Rachel DiNitto - Assistant Professor of Japanese, The College of William and Mary
Anyone who observed the anti-Japanese demonstrations in China last spring cannot deny that the Second World War is far from forgotten in Asia. Media coverage of rising anti-Chinese sentiment and Prime Minister Koizumi’s defensive posture on Yasukuni points to the resurgence of a nationalistic Japan. Professor DiNitto’s presentation works to counter the increasingly singular interpretation of the war that is taking placed on the national level. She presents a range of reactions to and representations of the war in popular manga (illustrated texts) by three artists working in the late twentieth–early twenty-first century: Mizuki Shigeru, Kobayashi Yoshinori and Maruo Suehiro. All three artists demonstrate a concern with the war’s influence on the present, and on history, as seen in their respective attempts to renarrate the war. In his 8 volume Comic History of the Showa Era, Mizuki weaves his memories-the personal trauma of a war veteran-into a national narrative of the Showa era, as a means of making sense of his own experience. Kobayashi in his nationalistic best selling series On War, explains the corruption and moral dissolution of contemporary society as the result of a “misinterpretation” of Japan’s wartime heroism. Maruo tempts the reader with the possibility of a war critique in his kitschy “Planet of the Jap,” in which the victorious Japanese A-Bomb San Francisco and Los Angeles. This range of reactions in popular manga speaks to Japan’s struggles to find a national identity in the late postwar world.