I learned with sadness that the Japanese manga artist Shigeru Mizuki has died. His work represents one of the peak reading experiences in my life — along with authors such as Michael Crichton, Virginia Woolf, and Ben Okri — at a purely visceral level. I didn’t know Shigeru Mizuki, but his work, and his long life, attest to a rich and inspiring vitality. Here are six reasons why you should read Mizuki’s work, which are taken from my longer essay on his phenomenal Showa series documenting his life and Japan’s journey through the 20th century.
- He was one of the last surviving chroniclers of World War II who fought as a soldier for the Japanese.
2. He lost his arm to shrapnel and still drew thousands of beautiful pages of manga.
3. He once walked 10 miles to eat a donut.
4. He celebrated Japan’s rich love of folklore and, particularly, weird ghosts such as the Hidarugami (ghosts of people who have starved to death.)
5. He captured the multiple perspectives clamoring for power in pre-war Japan — many of which were decidedly anti-war and anti-fascist — that went missing from Hollywood films.
6. The father of his most popular character — Kitaro — lived in Kitaro’s eye socket and took baths in teacups.