It is Cult Faction’s sad duty to report that the awarding winning legend of Japanese Manga Shigeru Mizuki has passed away following multiple organ failure after a heart attack at the age of 93 years old.
Born in the coastal town of Sakaiminato, Mizuki was originally named Shigeru Mura, the second of three sons. Described as a drifting, curious child, his earliest pursuits included copious amounts of drawing and hearing ghost stories from a local woman he nicknamed “Nononba”.
However, in 1942, he was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army and sent to New Britain Island in Papua New Guinea. His wartime experiences affected him greatly, as he contracted malaria, watched friends die from battle wounds and disease, and dealt with other horrors of war. Finally, in an Allied air raid, he was caught in an explosion and lost his left arm.
Regarding this life changing event, a Nov. 30, 2015 NHK announcement of his death showed excerpts of a video interview with him at age 80, in which he said that as the only survivor of his unit, he was ‘ordered to die’ — which he thought was ridiculous.
In the same interview, he explained that his yokai characters (monsters and ghosts) can be seen only in times of peace, not war, and that he purposely created these supernatural creatures to be of no specific ethnicity or nationality as a hint of the potential for humanity. While in a Japanese field hospital on Rabaul, he was befriended by the local Tolai tribespeople, who offered him land, a home, and citizenship via marriage to one of their women. Mizuki acknowledged he considered remaining behind, but was shamed by a military doctor into returning home to Japan first to face his parents, which he did reluctantly.
Upon arriving home, Mizuki had initially planned to return to New Guinea; however, the occupation of Japan changed that. His injuries did little to help, nor did the fact that his older brother, an artillery officer, was convicted as a war criminal for having prisoners of war executed. From his return until 1956 he worked as a movie theater operator until his break as a cartoonist.
In 1957, Mizuki released his debut work, Rocketman. Since then, he has published numerous works, both on yōkai and military works. He has also written many books on both subjects, including an autobiography about his time on New Britain Island and a manga biography on Adolf Hitler.
In 1991, he released a short work titled War and Japan published in The Sixth Grader, a popular edutainment magazine for young people, detailing the atrocities committed by the Japanese Army during their rampage in China and Korea and is narrated by Nezumi Otoko. The work serves as a powerful counterpoint to revisionist manga like the works of Yoshinori Kobayashi and by extension a way for Mizuki to express his anger at those responsible for all of Japan’s victims. When not working in either field, he paints a number of subjects, though these works are not as well known as his literary ones which have made him a household name.
In 2003, he returned to Rabaul to rekindle his friendship with the natives, who had named a road after him in his honor.
In 2005, Shigeru Mizuki appeared in a cameo role in Yōkai Daisenso aka The Great Yokai War directed by Takashi Miike, a film about yōkai inspired by his work; several of his characters make cameo appearances. A brief explanation about his works also is mentioned in the film.
In 2010 NHK broadcast an asadora about his married life, Gegege no Nyobo, based on his wife’s autobiography.