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Japanese Cartoons from Siberia and Beyond October 16, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary , trackback

***Dedicated to Ricardo R and the Kiuchi family***

Beach’s best discovery on the internet this month (courtesy of Ricardo R) has been a fabulous series of Japanese cartoons, describing the ordeal of an air corps man, Kiuchi Nobuo, one of hundreds of thousands Japanese soldiers, dragged off by the Soviets at the end of the war. Ricardo sent the link in to go with the recent post on Cartooning the Great War. But the material is so splendid that Beach thought that he would give an entire post over to KN’s adventures in 1945+, once the fighting had stopped and the world was slowly returning to normality: not that the Soviet Union was ever going to be normal… Beach needs though, here at the beginning, to apologise. He has looked right through the site that KN’s son has created for his father’s art work but he has failed to find an email: he was not then able to ask permission to reproduced the illustrations above and below. He has, consequently, limited himself to two with apologies to the Kiuchi family, trusting that the traffic sent their way will make up for this indiscretion.

The story of Kiuchi Nobuo is a simple, even a tedious and depressing one: dragged into the Soviet Union, forced to work for Stalin, some comrades die, finally KN gets back to Japan where he falls into the loving arms of his father and brother… However, this collection has two wonderful things going for it. First, the pictures are well matched to their story: they have a clarity and humanity – the colours are outstanding – that suit reconstruction after a war much better than destruction during fighting.

The second thing the story has going for it are the English descriptions that go with the pictures. Some have the brevity and intensity of a haiku. Consider, for the illustration that heads this post, ‘Full moon is far too beauteous for a soldier of conquered country’. But more important is the absence of syntax and the frequent confusion of verbs and nouns. It is rarely a good idea to publicise your website using faulty English, but the Notes of Japanese Soldier in USSR [sic], presumably put together with the help of Babel Fish or Google Translate, may prove a rare exception.

‘Wherever you are you can meet envy at your plate. Japanese dishes look larger and germans looked carving knives at them.’

‘Children of any country are nice and inartificial. There skates little rascal on the way to school- “Zdras’te japon” (Good day, Japan!) sliding by. Being asked about war he said: “Nah, we aint’ gonna fight”. Sweet. Children speak simple Russian.’

‘Every reunion means parting. I remember a girl, who felt a great tug at parting. Poor Natasha, who whispered bitter farewell, what do you do now, what happened to you?’

‘Unlike that train that brought us to Russia this train had doors open wide. In this point of world, in Siberia, the sun doesn’t go down completely and sky is clear even in the night. They call it white nights. Along Siberian railroad we roll and roll far-far to the east, to the east…’

Beach was so impressed by the pictures that he considered trying to get in touch with the webmaster and offering to improve the English. Then he decided that he could do no greater damage… Other war or post war cartoons: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com