by Shigeru Mizuki
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 Nezumi Otoko (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.