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Post-World War II Manga in Japan: Pluralities of Memory and the Construction of a New Peaceful Identity

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In the ashes of post-World War II Japan and among the widespread poverty and devastation, cheap entertainment in the form of manga flourished on an unprecedented level. Manga was used not only to reenact and process war trauma, but also as a tool that helped usher in a new era of pro-American democracy and science. Manga in support of Japan's new image quickly became popularized and embraced by the public, such as Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy, but this was only one lens that captured Japanese memory of WWII. Keiji Nakazawa published the first documentary form of manga in his I Saw It, a firsthand account of the Hiroshima bombing. This became popularized because Japan was a victim of the bombings rather than the aggressor. In addition to examining both of these works, this paper will examine lesser-known works, such as avant-garde manga published in the magazine Garo, that depict harsh realities that are largely removed from Japan's collective memory today about the war. Special attention will be given to lesser-known works of the time period from the 1950s-1970s to illuminate the aspects of the war that have been phased-out of Japan's collective memory. The argument this paper makes is twofold: manga that was popularized and integrated into collective memory was in support of Japan's new identity as a peaceful nation, and manga that depicted Japan in a negative light or wrote about wartime atrocities was largely forgotten and did not make it into Japan?s sanitized version of WWII.

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Post-World War II Manga in Japan: Pluralities of Memory and the Construction of a New Peaceful Identity

In the ashes of post-World War II Japan and among the widespread poverty and devastation, cheap entertainment in the form of manga flourished on an unprecedented level. Manga was used not only to reenact and process war trauma, but also as a tool that helped usher in a new era of pro-American democracy and science. Manga in support of Japan's new image quickly became popularized and embraced by the public, such as Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy, but this was only one lens that captured Japanese memory of WWII. Keiji Nakazawa published the first documentary form of manga in his I Saw It, a firsthand account of the Hiroshima bombing. This became popularized because Japan was a victim of the bombings rather than the aggressor. In addition to examining both of these works, this paper will examine lesser-known works, such as avant-garde manga published in the magazine Garo, that depict harsh realities that are largely removed from Japan's collective memory today about the war. Special attention will be given to lesser-known works of the time period from the 1950s-1970s to illuminate the aspects of the war that have been phased-out of Japan's collective memory. The argument this paper makes is twofold: manga that was popularized and integrated into collective memory was in support of Japan's new identity as a peaceful nation, and manga that depicted Japan in a negative light or wrote about wartime atrocities was largely forgotten and did not make it into Japan?s sanitized version of WWII.