Showa: A History of Japan, 1926-1939
by Shigeru Mizuki
Graphic Novel, non-fiction/history
Showa is a graphic novel history of Japan, intermixed with Mizuki’s autobiography. He tells of his life, and how the events of the 20’s and 30’s affected him.
The Showa period of Japan is one of the 4 modern Imperial eras, named for the reigning Emperor (Showa Hirohito). It is remembered as one of the most turbulent, seeing the crash and depression of the 20’s, ultra-nationalism, buildup and all out war in the 30’s and destruction and reconstruction of the 40’s and 50’s. Mizuki researched the events of the early part of the century, and isn’t afraid to gloss over some of the less flattering parts of Japan’s history, but at the same time, doesn’t delve deeply into any of the various scandals and atrocities that occured. He uses a series of narrators to tell anecdotes of important figures of the time, and of the economic and political turmoil that Japan underwent. He makes a good effort to show how the major events and grand decisions of the political and military elites affect the common citizen of Japan.
The artwork for this history is brilliant, juxtaposing intricately detailed, near photo realistic pictures of major historical events with the ultra expressive manga style drawings of his personal memories growing up in near poverty in a rural village. Characters from his personal life all have distinct faces and voices and are easily identifiable and are extremely expressive in his stylized art.
Overall, a good history introduction to Japan, it gives a lot of broad information about the major events and is a good starting point for the era. An interesting hook for a reader trying to get into Japanese history.
I think that I may be giving up oh Astronauts Guide… There are just so many other things to read. Up next, How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson, and I’m just about done with The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.