Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is Shigeru Mizuki’s first book to be translated into English and is a semiautobiographical account of the desperate final weeks of a Japanese infantry unit at the end of WorldWar II. The soldiers are told that they must go into battle and die for the honor of their country, with certain execution facing them if they return alive. Mizuki was a soldier himself (he was severely injured and lost an arm) and uses his experiences to convey the devastating consequences and moral depravity of the war. - Amazon.com
Year of Publication
Number of Pages
Drawn & Quarterly
ISSN Number
Average: 3 (1 vote)


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Thought provoking and disturbing

Field of Interest/Specialty: Asian Studies
Posted On: 08/08/2018

This book was written by the acclaimed manga artist and author Shigeru Mizuki. Mizuki's own PTSD and alarming experiences as a Japanese soldier in the pacific front of WWII are expressed through this graphic novel. While the format of the book - read from right to left and drawn in manga format - is unique and provides an experience like no other depiction of these horrible tales of human tragedy, the content is most definitely rated "R." Mizuki portrays the role of the so-called 'comfort women' near stationed Japanese soldiers on pacific atolls, uses profane language, and discusses at length the diseases and petrifying deaths suffered by these young men. It's not pleasant, though this should come as no surprise given the book's title and topic. For instructors, reading this book may help to humanize the soldier's experience, particularly in this case where war had made Japanese and Americans enemies. However, it is unlikely this book would be of particular use in even the high school classroom due to its graphic nature. There are a few snippets that might be useful, such as the lyrics of traditional soldier songs included in the very beginning of the book, but the book as a whole is too graphic for class discussion. It might be more practical to consider another of Mizuki's works, or to conduct a discussion as to why a Japanese soldier would choose to express his memories of the war through graphic novel rather than traditional text-only format. This might also lead to a discussion of Japanese culture in which one might be able to surmise that the use of a graphic novel might have allowed Mizuki to 'save face' rather than to allow the reader's imagination to envision the tragedies described in the novel. An exploration of Mizuki himself as a symbol of Japanese popular culture as a famed comic artist would be meaningful as well - in fact, his obituary in the New York Times proves a great starting point.