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Sensō to komikku: Kinjirareta senshi (War and comics: Forbidden war history)
by Kako Senda with drawings by Yusuke Aoyagi and Seiichi Ikeuchi
Kodansha, 2012, 327 pages

The author of this book's seven manga stories obviously wants to express to readers the true horrors suffered by Japanese soldiers during the Pacific War. For example, the last story's drawings and words dwell upon acts of cannibalism in Guadalcanal and the Philippines as the Japanese soldiers there are starving to death. The grim and revolting sketches of death, disease, and starvation shown page after page give vivid impressions to readers of war's awfulness. These seven war stories have almost no heroes except in a story when a Japanese unit must retreat through the Thai jungle after an American air attack. The soldiers get leeches on them. When one soldier develops appendicitis, an Army medic operates on him by using whatever is available even though he has no anesthetic. Then he makes a type of syringe out of bamboo in order to give him nutrients from a native root. The other soldiers also get the root nutrients, and two thirds of the unit's over 180 men survive to the war's end and return to Japan.

The term "forbidden war history" in the subtitle seems to indicate that these stories of suffering and affliction are so horrible that they could not be told before. Although many of the stories have a historical base, the last page clearly states that they are fiction. The book was published in 2012, but the stories seem to have been written several decades earlier. The last story has the month of July 1970 with the signature of the manga artist Seiichi Ikeuchi, and another story refers to the Vietnam War as happening now. The book has two of its seven stories about Japan's Special Attack Forces. Over time the Japanese people generally have come to consider those airmen who died in special (suicide) attacks to be heroes who sacrificed their lives for Japan and to protect their loved ones. Such thinking does not get exhibited in the book's two stories on Special Attack Forces. Instead, one story depicts the desire of the pilots to not carry out their mission of death, and another story portrays the tragic loss of life with little effect on the overall course of the war.

The first story, entitled "Jibaku: Aru tokkōtaiin no shi" (Suicide crash: Death of one Special Attack Corps member) introduces Yamamoto and Murakami, two Army pilots who arrive at Chiran Air Base in late March 1945 just before the American invasion on April 1. Their thinking and actions as depicted in the manga story have almost no connection with historical reality, although the story's locations and time frame are factual. Yamamoto talks with Murakami about Kuroshima, which he describes as an uninhabited island south of Chiran. When Yamamoto makes a sortie from Chiran in a special (suicide) attack squadron, it appears that he made a crash landing near Kuroshima. At the base while Murakami is sleeping, the spirit of Yamamoto beckons him to come to Kuroshima so they can live together safely until the war's end. Later when Murakami takes off from Chiran in a special attack squadron, his plane engine starts smoking, so he turns back to base. When he passes the island of Kuroshima, he starts sweating and is greatly tempted to go there rather than back to base, but he decides finally to return to Chiran. During the actual Battle of Okinawa, six airmen in the Special Attack Corps were stranded on Kuroshima after their planes made forced landings in the sea near the small island. After they made it to land, they were assisted by the island's few inhabitants. There is no evidence that the pilots of any of the planes that made forced landings near Kuroshima did so on purpose to escape responsibility for their mission, but rather their plane engines developed problems after takeoff from air bases in southern Kyushu.

Three days after Murakami returned to Chiran, he takes off again toward Okinawa as part of another special attack squadron. However, he decides to return to base since his plane's landing gear will not go up. When maintenance workers report that nothing wrong was found with the landing gear, an officer calls him a coward who is afraid of death, physically beats him, and tells him that he has brought shame on the Army's Air Special Attack Corps. The 29-year-old Murakami in his distress decides to steal a plane, flies it to his hometown of Hayato Town in Kagoshima Prefecture north of Chiran, and crashes it into his family's grave site. Historical records do not indicate any such suicide crash made by an Army Special Attack Corps pilot.

The second story about special attacks in this manga book, "Gigō Sakusen: Kaerazaru kūteitai" (Gigō Operations: Airborne unit that never returned), tells about the Giretsu Airborne Unit's attack on Yomitan (Yontan) and Kadena airfields at Okinawa on May 24, 1945. The operations include 12 Army Type 96 Heavy Attack Bombers with ten paratroopers in each plane. After taking off from Kengun Airfield in Kumamoto Prefecture, the unit's planes are detected by enemy radar over Amami Oshima, and American Hellcat fighters come to greet them. Only six planes remain when the unit gets to Okinawa. When the planes reach the airfields, the men with parachutes jump from the planes and throw grenades at parked enemy planes on the ground. The next day there are 69 Giretsu Unit corpses found at the airfields. The last page of the story mentions that the airfields are now used to send B-29s to Vietnam as part of the war there, so this indicates it was written in the late 1960s or early 1970s.


After attack by Giretsu Airborne Unit,
69 corpses found next day at airfield

Senda reveals the gruesomeness of war and demonstrates his strong anti-war stance through these emotional stories of extreme human suffering. He communicates historical facts such as a couple of stories where he mentions that over 20,000 Japanese soldiers died of starvation and malaria on Guadalcanal when reinforcements and supplies could not get through to provide support. However, generally the stories are intended to trigger emotional reactions from readers by providing ghastly details of cannibalism, men who eat various abhorrent items (e.g., insects, mice, snakes, hermit crabs) to survive, and one man who cuts the flesh off his own hip to eat it. The author depicts the nightmarish hell experienced by Japanese soldiers during the Pacific War. Even noble actions are tinged with misery such as the grim story when a squadron commander decides that the most proper action to take for his men who are dying of malaria and fever as they traverse New Guinea is to shoot them in order to put them out of their misery.