Soviet Women's War Tales Book Manga Captivates Japanese Readers

Soviet Women’s War Tales Book Manga Captivates Japanese Readers

A manga adaptation of a Nobel laureate’s book about the experiences of women who served in the Soviet Union’s campaign against Germany in World War II is proving a timely hit among Japanese readers looking to better understand the war amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The comic book series is based on and shares its name with the Japanese title of Nobel Literature Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich’s 1985 non-fiction book “The Unwomanly Face of War”. She interviewed over 500 women to tell their stories from the front lines, and the manga tells them carefully to challenge perceptions of war.

Many stories have been told in Japan about the experiences of women on the home front, but the book chronicles in detail, panel by panel, the lives of women on the front lines to give a multifaceted sense of the reality of war.

“The oral histories of women who went to war compiled in the original book are full of unknown facts that shake the Japanese perception of the conflict,” says Kentaro Ogino, who is leading the production of the manga with the title translated into Japanese, “Senso wa Onna no Kao o Shiteinai.

Sales of the manga adaptation of Svetlana Alexievich’s 1985 documentary book “The Unwomanly Face of War” increased with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. | KYODO

Its art is by Keito Koume and Rasenjin Hayami oversees the series. Three volumes have been released since 2020, with 400,000 copies sold so far in print and digital formats, according to its publisher, Kadokawa Corp.

Its healthy sales rose sharply with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the company heard from readers how it shows humanity is essentially unchanged from the days of the Soviet Union’s campaign and war. current situation in Ukraine, and that “it is a book to read now.

The women the manga portrays have a sort of wide-eyed innocence, which makes the cruelty of the battlefield even more pronounced where people’s humanity is lost to the reader.

Among his stories, a group of women assigned to a laundry unit who lose their fingernails due to the soap used, while in another, a sniper recalls: “In wartime, everything is completely black. Blood is the only other color.

Kengo Tomoda, deputy manager of bookstore chain Marunouchi, flagship store Maruzen, hopes it inspires further reading, saying, “Although the art style appeals to Japanese readers, the content depicts the harshness of war. I hope those who read the comic will seek out the original book and delve deeper into the subject.

The comic is also gaining an atypical new readership, Ogino says. “Normally manga spreads through friends or other horizontal connections, but this series has more vertical recommendation paths, like parents to children, or children to parents or grandparents. It offers many opportunities to discuss the war.

Ogino also mentions the interest in the war in Ukraine, saying, “The book was created to give a sense of peacetime warfare when the concept is difficult to grasp. It’s sad that he’s getting attention the way he is now. We cannot change the past, but we can act in the present. I hope the manga brings as many readers as possible to this conclusion.

Svetlana Alexievich is a journalist and writer born in the Soviet Union in Ukraine in 1948 to a Belarusian father and a Ukrainian mother.

Besides her 1985 debut “The Unwomanly Face of War”, her other famous works include “Chernobyl Prayer”, in which she addressed residents, those involved in the cleanup and others to communicate the effects of the nuclear disaster of 1986. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015.

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