Manga artist haunted by war

The late Japanese comic artist Shigeru Mizuki sitting next to his famous character "Kitaro" in his studio in Tokyo earlier this year.
The late Japanese comic artist Shigeru Mizuki sitting next to his famous character "Kitaro" in his studio in Tokyo earlier this year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Award-winning Japanese manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, whose retellings of traditional ghost stories and depictions of the horrors of World War II helped propel anime to global popularity, died on Monday. He was 93.

He had been hospitalised early last month after he collapsed in Tokyo, his office said on its website. He underwent surgery, but died of multiple organ failure in hospital.

Mizuki, a beloved household name in Japan, was an art student when he was drafted in 1942 and sent to fight in New Guinea, where he lost his left arm and witnessed scenes that haunted him for the rest of his life.

A native of Tottori prefecture in western Japan, he was probably best known for Gegege no Kitaro, a manga series about a young ghost boy fighting off a series of monsters based on Japanese folklore that was subsequently made into an animated series that ran for several years.

Debuting in 1957, Mizuki also wrote manga dealing with American wartime bombing, the abuse he and other military recruits suffered under their emperor-worshipping commanders during World War II and a biography of Adolf Hitler.

"You were never allowed to retreat from the front, you had to stay until you died," he said in an interview with Agence France- Presse earlier this year. Rank-and- file soldiers were treated "not as human beings, but were thought to be something less than horses".

In 1979, he illustrated The Darkness Of The Fukushima Nuclear Reactor, about the lives of workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant that was crippled by the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

A 1991 piece in an educational magazine depicted wartime abuses committed by Japanese soldiers in China and Korea, including one scene where a soldier boasts of testing his new sword on "five or six" civilians.

A museum dedicated to Mizuki opened in Sakaiminato city in Tottori in 2003 and residents named the city's shopping district Mizuki Shigeru Road.

The area displays more than 100 statues of his cartoon characters and has attracted tourists and fans from across the country. Mizuki received the Heritage Essential Award of the Angouleme International Comics Festival in France in 2009.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2015, with the headline 'Manga artist haunted by war'. Print Edition | Subscribe