Social Discontent Highlighted in Manga Works of Tsuge Tadao and Katsumata Susumu
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
This is not your American-style funnies; that’s for sure.
The Honolulu Museum of Art exhibition, “The Disasters of Peace: Social Discontent in the Manga of Tsuge Tadao and Katsumata Susumu,” features the manga (Japanese comic book) art of two socially conscious Japanese creators, Tsuge Tadao and Katsumoto Susumu. Their works appeared in the manga periodical Garo, which was published from 1964 to 2002. In Garo’s glory years, the 1960s and 1970s, it hit a circulation of more than 80,000 readers a month. Garo was noted for its brutally realistic and oftentimes depressing comics that focused on social and psychological issues besetting post-World War II Japan.
The tone for the exhibit is set by its title, which is a play on the “Disasters of War” etchings by Francisco Goya. The etchings depicted the horrific atrocities committed by Napoleon’s army when it invaded Spain. This included graphic scenes of massacres, starvations, beheadings, castrations and torture. The tone is made even more explicit when you enter from either one of the show’s two entrances. There are copies of Goya’s etchings right next to the exhibition title.
So, it’s not going to be a happy series of anime manga prints with Pi-
kachu or other such characters waltzing about. It is, in fact, downright depressing.
However, that is not to say that one should avoid the show. For anyone interested in Japanese culture or history, or even anyone interested in comic book and manga art, this is a show to shake your sensibilities and wake you up to the underside of the much-hyped Ja-
panese postwar economic success story.
From the immediate aftermath of World War II to the 1960s and 1970s, Japan rose from incredible devastation to widespread prosperity, or so the story goes. But its beginnings were fraught with poverty, economic dislocation and individual psychological trauma. Even as Japan rose to become a world manufacturing powerhouse, it sacrificed much. Perhaps too much.
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