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Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  608 ratings  ·  95 reviews
A landmark publishing event of one of Japan’s most famous cartoonists

Shigeru Mizuki is the preeminent figure of Gekiga manga and one of the most famous working cartoonists in Japan today–a true living legend. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is his first book to be translated into English and is a semiautobiographical account of the desperate final weeks of a Japanese infan
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Paperback, 372 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published 1973)
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Maus, I by Art SpiegelmanFootnotes in Gaza by Joe SaccoPalestine by Joe SaccoOnward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru MizukiThe Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
War Comics!!!
4th out of 116 books — 14 voters
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. ShirerBand of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseThe Longest Day by Cornelius RyanHiroshima by John Hersey
World War Two Non Fiction
53rd out of 295 books — 225 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,294)
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Sunday
Manga shame no longer, I read this in a restaurant waiting for my to-go and teared up a little. AND JAPAN. War is not fun, but listen to me other armies, you best have a "Praise Cheesus" ready that you never were a Japanese soldier. Things weren't just rough, they were Japanese army rough.

Mizuki does a recklessly well-done job of mixing the sweet cartoony faces of the soldiers, along with the natural realism of the island backdrop. And other than that, anything goes. I MEAN HOLY SHIT. Laughing a
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Peter Derk
What a tough read.

It's an interesting bit of history, seeing how Japanese forces were living and fighting. And this is a great example of a book for those who have a low opinion of "those backwards graphic novels" (by which I mean read right-to-left, not so much as a racial thing. Although maybe I'm misinterpreting the criticism?)

What's sort of bizarre about the whole thing is that it does make me question how effective Japanese forces could have been as WWII went on. They were outnumbered and s
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Nick
This is a "90% autobiographical" retelling of the author's WW2 experience. As you can probably guess from the title, it's quite grim - early on our group of heroes is detailed to go on a suicide charge, but commit the crime of coming back alive after news of their noble deaths has already been spread to the rest of the army as a morale-booster, and it only gets worse from there.

Despite the sheer hopelessness of the material presented within, the author's style is so gripping that it's almost imp
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Seth
absolutely stunning. mizuki is an incredible technical illustrator as well as a great cartoonist, and this allows his narrative to shift seamlessly from comedy to tragedy in a matter of frames--sometimes even occupying the same space. mizuki has the storytelling advantage of experience--a small reward for the incalculable horrors he undoubtedly experienced in wwii--this story could not be told by another. i have lately been ruminating on what makes storytelling speak to me, and i have decided (q ...more
Charles Dee Mitchell
Shigeru Mizuki (b. 1922) is something of a national treasure in Japan. His innovative manga titles place him the same league as Osamu Tezuki, the artist referred to as the God of Manga. Mizuki made his name with manga involving Yokai, the sometimes playful, sometimes malevolent demons of Japanese folklore. In 1973 he published this magnificent anti-war tale. I have read several manga that are billed as "adult" in content, but this usually means the stories are more sexual or grotesquely violent ...more
Chris
This was a total impulse read, and I could not be happier with my decision.

The book is a graphic novel (more accurately, translated Japanese manga) that looks over the last few weeks of a small infantry section of the Imperial Japanese Army. Stationed in New Guinea, these men go through the hellish life often led by Japanese soldiers on Pacific Islands (and that's not even counting the horrific treatment they received from their superiors).

The book is primarily a vicious attack on the wartime pr
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Holly Cruise
In a similar vein to Studio Ghibli's film 'Grave Of The Fireflies', here a Japanese author takes a fictionalised version of events which played out repeatedly throughout WWII, gives it a cartoony styling, a firm grounding in realistic dialogue and human behaviour, then uses it to batter your emotions over the head.

Just because it's completely obvious from the first page what will happen doesn't make it any less brutal or heartbreaking when it does happen, and it's a credit to Mizuki that even wi
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Abraham
Fucking. Crazy. Shit.

At the beginning it's "Why haven't you reported to the brothel yet?" and we all have a good laugh... Then they inch the curtain back a little, and from then on the curtain never stops moving. Usually, the soldiers are cartoony, the backgrounds are realistic. But every now and then -- and especially near the end -- he goes all realism on us, and draws the soldiers more like they really were. No onomatopoeia or speech bubbles to be found...

This was a scary realistic book. Peop
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Robert III
Wow this graphic novel came out 40 years ago, but it seems very fresh. It's about the most non glamorizing book about war I have ever read, and it wasn't achieved thru excessive use of gore. Just the simple story, as the author states, "90% true" of his experience as a soldier during WWII in the Japanese army. This is one of those books that you get done reading and you think, everybody needs to read this, the kind of book that should be a required reading text book for children to read. As far ...more
George Eppinger
"Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths" is an incredibly moving portrayal of the inhumanity of war. It has all the components of classic anti-war comics and literature; it's cynical, unflinching in its condemnation of violence, and at times quite funny. I was shocked by the complete barbarity shown not to the enemies of Imperial Japan, but to the soldiers in its own army. (The typical solider was considered less valuable than a horse. Think about that the next time you feel you're being treated unfair ...more
Meredith
What was odd about this one was that somehow the fact that the characters are so cartoonish made it even more grotesque when they were blown to pieces or mowed in half by machine gun fire. Apparently 90% of this story was true, with the exception being that in reality, not everyone was killed. (Obviously) Suffice it to say, I have no desire to ever use my secret time machine to take me back to the war in the Pacific.
Sylvester
So good to be able to see the other side of the story. History is such a tricky thing - I often wonder if an incident can really be considered accurate when told from one perspective only. This particular story shows just how much we have in common with the people we consider our "enemies". Wonderful artwork for a difficult subject.
Maggie
Intense and depressing. Mizuki did a fantastic job of showing the soldiers in humorous, relaxed moments amid the constant threat of enemy fire. This decision made the ending even more heartbreaking. I'm glad I didn't read this in public.
John
Wow.

This is the story of a Japanese infantry unit ordered to die in combat. We've heard so much about the experience of American servicemen in World War II, and the horrors of fighting in the Pacific theater, but this work finally allowed me to see the perspective of an unremarkable soldier on the other side. No stereotypes, no glorification of war or patriotism, only the tired, grieving account of an artist who experienced not only war, but service in one of the most brutal armies of the centur
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Jason
I didn't think much of this until I got about halfway through and the attacks began. It was mostly soldiers hanging out at camp and getting slapped around. But once the order for the suicide attack was given, the book took an intense and serious turn that gripped me for the rest of the story. It's easy to judge from a western perspective, but mostly I just marveled at how different their culture is from ours and yet the soldiers struggled as much as I would have had I been in their position. I l ...more
Scott
This is a both beautiful and disturbing portrayal of WW II from a Japanese perspective from one of the foremost Manga artists of Japan (known for GeGeGe no Kitaro).
James
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths features a battalion-scale look at the lot of Japanese infantrymen in World War II. It centers on a group of soldiers stationed on a remote island in New Guinea—although “abandoned” might be more accurate, given their lack of supplies and suffering at the hands of their superiors.

Their lot is a grim one. Even at best, the grunts are subject to constant beatings from their officers. They’re sent to scavenge in unfamiliar jungle, falling prey to crocodiles, tropical
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Mickie
I really enjoy war books and I was thrilled to read one from another cultural perspective. War sucks, the military sucks and humans are a millisecond from being rotten meat--it appears that these are facts that are immutable and transcend the language barrier. This book was originally published in the 1970s and this is the first English translation. The author served in the Imperial Japanese army during WWII...this is fiction based on cold, hard truth.

The author did a fabulous job of illustratin
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M.H.
Haunting and important. A terrifyingly true story about the dehumanization and futility of war. A warning against blind obedience to any cause, even patriotism, and the resulting twisted reasoning that can lead to unthinkable consequences. It might be easy as an American to say that this is an interesting look into the pre-WWII Japanese mind and feel superior. But reading the book closely, I found no nobility in the Americans. They were faceless, indiscriminate hunters, more defined by their equ ...more
Adam
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Charles Mournet
Onward Toward Our Noble Death can be best described as a different book. I have never read such a book that is read from back to front and right to left but I enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed the outdated black and white cartoon photo's and I believe they did a great job telling the story. When I started reading the book I didn't know what to expect and I can imagine the editor thought we would fell the same way so the directions in the front proved to be very helpful. The context of the story was ...more
Jowel Uddin
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths Review
By Shigeru Mizuki

The graphic novel, “Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths”, was an astonishing experience for a Mizuki virgin, such as myself. Prior to this reading, I had never experienced the elegant and truly magnificent work of Shigeru Mizuki. Shigeru Mizuki is regarded as one of the most famous and respected cartoonists in Japan.

The story takes place in Papa New Guinea, where some of the Japanese are stationed during World War II. The graphic novel fol
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Skjam!
Shigeru Mizuki is best known for his tales of youkai (supernatural monsters) like "Gegege no Kitarou." But he's also written extensively on other subjects, including this fictionalized version of his military service during World War Two.

A Japanese platoon is stationed on a South Seas island in late 1943-early 1944. The regular joe soldiers must deal with the indiginities of military life, abusive NCOs and callous officers who consider them expendable. Eventually, the Allies invade the island, a
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David Stewart
I hadn't expected Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths to be quite as manga-ish as it is. Yes, it reads back to front like manga, and boasts plenty of manga like accolades on its cover, but for whatever reason I have a hard time associating the genre of manga with a subject as serious as World War II. When I read descriptions of this book, it sounds like a dour, moving tale of a troupe of Japanese soliders, and in some ways it is, but the majority of the story is almost slapstick in nature. Even deat ...more
Kevin Wright
The best war stories are anti-war stories written by men who were there on the frontlines and suffered the brutal consequences both physically and mentally. As with most stories in this genre, it took the author a while (over three decades) before he could talk about his experiences. For some reason, it also took more than three decades before this book was finally published in English.

This novel reminded me of the classic Robert Kanigher-Joe Kubert war stories, which is as high a praise as I c
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Stuart
Shigeru Mizuki is probably best known for his Yokai (ghost) stories, notably GeGeGe No Kitaro, however his manga tale of life as a soldier during WW2 is also well respected both in Japan and internationally.

Mizuki, who lost an arm during the war, tells a fictionalized account of his battalion during the last years of the war in New Britain. In simple "cartoon" style, he brings to life this group of men as they suffer from a variety of hardships culminating in a tragic battle.

The manga does not
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David Schaafsma
Anti-war graphic manga by great and still living and great, venerable Japanese manga artist whose work has not been translated much here. This is work from the seventies which he says was 90% true, and in an American afterword, he now clarifies what he made up in it. This is history, a memoir of his time spent serving in the Japanese army in 1943 on New Guinea when western Allies bombed and took over the country. In the manga, one survived, but actually, eighty survived, including Mizuki, who ex ...more
Cliff Hare
This is a beautifully written and illustrated graphic novel.
The author takes the reader into the culture of the Japanese army during World War II by showing them the interactions of the members of an infantry unit stationed on New Britain (a unit the author actually belonged to). There is casual brutality, privation and humor as the soldiers first try to survive the environment, then find themselves committed against the American military in a battle they cannot win. The true tragedy of the stor
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George Marshall
Fine and important BUT...where are the Papua New Guineans? This is a depopulated wilderness with no mention that anyone might actually live there. The mixture of cartoon and exquisite line work drawings works suprising well. But the narrative is choppy and it it extremely hard to follow the characters. Not that there is much need - they just keep dying anyway and maybe that is the point. So not a great comic, but disturbing and significant.
Justin
No hesitation in giving this five stars. This is a startling, largely autobiographical graphic novel portraying the experiences of a company of the Imperial Japanese Army in Papua New Guinea. The major themes are the pervasive brutalizing of the soldiers, and the obsession with "gyokusai", or noble death in battle - in other words, suicide attacks. What is perhaps surprising is how human the Japanese soldiers come across as - it seems a rare thing to see the Second World War portrayed from the J ...more
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Shigeru Mizuki (水木しげる) is Japanese manga cartoonist, most known for his horror manga GeGeGe no Kitaro. He is a specialist in stories of yōkai and is considered a master of the genre. He is a member of The Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology, and has traveled to over 60 countries in the world to engage in fieldwork of the yōkai and spirits of different cultures. He has been published in Japan ...more
More about Shigeru Mizuki...
NonNonBa Showa: A History of Japan, 1926-1939 Kitaro Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan Showa 1944-1953: A History of Japan

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