the entirety of this volume is consumed with Japan's military history...which is understandable, given the temporal frame. Lots and LOTS of highly detailed battle scenes.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Humberto Ballesteros

    I warmed up very slowly to the first volume of this historical manga, but after a few pages of this second one, I was hooked. The combination of a cartoony style in the most personal sections and hyperrealistic black-and-white reproductions for the historical passages works wonders once the war starts. The author's sarcastic, no-nonsense approach to the idiocy of war reminded me of classics like Tardi's "Putain de guerre!" and Remarque's "All is Quiet on the Western Front." I'll be buying the ne I warmed up very slowly to the first volume of this historical manga, but after a few pages of this second one, I was hooked. The combination of a cartoony style in the most personal sections and hyperrealistic black-and-white reproductions for the historical passages works wonders once the war starts. The author's sarcastic, no-nonsense approach to the idiocy of war reminded me of classics like Tardi's "Putain de guerre!" and Remarque's "All is Quiet on the Western Front." I'll be buying the next part of the series immediately.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Marsha Altman

    2 of 3 in this manga history of Japan's Showa area. This section covers what the West thinks of as WWII, and spends a lot of time in the Pacific theater, where the author was stationed. There's a lot of drawings of naval battles that I didn't find very interesting, but this is still an important history and an interesting way to tell it. 2 of 3 in this manga history of Japan's Showa area. This section covers what the West thinks of as WWII, and spends a lot of time in the Pacific theater, where the author was stationed. There's a lot of drawings of naval battles that I didn't find very interesting, but this is still an important history and an interesting way to tell it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Another book down for 24 in 48! I enjoyed Mizuki’s first volume in the Showa series immensely, so I was happy to have an excuse (Read Harder task plus 24in48 Readathon) to pick up the next one. I really like how he juxtaposes his personal experience with a more distanced overview of events. This volume covers the WWII years up to 1944, which ends on an almost literal cliff-hanger.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leo

    Holy F*@king Sh!t - The best graphic novel I have ever read. Might be the best thing period. It balances personal story, History of WWII (Pacific) and art into a beautiful, thoughtful book. Totally different from anything else I have read. Cannot say enough good things about this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Saturnq

    WWII history normally holds no interest to me, but this series is impossible to put down. Can't wait for the next installment to be published in the states. 10/10 would recommend to almost any reader. WWII history normally holds no interest to me, but this series is impossible to put down. Can't wait for the next installment to be published in the states. 10/10 would recommend to almost any reader.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    The second volume of Mizuki's extraordinary autobiographical and historical account of Showa-era Japan, covering the final moments of the lead-up to World War II and the first few years of the Pacific War. The second volume of Mizuki's extraordinary autobiographical and historical account of Showa-era Japan, covering the final moments of the lead-up to World War II and the first few years of the Pacific War.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    Just as good as the first one, with this volume showing some ups, downs, and general unraveling of the Japanese offensive in WWII. Great read. I particularly looked forward to the parts where Mizuki's characterization of himself was featured. Just as good as the first one, with this volume showing some ups, downs, and general unraveling of the Japanese offensive in WWII. Great read. I particularly looked forward to the parts where Mizuki's characterization of himself was featured.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kenny

    A towering epic. Must read for all interested in the Pacific War from the viewpoint of the artist as well as the macro picture.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mitch

    Good stuff just like the first one. I like the mix of straight historical timeline and art with the more personal pseudo-autobiographical story of the author's own. Good stuff just like the first one. I like the mix of straight historical timeline and art with the more personal pseudo-autobiographical story of the author's own.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Nichols

    One might well subtitle the second volume of Shigeru Mizuki’s history and autobiography (with a tip of the hat to Art Spiegelman) “And Here All My Troubles Began.” Like its predecessor, SHOWA 02 divides its attention between larger historical events, in this case the principal engagements of the Pacific War, and the author’s own life experiences, in this case as a footsoldier in Japan’s war of conquest. Mizuki’s depiction of the naval war is a glorious one, a general’s-eye view of sophisticated One might well subtitle the second volume of Shigeru Mizuki’s history and autobiography (with a tip of the hat to Art Spiegelman) “And Here All My Troubles Began.” Like its predecessor, SHOWA 02 divides its attention between larger historical events, in this case the principal engagements of the Pacific War, and the author’s own life experiences, in this case as a footsoldier in Japan’s war of conquest. Mizuki’s depiction of the naval war is a glorious one, a general’s-eye view of sophisticated war machines slugging it out in great fiery battles like Midway and Guadalcanal. His personal story is at once grimmer and more comical. The author recalls long voyages in sweltering transports, occasional moments of terror during the fighting on New Britain, and having the snot knocked out of him by officers and NCOs. I’d heard of the casual brutality officers displayed toward enlisted men in the Japanese Army, but before reading SHOWA I hadn’t realized it was so extreme. I don’t know what disciplinary purpose was served by beating recruits with boards and wooden shoes until they collapsed - except perhaps to destroy their desire to live, so that they would prefer instead to die for the fatherland.

  21. 5 out of 5

    BookishStitcher

    These books are a great way to learn more about Japan in the 1900's and the graphic novel format is quick and entertaining. These books are a great way to learn more about Japan in the 1900's and the graphic novel format is quick and entertaining.

  22. 4 out of 5

    scarlettraces

    At some point I'll have to stop reading about war and atrocity on account of getting too teary. It's been a downwards progression from childhood where I callously seized on disaster and gore (Herculaneum was a favourite, also the various great plagues and the bits in the Bible where people are eaten by dogs) but as I get older I'm increasingly unable to fathom why people are prepared to commit large-scale violence on each other. Anyways, Mizuki does a nice job of setting out events (and please g At some point I'll have to stop reading about war and atrocity on account of getting too teary. It's been a downwards progression from childhood where I callously seized on disaster and gore (Herculaneum was a favourite, also the various great plagues and the bits in the Bible where people are eaten by dogs) but as I get older I'm increasingly unable to fathom why people are prepared to commit large-scale violence on each other. Anyways, Mizuki does a nice job of setting out events (and please go read Onwards if you haven't already, which brilliantly sets out the grunt's POV) without going much into rights and wrongs - though he doesn't mention the Japanese treatment of POWs except for one slightly cryptic reference to his brother's trial as a war criminal and a fleeting one to the Bataan Death March. There were reasons, I'm sure, just as there were for the suicide charges [I can't remember where it was, maybe Onwards or the Thin Red Line or something else entirely, but I remember seeing/reading a brilliant evocation of the Australians' 'are you shitting me' faces on encountering screaming, terrified Japanese soldiers running towards them waving sticks for firearms, shrugging, and gunning them down] but it's one poisonous aspect of the war in the Pacific that's never been forgotten in this part of the world. *Pause to don provincial hat* And it would be nice, if you're going to the trouble of listing the Allied forces in the Pacific war, to include us... we were there too, good little colonials that we were. There's an intact Zero that was recovered from Bougainville in 1945 on display at the Auckland Museum which I always say hello to when I'm there. It was painted in RNZAF colours until 1999, that's got to be irony or something. OK I'm done now.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    This book continues where the first volume left off, dealing almost exclusively with the Pacific War and (later in the book) with Mizuki's army experience. I find it fascinating to see how Mizuki sees the Allies, and also how Japanese people suffered under their government and were told lies about Japanese defeats (for example, they weren't told that they lost the Battle of Midway until after the war). The excitement and emotional impact of war makes this an even more incredible read than the fir This book continues where the first volume left off, dealing almost exclusively with the Pacific War and (later in the book) with Mizuki's army experience. I find it fascinating to see how Mizuki sees the Allies, and also how Japanese people suffered under their government and were told lies about Japanese defeats (for example, they weren't told that they lost the Battle of Midway until after the war). The excitement and emotional impact of war makes this an even more incredible read than the first book, as Mizuki takes us into battles between the U.S. and Japan, while remembering to highlight the plight of Japanese soldiers and citizenry, not just important historical figures. For example, he describes the deplorable conditions of Japanese troops cut off from their rations and expected to "die with honor" as part of a suicide squad, and shows how much abuse privates received from their superiors. On the home front, he details the rationing that went on, and in a somewhat comic sequence, shows Prime Minister Tojo going through people's garbage to see that they aren't being wasteful. As with the first book, there's a glossary, but no chronology. No matter. Dates are given in both Western and Showa reckoning, which makes it easy to figure out when things are happening (and Mizuki mentions when battles are happening simultaneously). The translation makes it sound as if it were written in English, though the variety of sound effects used in this volume made one or two of the choices suspect (KAPOW!, for one). But I'm nitpicking. This is a must-read.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Mccaghy

    Mizuki is the most famous manga illustrator in Japan. He has undertaken the enormous task of producing a graphic history of Japan beginning in 1926. The first work covers 1926-1939. The graphics section alone for that is over 514 pages long. Add to that footnotes and explanatory sections by others and himself. The Showa work for 1939-1944 describes World War II in the Pacific. The graphics here are 538 pages plus footnotes and explanatory sections. These works are not simply descriptions of batt Mizuki is the most famous manga illustrator in Japan. He has undertaken the enormous task of producing a graphic history of Japan beginning in 1926. The first work covers 1926-1939. The graphics section alone for that is over 514 pages long. Add to that footnotes and explanatory sections by others and himself. The Showa work for 1939-1944 describes World War II in the Pacific. The graphics here are 538 pages plus footnotes and explanatory sections. These works are not simply descriptions of battles (although there is plenty of those) but divided between topics of the politics of Japan and of the author's personal life during the perios--with his warts and all. These works will appeal to anyone interested in manga and in Japan's history. The books are in English with a Japanese twist: They are to be read from "back" to "front"--and the pages themselves from right to left. It took some adjusting for me, but I got it eventually and it became second nature as I progressed. Both books and recommended without qualification. There are more to come.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sasha Boersma

    Second book in a series of four. This one maps out the events led by Japan to cause The Pacific War, which is also known as part of WWII. This is first time I've read anything in detail about what caused the Pacific War, and the role of fascism in the Asia-Pacific. While in North America, because this part of history is glazed over, it's been summarized that Japan and Germany were allies. But in reality, not really. Both had similar causes, but acted on their own. If these two sides won, I'm pre Second book in a series of four. This one maps out the events led by Japan to cause The Pacific War, which is also known as part of WWII. This is first time I've read anything in detail about what caused the Pacific War, and the role of fascism in the Asia-Pacific. While in North America, because this part of history is glazed over, it's been summarized that Japan and Germany were allies. But in reality, not really. Both had similar causes, but acted on their own. If these two sides won, I'm pretty sure WWII would have simply continued over Asia battling for the Soviet Union and China. But I digress... On the personal biography element side of the series, the first half of the book covers how and why Shiguru joined the army. Then his experiences fall silent as the second half focuses on the war itself. I'm assuming because he has an earlier book "Onwards Towards Our Noble Death" that details his experience in the war, that he and his publisher didn't see much of a need to incorporate as much as they have in other chapters within the set.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey

    I know next to nothing about the Manga tradition, but after going through some of Oishinbo manga on Japanese food and most of these Showa volumes, I'm becoming a believer. This series is distinguished on several levels. First of all Shigeru's life story is compelling. A weird kid and all around young slacker, Shigeru is drafted into the army, where he remains a misfit and non-conformist. His wartime stories are almost too strange not to be fiction. Are they fiction or exaggeration or the truth, t I know next to nothing about the Manga tradition, but after going through some of Oishinbo manga on Japanese food and most of these Showa volumes, I'm becoming a believer. This series is distinguished on several levels. First of all Shigeru's life story is compelling. A weird kid and all around young slacker, Shigeru is drafted into the army, where he remains a misfit and non-conformist. His wartime stories are almost too strange not to be fiction. Are they fiction or exaggeration or the truth, truth, truth? I really have no idea and I don't really care. Because the reasoning of Mizuki's analysis of the positions that bring the wartime culture to Japan via China is thoughtfully laid out, when he takes a viewpoint on right and wrong it seems support by fact. The other point--and perhaps most importantly--are his incredible drawings. Continuing the great Japanese tradition of illustration, Mizuki's drawing are mezmerizing. I've read the first three volumes of Showa: A History of Japan and am awaiting the fourth. They are amazing works of art.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    So impressed. I picked this up at the library, not having realized there was a Volume I covering 1926-1939, but I will most certainly be reading that soon, too. This manga blends a macro view of the Pacific theater of WWII with the author's own personal experience being drafted in Japan. I rue the fact that this whole part of the war (aside from the atomic bombs) is so often overlooked in primary/secondary school here - and as macro as this book was, it still definitely helped to fill in some ga So impressed. I picked this up at the library, not having realized there was a Volume I covering 1926-1939, but I will most certainly be reading that soon, too. This manga blends a macro view of the Pacific theater of WWII with the author's own personal experience being drafted in Japan. I rue the fact that this whole part of the war (aside from the atomic bombs) is so often overlooked in primary/secondary school here - and as macro as this book was, it still definitely helped to fill in some gaps in my own very basic knowledge.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steve Carroll

    Call it 4.5. I enjoyed Vol 1 but Vol 2 gets much better. It's a great manga history of WWII told from the Japanese viewpoint written by one of the grand masters of manga. Intertwines historical segments with autobiography of the author who depicts himself as a lazy bum trying to avoid work and being drawn inexorably towards the war. Since he's completely non-heroic and just wants to eat food and draw I could totally identify with him :) Call it 4.5. I enjoyed Vol 1 but Vol 2 gets much better. It's a great manga history of WWII told from the Japanese viewpoint written by one of the grand masters of manga. Intertwines historical segments with autobiography of the author who depicts himself as a lazy bum trying to avoid work and being drawn inexorably towards the war. Since he's completely non-heroic and just wants to eat food and draw I could totally identify with him :)

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    via NYPL - very, very impressive. Mizuki lays out tremendous amounts of information very clearly, focusing on the big movements of Japan's involvement in World War II while allowing for the human element through the context of his own wartime experiences. I miss seeing the "homefront" of the previous volume - how the Japanese at home dealt with wartime rationing, etc. - but this is definitely a book worth your time. via NYPL - very, very impressive. Mizuki lays out tremendous amounts of information very clearly, focusing on the big movements of Japan's involvement in World War II while allowing for the human element through the context of his own wartime experiences. I miss seeing the "homefront" of the previous volume - how the Japanese at home dealt with wartime rationing, etc. - but this is definitely a book worth your time.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jason Mccue

    Another amazing book in this four part series about the Showa period in Japan. It is very interesting to see the Japanese perspective (or at least one perspective) during World War II. There were a lot of battles that could have made for a different ending of the war. The best part of this book is the life of Shigeru and how he grew up in this world.

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