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Japanese World War II Comics for Peace? by Andy deLuna

The Flip-Side of WWII: Comics as a Means for Reconciliation in Allied Occupied Japan

For many comic enthusiasts, myself included, World War II comics have proven to be some of the most iconic treasures one can ever behold. In a time of great uncertainty, the Greatest Generation stood up to the Nazi regime, and comics reminded them that the soul of America, personified in its comic book heroes, fought alongside them. With Superman, Captain America, and the Black Terror facing down Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo,  Axis forces didn’t have a chance!

 

However, as the Allies celebrated the victory and most of the world breathed a sigh of relief, at least one group must have faced great fear and uncertainty: the population of Allied Occupied Japan. Many Japanese civilians had lost their loved ones and the providers for their families in the war. Many also worried how they might be treated under Allied Occupation. Would they not worry about their own lives and well-being? More importantly, would they not fear for the lives of their children?

 

With this background in mind, a little-known comic makes a brief appearance, an appeal to the Allied Occupation Forces: “Fuku-Chan: Japanese Children in Comics” by Ryuichi Yokoyama (1946), edited by Takako Shibusawa and published by the Takara Club.

The address from the first page from editor Takako Shibusawa tells all we need to know.

“To the Allied Occupation Forces… To your eyes the average Japanese children might not be anything more than a mere nuisance along the roadside… [but] They too have the many lovely qualities common to the children everywhere… Fuku-Chan represents the average children of Japan, being born among the lower class of people holding the greatest majority of the population. If Fuku-chan and the like could only grow up amidst the loving kindness of the world, and be given the opportunity to receive proper education, the nation which he and his friends will construct would just inevitably be one beloved by the whole world.”

This comic makes the plea: Please think about our children. They’re no different from your own.

 

The comic is a collection of Fuku-Chan comic strips, most just 4 panels long, that show Fuku-Chan going about his daily mis-adventures with his friends and family. The comic is designed for Western audiences, with English text, with small Japanese translations on the side of each panel. In stark contrast with traditional Japanese comics and literature, the panels are printed from left to right, and pages are presented front to back.

 

The comic has no price and there is no 2nd issue. As mentioned previously, the publisher is the Takara Club (Ladies Club). Editor Takako Shibusawa demonstrates outstanding English skills in being able to write such a poignant and beautiful address, as well as achieve a faithful translation of the comic strips from Japanese to English.

 

Here the “facts” end and my own speculations begin.

 

First, this may be the first comic book in Japan  published in English specifically for an English-speaking audience. Even the panels are rearranged to match the Western style of reading. For this reason, I think it would be of great interest to collectors of comics, manga, and anime in the US.

Second, I think this comic appeals to the universal hope that our children’s lives and opportunities will be better than our own. Even though Japan had just lost the war and was occupied, the address to Allied Occupied Forces makes the heart-wrenching plea that mercy and not vengeance will be given to the future generations.

Finally, I think there is a great interest in WWII comics with additional historical value, e.g. Okajima pedigree, and I believe this comic would be of great interest to this group of collectors as well.

Of note, this comic may be quite rare. I have had personal difficulties locating copies, which I have promptly purchased as soon as I knew of them. However, I would also be very happy to be corrected on this speculation as well. I believe that this comic should make it to the home of every collector that wants one, because it has a universal appeal that we all share as humans.

On a related note, given its lack of cover price, I suspect this comic was a giveaway. Consequently, I suspect this comic will be even more difficult to find in high grade. I will make an appeal, however, to future owners of this comic, to NOT have it encapsulated. I feel that the most important part of this comic is truly its contents, not the cover. Encasing the contents in plastic seems like a sin of some sort.

Fortunately for me and the readers of this article, I think the vast majority of US collectors do not know about this comic. Consequently, it’s one of the few comics that, if found, may not be very expensive.

 

And of course, just a few of the many questions that remain…

Were any of these comic strips created specifically for this comic by Ryuichi Yokoyama, the creator of Fuku-Chan?

Alternatively, were these actually reprints that were rearranged by the editor, Takako Shibusawa and the publisher, the Takara Ladies Club?

Speaking of which, who is Takako Shibusawa? What happened to the Takara Ladies Club?

Are there more comics like Fuku-Chan, or did Fuku-Chan stand alone in his plea for peace and reconciliation?

In the comic book world, we all know about the US comics that helped motivate the US to win WWII. Now we have a Japanese comic that appealed to the US for peace and reconciliation.  Thank you to Ryuichi Yokoyama, Takako Shibusawa, and the Takara Ladies Club for Fuku-Chan!

Andy de Luna’s foray into the world of comics began at age five, when a single Adventure Comics digest from a supermarket stand captured his imagination. Over the past forty years, this early fascination blossomed into a lifelong passion, leading him to explore and collect a vast array of comic book worlds and stories. Today, he is a respected figure in the comic collecting community, known for his extensive knowledge and enduring enthusiasm for the medium.

©2023 Andres de Luna ARR for text

Images © Their respective copyright owners

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