Onward Towards our Noble Deaths

Newsarama    |    Newsarama    |    May 2, 2011

This book is excellent. It is, according to the interview with its author Shigeru Mizuki printed within, the first of his books to be published in English – I can only hope we’re soon flooded by Mizuki translations. I’d like to drown in them.

A veteran of World War II, Mizuki based Onward Towards Our Nobles Deaths on his experiences in the Pacific theatre. Now, there are two types of war stories: tales of noble men (and women) accomplishing amazing things in horrifying circumstances, and sagas showing the ugly futility of it all. I enjoy the former, but my peacenik sensibilities are far more in line with the latter. And Mizuki appeals to my side of the equation very strongly.

With upwards of thirty named characters, Onward doesn’t spend much time getting to know the cast outside of their military roles, but Mizuki spends plenty of time sympathizing with each man within the extreme expectations placed upon them by the military. The ongoing theme of the book deals with the men being ordered into a pointless suicide charge, contrasted against the high-level brass who fret they’ll be made fools when they report the squad killed only to find out that not everyone participated in the charge.

Mizuki threads a little comedy, absurdism, theatrical speeches about the honor of death, through Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, preventing it from becoming a moribund book. It’s still quite dark, and tragic, but mostly, it’s a reminder that for every hero found in war, there are thousands of senseless losses.

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