cover image Okinawa


Susumu Higa, trans. from the Japanese by Jocelyne Allen. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (544p) ISBN 978-1-68396-118-5

Higa’s English-language debut combines two volumes of short manga about the cartoonist’s native prefecture to form a reverently crafted patchwork-quilt portrait of his war-battered homeland. The first volume deals with Okinawa during WWII and its aftermath; the second is set in the postwar period of indefinite U.S. occupation. Higa mines his childhood: his mother dodges bombs while scavenging, his father is given a stick to fight a fleet of battleships. At war’s end, Allied soldiers bearing news of peace must convince holdouts in the hills not to kill themselves. In the later stories, small farming villages rely on American naval bases for funds, the background tensions adroitly drawn in a tale in which the characters must stop whatever activity they’re engaged in every few pages while a jet roars overhead. Throughout, the focus is on teachers, farmers, parents, and other ordinary people who persevere in a world bent on destruction. Higa’s linework is simple and clean, the landscapes rendered with the flat perspective of folk art, his figures stiff but drawn with affection. Suffusing his portraits with love, sorrow, and anger (but never bitterness), Higa brings the specifics of a complicated time and place to life as few artists have. (Aug.)