Shigeru Mizuki

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Shigeru Mizuki
水木 しげる
Mizuki Shigeru from Mizukipro.jpg
BornShigeru Mura
(1922-03-08)March 8, 1922
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
DiedNovember 30, 2015(2015-11-30) (aged 93)
Tokyo, Japan
Area(s)Writer, penciller, inker, manga artist,
Notable works
GeGeGe no Kitarō
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths
Showa: A History of Japan
Awards See below

Shigeru Mizuki(水木 しげる,Mizuki Shigeru, March 8, 1922 – November 30, 2015) was a Japanese manga author and historian, best known for his series GeGeGe no Kitarō (Japanese: ゲゲゲの鬼太郎, literally "spooky Kitarō") – originally titled Hakaba Kitarō (Japanese: 墓場鬼太郎, literally "Kitarō of the Graveyard") – Kappa no Sanpei, and Akuma-kun. Born in a hospital in Osaka and raised in the city of Sakaiminato in Tottori prefecture, [1] he later moved to Chōfu, Tokyo where he remained until his death. His pen-name, Mizuki, comes from the time when he managed an inn called 'Mizuki Manor' while he drew pictures for kamishibai. A specialist in stories of Yōkai (妖怪, traditional Japanese monsters, ghouls, and goblins), he is considered a master of the genre. Mizuki was also a noted historian, publishing works relating to world history, Japanese history, and his own World War II experience.

<i>GeGeGe no Kitarō</i> 2007 manga series by Shigeru Mizuki

GeGeGe no Kitarō (ゲゲゲの鬼太郎), originally known as Kitarō of the Graveyard, is a Japanese manga series created in 1960 by Shigeru Mizuki. It is best known for its popularization of the folklore creatures known as yōkai, a class of spirit-monster to which all of the main characters belong. This story was an early 20th-century Japanese folk tale performed on kamishibai. It has been adapted for the screen several times, as anime, live action and video games. The word "Ge Ge Ge" (ゲゲゲ) in the title is a cackling noise in the Japanese language.

Sakaiminato, Tottori City in Chūgoku, Japan

Sakaiminato is a city in Tottori Prefecture, Japan.

Tottori Prefecture Prefecture of Japan

Tottori Prefecture is a prefecture of Japan located in the Chūgoku region of Honshu. Tottori Prefecture is the least populous prefecture of Japan at 570,569 (2016) and has a geographic area of 3,507 km2. Tottori Prefecture borders Shimane Prefecture to the west, Hiroshima Prefecture to the southwest, Okayama Prefecture to the south, and Hyogo Prefecture to the east.



Shigeru Mizuki at age 18, c. 1940 Shigeru Mizuki at age 18.jpg
Shigeru Mizuki at age 18, c. 1940

Mizuki was born Shigeru Mura (武良 茂 Mura Shigeru) in the city of Osaka, the second of three sons. He was raised in the coastal city of Sakaiminato 境港, where he spent much of his childhood as a 'scrapper': picking fights and participating in childish warfare with the neighbouring children. [1] He displayed from an early age a particular talent for art. During his time in elementary school, Mizuki's teachers were so impressed by his skills with a pencil that they organised an exhibition of his work, and he later went on to be featured in the Mainichi newspaper as something of an artistic prodigy. [1] In addition to this penchant for the artistic, Mizuki had an interest in the supernatural - something that was fueled by listening to ghost stories told by a local woman named Fusa Kageyama, [1] but whom the young Mizuki nicknamed "Nononba". [1] [2]

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 dominant (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' — a prospect he considered ridiculous. The result of Mizuki's wartime experience was a concurrent sense of pacifism and goodwill. In the same interview, he explained that his Yōkai characters 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 a Tolai woman. [3] Mizuki acknowledged that he considered remaining behind, but was shamed by a military doctor into returning home to Japan first for medical treatment to his arm and to face his parents, which he did reluctantly. [2]

Battle of Rabaul (1942) WWII battle in the Pacific Theater

The Battle of Rabaul, also known by the Japanese as Operation R, was fought on the island of New Britain in the Australian Territory of New Guinea, in January and February 1942. It was a strategically significant defeat of Allied forces by Japan in the Pacific campaign of World War II, with the Japanese invasion force quickly overwhelming the small Australian garrison, the majority of which was either killed or captured. Hostilities on the neighbouring island of New Ireland are also usually considered to be part of the same battle. Rabaul was significant because of its proximity to the Japanese territory of the Caroline Islands, site of a major Imperial Japanese Navy base on Truk.

Imperial Japanese Army Official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan, from 1868 to 1945

The Imperial Japanese Army was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan from 1868 to 1945. It was controlled by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and the Ministry of the Army, both of which were nominally subordinate to the Emperor of Japan as supreme commander of the army and the navy. Later an Inspectorate General of Aviation became the third agency with oversight of the army. During wartime or national emergencies, the nominal command functions of the emperor would be centralized in an Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ), an ad-hoc body consisting of the chief and vice chief of the Army General Staff, the Minister of the Army, the chief and vice chief of the Naval General Staff, the Inspector General of Aviation, and the Inspector General of Military Training.

New Britain Island in Papua New Guinea

New Britain is the largest island in the Bismarck Archipelago of Papua New Guinea. It is separated from the island of New Guinea by the Dampier and Vitiaz Straits and from New Ireland by St. George's Channel. The main towns of New Britain are Rabaul/Kokopo and Kimbe. The island is roughly the size of Taiwan. While the island was part of German New Guinea, it was named Neupommern.

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. After his return to Japan he worked at a variety of jobs including as a fish salesman and kamishibai artist.

Occupation of Japan Allied occupation of Japan following WWII

The Allied occupation of Japan at the end of World War II was led by General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, with support from the British Commonwealth. Unlike in the occupation of Germany, the Soviet Union was allowed little to no influence over Japan. This foreign presence marks the only time in Japan's history that it has been occupied by a foreign power. At MacArthur's insistence, Emperor Hirohito remained on the imperial throne. The wartime cabinet was replaced with a cabinet acceptable to the Allies and committed to implementing the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, which among other things called for the country to become a parliamentary democracy. Under MacArthur's guidance, the Japanese government introduced sweeping social reforms and implemented economic reforms that recalled American "New Deal" priorities of the 1930's under President Roosevelt. The Japanese constitution was comprehensively overhauled and the Emperor's theoretically-vast powers, which for many centuries had been constrained by conventions that had evolved over time, became strictly limited by law. The occupation, codenamed Operation Blacklist, was ended by the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed on September 8, 1951, and effective from April 28, 1952, after which Japan's sovereignty – with the exception, until 1972, of the Ryukyu Islands – was fully restored.

War crime Serious violation of the laws of war

A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, performing a perfidy, raping, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and seriously violating the principles of distinction and proportionality, and military necessity.

In 1957, Mizuki released his debut work, Rocketman. He published numerous works afterwards, both dealing with the military and with yōkai. He has also written many books on both subjects, including an autobiography about his time on New Britain Island and a manga biography of Adolf Hitler in 1971. [2] This book was published in English in 2015 by Drawn & Quarterly.

Adolf Hitler Leader of Germany from 1934 to 1945

Adolf Hitler was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party. He rose to power as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and later Führer in 1934. During his dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, he initiated World War II in Europe by invading Poland in September 1939. He was closely involved in military operations throughout the war and was central to the perpetration of the Holocaust.

In 1972 he publishes the gekiga graphic novel Nonnonba about his grandmother.


Gekiga (劇画) is a Japanese term for comics that literally means "dramatic pictures". It describes comics aimed at adult audiences with a cinematic style and more mature themes. The name gekiga was coined in 1957 by Yoshihiro Tatsumi and adopted by other more serious Japanese cartoonists, who did not want their trade to be known by the more common term manga or "whimsical pictures". It is akin to English speakers who prefer the term "graphic novel", as opposed to "comic book".

In 1991, he released a short work titled War and Japan (Sensō to Nippon) 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. [4] 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. From 1989 till 1998 he works on the series Showa: A History of Japan following the same approach and describing the Showa history combined with personal anecdotes. In these books Nezumi Otoko is also the narrator.

When not working in either field, he painted 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 locals, who had named a road after him in his honor.

In 2005, Mizuki appeared in a cameo role in Yōkai Daisenso ("The Great Yokai War") directed by Takashi Miike, a film about Yōkai inspired by his work as well as the work of Aramata Hiroshi. He appears towards the end of the film in the role of the Great Elder Yōkai: a pacifistic character who condemns the warring ways of the film's antagonist and reaffirms the role of Yōkai as peaceful, playful creatures. [5] A brief explanation about his works also is mentioned in the film. In 2010, NHK broadcast an asadora about his married life, Gegege no Nyōbō , based on his wife's autobiography.

On November 30, 2015, Shigeru Mizuki died of heart failure in a Tokyo hospital after collapsing at his home from a heart attack. [6]

Mizukis work remained for a long time unknown outside Japan, due to not being translated. Around 2010 started publishing his Showa, Kitaro, Nonnonba and Hitler, also French, Italian and Spanish publication appeared shortly afterwards, leading to an increasing interest for his work (and that of his gekiga peers) among the Western graphic novel audience.


Mizuki Road Jing Gang Ben Ting akedoShang Dian Jie 2.JPG
Mizuki Road
Mizuki Road Jing Gang Shui Mu rodoPA098314.JPG
Mizuki Road
Mizuki Road Jing Gang Shui Mu rodoYao Guai Shen She PA098302.JPG
Mizuki Road

Sakaiminato, Mizuki's childhood home, has a street dedicated to the ghosts and monsters that appear in his stories. One hundred bronze statues of the story's characters line both sides of the road. There is also a museum featuring several of his creations and works.


Mizuki has won numerous awards and accolades for his works, especially GeGeGe no Kitarō. Among these are:

Selected works

in English

Not printed

  • War in Japan, 1991 (online readable in the tail of this article by Matthew Penney)
  • 3, Street of Mysteries (online)
  • Wakusei (online)
  • "Garo" Keisai Sakuhin (online)

Manga in Japanese (incomplete)


About Mizuki

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "The Life and Death of Shigeru Mizuki, 1922-2015 The Comics Journal". Retrieved January 8, 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 Otake, Tomoko (February 6, 2005). "Drawing on experience". The Japan Times . Retrieved March 16, 2014.
  3. Mizuki, Shigeru (2014). Showa 1944-1953: A History of Japan. Showa: A History of Japan. 3. Drawn & Quarterly Publications. p. 284. ISBN   978-1-77046-162-8.
  4. Penney, Matthew (September 21, 2008). "War and Japan: The Non-Fiction Manga of Mizuki Shigeru". The Asia-Pacific Journal. Japan Focus. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
  5. Haunted Travelogue: Hometowns, Ghost Towns, and Memories of War on JSTOR. JSTOR   41510934.
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  11. "The Asahi Prize". The Asahi Shimbun . Retrieved June 26, 2019. For his contribution to the manga comic culture through his wide range of original works featuring specters and portrayals of the horrors of war.
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  13. "Nobelists Suzuki, Negishi get Order of Culture". The Japan Times. October 27, 2010. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
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