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Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  782 Ratings  ·  120 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
Paperback, 372 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published 1973)
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The Complete Maus by Art SpiegelmanOnward Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru MizukiIt Was the War of the Trenches by Jacques TardiGoddamn This War! by Jacques TardiBarefoot Gen, Volume One by Keiji Nakazawa
War Comics
2nd out of 115 books — 19 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
71st out of 318 books — 246 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,695)
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Oct 17, 2011 Sunday rated it really liked it
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
Peter Derk
Jun 10, 2013 Peter Derk rated it liked it
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
Oct 01, 2014 Nick rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 02, 2014 Seth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Dec 31, 2015 Damon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: manga
One of my new favourite authors after this one. Funny and terribly horrible in equal parts.
Nov 29, 2015 C rated it liked it
There will be so many better reviews than I can write, here.

The book is a fictionalized auto-biographical account of WWII from the Japanese soldier's perspective in the South Pacific.

Dark, sometimes darkly funny, utterly hopeless, and the story of men utterly at the mercy of their superiors and cultural dogma.

A few moments jumped out where the idea of honor took precedence over humanity and strategy. A comrade dying in the mud is subjected to further agony when his cohorts chop off his finger
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
Jun 02, 2013 Chris rated it really liked it
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
Holly Cruise
Dec 03, 2013 Holly Cruise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics, history, biography
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
Gyokusai, la “nobile morte”


Il canto degli uccelli vibra nell’aria
Dalle montagne il suono delle cascate
Le onde che si infrangono sul bagnasciuga
E’ il suono incessante degli oceani
Ascoltate e godete di questi suoni
Godete di ogni suono della natura
Onoratela con gioia e liberamente
E’ la potente voce della divinita’

(Tanaka Hozumi) (270-3)
Jan 10, 2012 Abraham rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels
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
Sarah Hayes
Aug 25, 2015 Sarah Hayes rated it it was amazing
Do not expect any sort of happy ending, some kind of moral satisfaction, at the end of this book. It is first and foremost a story about war, and the men made to fight in them. It is violent, vulgar, bloody, and unforgiving. You will probably walk away from ONWARDS TOWARDS OUR NOBLE DEATHS with a sense of futility, a sense of anger, and yet also an inch of comprehension for those soldiers made to die in the name of gyokusai. And if so, then manga-ka Mizuki has succeeded in his mission with this ...more
Feb 01, 2016 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics, manga
Grim semi-autobiographical manga based on Mizuki's time in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Mizuki focuses on the dehumanizing conditions of the war, the mundanity of waiting for battle, and the extreme cruelty of officers towards their own men. The story concerns a unit battling for control of a small island off the coast of New Guinea. When it becomes clear that the Allied forces will overrun the island, the unit is ordered to commit an utterly pointless suicide charge, young me ...more
Robert Wildwood
Nov 14, 2014 Robert Wildwood rated it it was amazing
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
David Bales
Apr 26, 2015 David Bales rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Shigeru Mizuki is Japan's preeminent graphic novelist and cartoonist, and happens to be a World War II veteran of the fighting in New Britain. In this very sad graphic novel, the fortunes of Japanese soldiers are chronicled from the end of 1943 until the last gasp "suicide attack" in the summer of 1945, in which 81 surviving soldiers stormed the American lines in a kamikaze finish. Starved, abused and humiliated by officers and at the mercy of the unforgiving elements: dengue fever, malaria, rai ...more
George Eppinger
Apr 15, 2015 George Eppinger rated it it was amazing
"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
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.
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.
Nov 08, 2011 Maggie rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, history
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.
Aug 21, 2014 John rated it it was amazing

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
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
Oct 10, 2011 Scott rated it it was amazing
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).
Ian Hrabe
Jan 16, 2016 Ian Hrabe rated it it was amazing
One of the most harrowing war stories I've ever read. The greatest thing Shigeru Mizuki does here is that he breaks down that barrier of us vs. them. The World War 2 stories we get from an American perspective tend to neglect that, on the other side of the battlefield, were regular slobs who weren't ideological warriors, but cannon fodder for the insane ideological warlords up top. The greatest concern among the soldiers depicted in this story isn't the glorification of the Japanese empire, but ...more
Nov 26, 2011 James rated it liked it
Shelves: comics
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
Apr 07, 2012 Mickie rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
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
Oct 13, 2011 M.H. rated it really liked it
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
May 23, 2013 Adam rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Charles Mournet
May 14, 2012 Charles Mournet rated it liked it
Shelves: 10th-grade
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
May 03, 2012 Jowel Uddin rated it really liked it
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
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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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
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