Kouno, Fumiyo. Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms. Trans. Naoko Amemiya and Andy Nakatani. San Francisco: Last Gasp, 2006. Summary
: Minami, a young woman living in Hiroshima in the aftermath of the atomic bomb, has trouble responding to life-affirming love...and dies anyway. Some years later, Nanami Ishikawa, the daughter of Minami's estranged brother, shadows her father in an excursion into a past that still haunts him. Comments
: An overly sentimental, nostalgic fantasy about two generations of a family of "ordinary" Japanese people whose lives were touched by the tragedy of nuclear war. In the tradition of certain works by Miyazaki Hayao and Tezuka Osamu, this manga pretends an apolitical, humane perspective on events of global import...when in fact the point of view is intensely partisan and potentially incendiary in an international context. Kouno's abbreviated tale is just the latest in a wealth of domestic pop culture and literary pretensions portraying Japan as exclusive victim during World War II. As everyone who is familiar with East Asia knows, this myopic, selfish preoccupation with its own wartime suffering continues to distort and aggravate Japan's relationships with other countries in the region. These sorts of narcissistic meditations on domestic suffering on the part of "ordinary" citizens allow the Japanese to forget that they started the war--and moreover forget unprovoked attacks of heinous brutality and magnitude conducted by ordinary citizens
against other countries (such as the Nanjing massacre). Anyway, it's not a bad little manga per se (although I noticed a series of embarrassing and confusing editorial bloopers), but it's impossible to decontextualize from a lot of big, bad stuff in the world at large. Notes
: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by Futabasha in 2003 Rating
- Only if you're good at taking your manga entertainment at face value. Otherwise, it's liable to provoke a strong--and, depending upon your politics, potentially adverse--reaction.