A fascinating period in Japanese history explored by a master of manga
Showa 1926–1939: A History of Japan is the first volume of Shigeru Mizuki's meticulously researched historical portrait of twentieth-century Japan. This volume deals with the period leading up to World War II, a time of high unemployment and other economic hardships caused by the Great Depression. Mizuki's photo-realist style effortlessly brings to life the Japan of the 1920s and 1930s, depicting bustling city streets and abandoned graveyards with equal ease.
When the Showa era began, Mizuki himself was just a few years old, so his earliest memories coincide with the earliest events of the time. With his trusty narrator Rat Man, Mizuki brings history into the realm of the personal, making it palatable, and indeed compelling, for young audiences as well as more mature readers. As he describes the militarization that leads up to World War II, Mizuki's stance toward war is thoughtful and often downright critical―his portrayal of the Nanjing Massacre clearly paints the incident (a disputed topic within Japan) as an atrocity. Mizuki's Showa 1926–1939 is a beautifully told history that tracks how technological developments and the country's shifting economic stability had a role in shaping Japan's foreign policy in the early twentieth century.
Translated from the Japanese by Zack Davisson.
...confirms that Shigeru Mizuki is a priceless chronicler of the major events that rocked Japan during the twentieth century...these works serve as a dire warning against the dangers of imperialism, of the consequences of choosing to fight rather than to think.
World Literature Today
Showa is a melting pot of manga style, photorealism, memoir, and narrative history.
... an unblinking recollection of one of the 20th century's darkest periods.
Medium on SHOWA 1926-1939
Showa is literature, illustrated or not, at its finest: a story that sweeps you off your feet only to find, when you return to Earth, that nothing looks quite the same.
Los Angeles Times
By turns poignant, hilarious, harrowing, cynical, and inspiring, this work perfectly balances personal and universal elements to deliver a powerful message.
Showa goes far beyond what is often seen as the limits of manga. Mizuki deals boldly and honestly with subject matter that continues to resonate 26 years after the book's initial publication and almost 80 years after the events took place.
Indiewire on Showa
Gr 9 Up—Mixing memoir and political history, this graphic novel presents a tumultuous time in Japan's past through the eyes of someone who lived it: influential 20th-century manga artist Mizuki. The early years of Japan's Showa era were marked by government and military corruption that ultimately led the nation to World War II, and Mizuki's frank account of this period does not gloss over unflattering truths. At first glance, this tome may appear to be strictly for history buffs and Japanophiles—but any reader will be hooked by the juxtaposition of the author's humorous anecdotes of his rural childhood and the sobering picture of his country's financial instability, political turmoil, and harrowing acts of aggression in Asia. It's an eye-opening reading experience, a window into a segment of history not taught in typical American classrooms. The sheer number of unfamiliar names and places can be daunting, but one of Mizuki's famous characters, Nezumi Otoko, pops in and out to help the contemporary audience make sense of key events. Black-and-white illustrations vacillate between cartoonish in the sections portraying boyish antics and stunningly detailed when depicting more serious subject matter, illuminating the dichotomy of everyday life in Japan and the rising tensions on the political landscape. Less successful are the too-frequent references to endnotes that don't always add to the narrative. Whether or not teens choose to read them, this book clearly shows how seemingly remote political decisions can profoundly affect the average person. Thought-provoking and powerful
Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA
Mizuki, one of Japan's most celebrated manga artists, was born only a few years before the start of the Showa period, one of Japan's most turbulent eras. In this, the first of four volumes, he traces history along two tracks: the first is Japan's story, spanning the years between the great Kanto earthquake and the start of WWII; the second is the story of the author and his family growing up in a port town far from the drama taking place in Tokyo. Using a series of narrators to keep the story flowing, Mizuki prevents the account, which could have easily been a mere list of tragic incidents, from becoming dry, repetitive, or confusing. Looping his own story in and out of the narrative and switching back and forth between a photo-realistic art style and broadly drawn cartoons, Mizuki shows how politics and war affected the Everyman. Mizuki is not afraid to show his country in a less than flattering light, and Showa, 1926–1939 provides an opportunity to understand Japanese history from a new point of view.
About the author
Born 8 March 1922, in Sakaiminato, Tottori, Japan, Shigeru Mizuki is a specialist in the stories of yokai and is considered a master of the genre. He is a member of the Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology. He has travelled to more than sixty countries worldwide to engage in fieldwork on the yokai and spirits of different cultures. He has been published in Japan, South Korea, France, Spain, Taiwan, and Italy. His award-winning works include Kitaro, Nonnonba, and Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. Mizuki's four-part autobiography and historical portrait Showa: A History of Japan won an Eisner Award in 2015.