Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths

Shigeru Mizuki
Shigeru Mizuki. Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-77046-641-6
Reviewed on: 06/06/2011
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The first English translation of the work of 90-year-old Mizuki, a celebrated gekiga and manga artist in Japan for more than 40 years, is based on Mizuki's own experiences in the Imperial Army in WWII. The story follows the fate of doomed troops fighting in New Guinea as they face hunger, malaria, and the brutality of their own officers, who administer nightly beatings. Mizuki illustrates the soldiers in a "cartoony" style, but uses a detailed, realistic style for his backgrounds and landscape panels, capturing the beauty and desolation of the remote locate. The dual styles underline the complexity of the story, which alternates between broad comedy mocking the absurdity of the army's hierarchy and growing horror at the abuse of the infantrymen and the officers' commitment to the idea that one must die for one's country. First published in Japan in 1973, Mizuki's graphic novel remains a powerful condemnation of war, worthy to stand beside the greatest antiwar comics. (May)
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