Okinawa (Hardcover)

Okinawa By Susumu Higa, Jocelyne Allen (Translated by), Andrew Woodrow-Butcher (Editor), Christopher Butcher (Editor) Cover Image

Okinawa (Hardcover)


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This heartbreaking manga, by an award-winning cartoonist, examines the history of Okinawa and its military occupation. An essential manga classic presented in English for the first time.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

A peaceful, independent kingdom until its annexation by the Japanese Empire in the 19th century, Okinawa was the site of the most destructive land battle of the Pacific War. Today, the archipelago is Japan’s poorest prefecture and unwilling host to 75% of all US military bases in Japan.

Okinawa brings together two collections of intertwined stories by the island’s pre-eminent mangaka, Susumu Higa, which reflect on this difficult history and pull together traditional Okinawan spirituality, the modern-day realities of the continuing US military occupation, and the senselessness of the War. The first collection, Sword of Sand, is a ground level, unflinching look at the horrors of the Battle of Okinawa. Higa then turns an observant eye to the present-day in Mabui (Okinawan for “spirit”), where he explores how the American occupation has irreversibly changed the island prefecture, through the lens of the archipelago’s indigenous spirituality and the central character of the yuta priestess.

Okinawa is a harrowing document of war, but it is also a work which addresses the dreams and the needs of a people as they go forward into an uncertain future, making it essential reading for anyone interested in World War II and its effects on our lives today, as well as anyone with an interest in the people and culture of this fascinating, complicated place. Though the work is thoroughly about one specific locale, the complex relations between Okinawan and Japanese identities and loyalties, between place and history, and between humanity and violence speak beyond borders and across shores.

Please note: This book is a traditional work of manga and reads back to front and right to left.

Winner of the Japan Media Arts Grand Prize in the manga division and nominated for the Tezuka Award and the FIBD Fauve d’Or Prize for Best Album, Susumu Higa was born in Okinawa in 1953, and continues to make it his home to this day.

Jocelyne Allen is a Japanese translator and interpreter who splits her time between Toronto and Tokyo.

Andrew Woodrow-Butcher is an editor, critic, and consultant with a career specializing in comics in school and public libraries. Andrew manages graphic collection development services for renowned comics shop The Beguiling Books & Art, where he also built their spin-off shop Little Island Comics, at the time the world’s only comic book shop just for kids. His work for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival spanned a decade and focused on programming for kids and educators, and on building international comics partnerships. He has written about a wide variety of books for venues like Xtra!, Broken Pencil, Quill & Quire, CBC Kids, and Publishers Weekly.

Christopher Butcher is a writer, editor, and podcaster who has been working in and around comics, graphic novels, and manga for over quite a while now. He is currently co-hosting the manga podcast Mangasplaining, and publisher of the Mangasplaining Extra publishing line. He has worked with publishers including VIZ Media, UDON Entertainment, Kodansha, and Fantagraphics.
Product Details ISBN: 9781683961185
ISBN-10: 1683961188
Publisher: Fantagraphics
Publication Date: August 22nd, 2023
Pages: 544
Language: English
There's a lot of potential for this to be taught in high school and university classes as an examination of war, occupation, and tradition. Higa's characters are supremely well-developed for such short vignettes, and their motivations are well-defined for their actions. Higa's monumental work sits firmly among such other notable ruminations on history as Keiji Nakazawa's Barefoot Gen, Shigeru Mizuki's Showa, Art Spiegelman's Maus, and Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis.

— Booklist, Starred Review