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Showa, 1926-1939: A History of Japan

(Showa: A History of Japan #1)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  1,883 ratings  ·  237 reviews
A fascinating period in Japanese history explored by a master of manga.

Showa 19261939: A History of Japan is the first volume of Shigeru Mizuki's meticulously researched historical portrait of twentieth-century Japan. This volume deals with the period leading up to World War II, a time of high unemployment and other economic hardships caused by the Great Depression. Mizuk
Paperback, 533 pages
Published September 3rd 2013 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published 1988)
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 ·  1,883 ratings  ·  237 reviews

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Dave Schaafsma
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I first read Mizuki's Onwards to Our Noble Deaths, a bitterly anti-war story based on his own experience as a soldier. In the US we know little of the Japanese experience of WWII, so this is a fascinating and often ugly castigation of bureaucratic stupidity and mindless patriotic war-mongering. If this had been the only thing I had read I would not have experienced his humor in Kitaro, which he is perhaps best known for in Japan. He's a purveyor of monsters and mysticism and mythical beasts. And ...more
Jon Nakapalau
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the best histories of Japan...period. This book will allow you to see the events that lead to WW II form the perspective of the Japanese people, a perspective that is often neglected.
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I started reading 'Showa 1926 – 1939 : A History of Japan' by Shigeru Mizuki as soon as I got it a few days back. This first part of the 4-part book covers the history of Japan from the beginning of the Showa era in 1926 till the beginning of the Second World War.

The book has two strands of stories which are woven together. The first is the history of Japan as the title indicates. The second is the author's own memoir. So we get to see the Japan of that era through both the big and the everyday
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Anyone interested in this period of Japanese or world history, should read this book, and, I suspect, the volumes to follow.

NOTE BENE: Showa: 1926 - 1939 is published in the traditional Japanese style. The book is opened with the spine to your right, and you read the panels right to left, from the top of the right hand page. Basically "backwards" from a Western point of view.

Generally speaking, I am not a regular reader, or fan of, manga. Further, my tastes in anime are pretty common: Akira, Cow
Patrick Sherriff
May 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novels, japan
I'm completely the wrong person to review a manga.

My sum knowledge of the art form is from stolen glances on the Tozai Line at salarymen's copies that looked to me slightly less enticing than lugging around multi-coloured phonebooks through Tokyo's underground. But that was 15 years ago. The comics were impenetrable to me, being in Japanese. And upside down (I was invariably standing and the manga were on the laps of folk who had got on before me and so got seats.)

Well, that was until tonight.

SHOWA 1926-1939: A History of Japan by Shigeru Mizuki, translated from the Japanese by Zack Davisson, 2013 by @drawnandquarterly

Just finished Part 1 (of 4) of Mizuki's epic manga history of Japan and memoir of his own life. Started this one in the last days of #JanuaryinJapan and wanted to take my time with this monumental work. There are great end notes referenced throughout, providing context on cultural and economic touchstones and events. This volume covers rising Japanese imperialism, incur
Dec 27, 2018 rated it liked it
The drawback is a little bit too much detail that you'd soon forget (names, characters, events in a yearbook review format instead of storybuilding of a certain key characters). Feeling a moral obligation to retain info, youre soon exhausted at the very factual and narrative description of events-unfolding (Jason Lutes' Berlin comes to mind as a stark counterexample). The narraters own story as a child/adolscent matches with the parallel developments in the political/world stage merely chronolog ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
An amazing and interesting history of Japan told in graphic novel format. It took me awhile to get used to the different styles interspersed throughout the book. There are gorgeous realistic depictions of things right along with very simple, cartoony drawings. I'm excited to read the whole series, and I know that I will refer back to this often. ...more
David Manley
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Incredibly compelling history that strikes a great balance between the author's personal experience and the cultural and political context. Looking forward to the rest of the series. ...more
David Nichols
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
SHOWA, 1926-1939 is the first of a four-volume history of modern Japan, its overall chronology corresponding to the long reign of Emperor Hirohito (also known as the Showa era). The author devotes some attention to his own autobiography, to a childhood dominated by elaborate gang battles and an adolescence marred by a listless apprenticeship. Most of the volume Shigeru Mizuki devotes to the larger story of his homeland, whose civilian government lost legitimacy in the financially straitened and ...more
Mar 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this a couple years ago but at the time I wasn't patient enough to enjoy the political aspects of the story - and even now much of the information goes right through me. I don't have much groundwork for appreciating Japanese politics. I wish Canada had a creator of Mizuki's talents write a similar book for my country's 20th century history. This kind of resource must make it so much easier for Japanese students to get good grades in school!

I had just read Mizuki's Nonnonba which focuses m
Stewart Tame
Jan 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Can I just say how happy I am that we're finally seeing English translations of Shigeru Mizuki's work? He's almost as legendary as Osamu Tezuka, but less well-known here in the west. The Showa series is part autobiography, part history. Mizuki created this series in part because he worried that younger Japanese were forgetting the lessons of the early Showa era (the whole era ran 1926-1989), particularly the militarization leading up to WWII. Having lived during this time, he hoped his personal ...more
Jul 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Shigeru Mizuki's "Showa: 1926 - 1939" is a fascinating era in Japanese history. Also a very hard life in most of those years due to worldwide depression as well as Japan launching the war and invading parts of Asia. Mizuki tells the tale, by adding his personal childhood narratives throughout the manga. So what you are getting is very much a straight ahead history book, but with some inner observations from the artist/creator. I like it that he goes back and forth from memoir to tell the history ...more
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Amazing manga. I'm upset that I don't have the second volume to start reading at once. This is such a momentous period in Japanese history which is fairly impenetrable if you are a westerner. You can read a series of events which took place, but the social changes and the effects on the Japanese psyche which the upheavals of modernization and militarization wrought cannot be conveyed with precision except by someone who lived through it. This is a treasure and I cannot wait to read the next volu ...more
Aabha sharma
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, japan
I actually took a course in college about Japanese history and I remember how dull my teacher turned something so intriguing. It was nothing short of a crime in my opinion. I wish she had just recommended this series to the class or even mentioned the word manga.

This book has a lot of details packed in and the footnotes are great starting off points for further research. Sometimes the names can get a bit confusing because they are a bit unusual and there’s so many. But for the first time, a dec
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Incredible, simply incredible. I've already learned to appreciate the graphic novel as an excellent medium for history, but Mizuki's work is superlative. The artwork is stellar (contrast between photorealism for historical panels and simplistic for the personal); his account of Japan's road to war is not rote and actually added to my knowledge; and the bottom line is that the Japan that went to war was a modern society, and therefore there are numerous uncomfortable echoes of the road to war in ...more
Jan 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: imperialism
This book was the perfect mix of history, culture, memoir and Manga style. There is no doubt this 500 page book was an epic undertaking and the author handled it with brilliance and balance in the face of politically charged events. The story felt larger than life and yet was also the intimate expression of a young man growing up in Japan in the Showa Period. Mizuki's delivery allowed me to learn more about Japanese history than I think I would have had I read multiple history books. It is very ...more
Brendan Oshida
May 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the best history books that I've ever read! At first, of may look intimidating because of its size, but because it is written in comic form. The author does a really good job of illustrating the history, but also including details of his own life as well. Overall, I would I'm highly recommend this to anyone who lives history, but also enjoys personal accounts from the time period. ...more
Derek Royal
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've finally sat down to read all of the Showa volumes, one after the other. This is a very different kind of narrative, an unusual history, with Mizuki juggling multiple approaches at the same time. ...more
This graphic novel is a hard one to rate - on one hand, I really enjoyed the realistic rendering of famous photos and historic moments, on the other hand I felt the entire narrative was too clinical at times and filled with hard data. Perhaps that is the disadvantage of this medium - you need words, lots of context to properly flesh out history. The author does try to do that, and the autobiographical parts highlight his insight, but this can serve only as an introduction to this period. Lots of ...more
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Bottom Line First
Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan (Showa: A History of Japan) Paperback – November 12, 2013
by Shigeru Mizuki (Author), Zack Davisson (Translator) achieves most of it purpose. Shigeru tells and illustrates his autobiography as a child of the period of Japanese history he is also telling. He reason for this history as picture book if that Japanese students tend to receive a very sanitized version of Japan’s role as aggressor in more than the 15 year period that the Imperial Japa
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: manga fans, Japanese history students
Recommended to Skjam! by: Volume 3
This is the first volume of Shigeru Mizuki’s massive history of Japan during the reign of Emperor Hirohito, the “Showa Era,” It was a long reign, covering most of the Twentieth Century, from 1926-1989. In addition to the larger story of Japan, it is also his autobiography, as Mizuki’s earliest childhood memories coincide with the beginning of that era.

This volume opens several years earlier, with the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 which devastated Tokyo. The repercussions of this, combined with
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2017
Knocked this out in one day, two sittings, in a Barnes and Noble. Loved it, excited to read the rest of the Showa manga.

Particular reasons for why I liked it/think it's great:

*Art styles: cartoonish drawings for personal vignettes of author's childhood vs. 'realistic'/detailed illustrations during historical narratives, as well as inclusion of historical photographs, etc.
* Multiple narrators --the author, a rat-man yokai character, Japanese citizens who talk over food or games of go... It worked
2.5 stars - interesting mix of narrated history of the early Showa period, and autobiography of the author's early life; the art is solid if you don't mind the style but structurally speaking it doesn't always gel for me. I don't have enough background on this period to really assess the accuracy of the historical account, and found the high-level exposition-heavy approach somewhat difficult to engage with. At this point in the series, the personal accounts don't have a lot of direct bearing on ...more
This first volume of personal memoir combined with history is very interesting as it presents Japanese history often, at best glazed over, in American-based histories of the build-up to the Second World War, and for that alone it is worth the read. The second volume certainly will be read.

This reader did wish that Drawn and Quaterly had printed the book with the endnotes as footnotes. With the endnotes, there is too much juggling with the book, what with it being run, to maintain the flow of the
Emilia P
Mar 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: comic-books
A slow start to a gigantic project -- an illustrated history of the sea changes in Japan over the course of the 20th century. The beginning of the Showa era is a time of political unrest and a lead-up to war, as well as Mizuki's childhood. Switching between very specific political machinations and Mizuki's often goofy home life is a little bit confusing/disorienting, but they begin to converge more once he goes to war in book 2. I can't say I love or will keep every date and detail in my head, b ...more
Oliver Bateman
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
this entire series is a masterwork, but the middle two volumes, which shift from macro views of the pacific war to mizuki's modest yet horrific role in it, ensure that this is one of the most effective histories ever written, graphic novel format or otherwise.

also: yes, some of the scenes are reworkings of onward towards our noble deaths, but the real story, which is much more pathetic and involves the loss of mizuki's arm rather than his life, is more interesting by far.
Maia Waterson
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Showa has two narratives within the story. The first is the general historical narrative of what’s happening, narrated by Nezumi Otoko (who’s from one of my favourite shows as a kid) and the second being a specific narrative of a family living through the historical events that are happening. This gives a good mix of educational and entertaining as the history parts are a bit too packed with names and events that it’s hard to remember it all. Shifting to Shigeru and his family gives us a break f ...more
Marsha Altman
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, buddhism, art, comics
This is a really fantastic manga about the author's childhood during the 1920's and 1930's in Japan. It's not a period of Japanese history I know a lot about (I always forget that WWII started in 1932 for Japan, China, and Korea), and I'm willing to forgive that the vast majority of the book is two unnamed characters talking to each other about the political problems they're experiencing, and sometimes even this whiskered narrator just explaining it to the reader, because the author has a lot of ...more
N. N. Santiago
Jul 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: quick-reads, japan, bd
What I would call 'misleading when not just unclear', the blurb calls "accurate within its defined scope". Not recommended for real learning. ...more
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Shigeru Mizuki (Mizuki Shigeru, 水木しげる) was Japanese manga cartoonist, most known for his horror manga GeGeGe no Kitaro. He was a specialist in stories of yōkai and was considered a master of the genre. Mizuki was a member of The Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology, and had traveled to over 60 countries in the world to engage in fieldwork of the yōkai and spirits of different cultures. He ha ...more

Other books in the series

Showa: A History of Japan (4 books)
  • Showa, 1939-1944: A History of Japan
  • Showa 1944-1953: A History of Japan
  • Showa 1953-1989: A History of Japan

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