We are pleased to present a limited-time preview of Shigeru Mizuku’s first book in English-language translation, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths (Drawn & Quarterly). Mizuki, born in 1922, is a giant of manga best known for his tales of the one-eyed ghost-goblin, Kitaro. Onward… is a fictionalized autobiography (first published in Japan in 1973) of Mizuki’s time on the island of New Britain during World War II. It is, like Jacques Tardi’s It Was the War in the Trenches, an alternately furious, humorous, and horrifying story. Mizuki is focused here on the troops — it is, as with Tardi’s book — their story, and he sets his delicately drawn cartoon figures against finely rendered backgrounds. Onward… is particularly affecting because from page one we know that the troops will die. They were sent only to fight and die, and freed of any conventional will-they-survive narrative, Mizuki gently chronicles the daily physical lives of these men. Not much talk of home or spectral flashbacks here; rather, processes from cooking to digging to fighting are given equal space and an almost leisurely pace. All the better to draw us in and show us the full emotional and bodily spectrum of war as he (and they) knew it.
The excerpt here comes about two-thirds into the book. It will be available for just a week. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths will be released on April 26th, and includes an excellent introduction by Frederik L. Schodt, endnotes, as well as an interview with the artist himself.