He was born March 8 1922 and passed away November 30 2015 at age 93.
Mizuki-san was a manga-ka and historian, most famous for his Kitaro manga, Which he started publishing in 1960.
I could give a textbook account of him and everything he’s done and his influence on Japanese culture and revival of the interest in Yokai in Japan as a whole, but I just want to point out some very small things about him;
The first is, unlike a lot of Manga-ka of the 60s, Mizuki did not learn to draw Manga from Tezuka’s school…. or any school at all. He was one of those weird ‘natural talents’ you always hear about but actual examples of are hard to find. Mizuki was one such person. He just inately knew how to draw. And as a result, despite influences from other manga at the time, his characters generally don’t resemble what we think of when we think of ‘60s manga’
Not to mention that, despite his preferred art style, he was diverse in what he could do with how he drew, easily going from his more cartoony drawings to a more realistic style, sometimes doing both at once.
Mizuki-san was drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII, and during the war contracted malaria and lost his left arm during an explosion.
He was left-handed.
However, despite disease, losing his drawing-hand, being the only surviving member of his unit and literally being ‘ordered to die’ by his superiors, Mizuki survived the war and taught himself to draw with his right hand and just kept going.
His manga that he’s famous for were all done after he lost his dominant arm.
All his manga have a personal autobiographical touch to them. Whether it’s “Showa” which is literally a historical account of what Japan was like from the 20s to the 80s, to Kitaro, which is about the stories of Yokai told to him by his elderly neighbour, all his manga have something personal about them.
He is a cultural icon in Japan for keeping traditional ghost stories and creatures alive in the modern consciousness, as well as his contributions to Japanese history regarding WWII. He traveled the world, gathering ghost stories and traditional folklore from other countries as well.
He’s been awarded a string of awards I’m not even gonna attempt to list, although personally I feel most noteworthy is the ‘Personal of Cultural Merit’ award in 2010 and the ‘Order of the Rising Sun’ Award.
But again, that is his importance historically and culturally, whereas I find his personal struggles regarding the loss of his arm and just relearning how to draw something more personal to know as an artist.
With this in mind, He is also noteworthy for never really following the idea that most manga-ka of the time had that ‘you only need 3 hours sleep a night’ or to keep working without rest. Mizuki never really followed that belief. He got a full night’s sleep every night, and fully believed in actually LIVING life, and not just spending your entire life behind a desk, drawing.
He later joked offhandedly that at age 90 he was still around whereas everyone else of the same time period making manga had long since died.
I feel this is incredibly important to remember. Tezuka believed in working non-stop and barely sleeping. And he is undoubtedly the most important contributor to what we think of as manga today. But Mizuki-san, who is just as important to Japanese culture, believed in sleeping well, living life, and being happy. And he was ALSO important, created amazing work, and is recognized as a master.
You don’t need to work yourself to death to be an artist.
Mizuki-san had a list of ‘7 rules to happiness’, which I honestly feel is worth remembering. It may be things we’ve heard before, but this coming from a man, who went through active war, lost limbs, nearly died,retaught himself how to draw because he wasn’t able to give up, made an impact on Japanese culture, believed in living life, refused to overwork himself and lived to the age of 93, it feels like you can trust his advice. because he’s someone who’s seen some serious shit, but he was happy, and he’d learned how to be happy. And from what I’ve heard remained happy and content until he died of natural causes.
‘Don’t try to win – Success is not the measure of life. Just do what you enjoy. Be happy.’
‘Follow your curiosity – Do what you feel drawn towards, almost like a compulsion. What you would do without money or reward.’
‘Pursue what you enjoy – Don’t worry if other people find you
foolish. Look at all the people in the world who are eccentric—they are
so happy! Follow your own path.’
‘Believe in the power of love – Doing what you love, being with people you love. Nothing is more important.’
‘Talent and income are unrelated – Money is not the reward of talent
and hard work. Self-satisfaction is the goal. Your efforts are worthy if
you do what you love.’
‘Take it easy – Of course you need to work, but don’t overdo it! Without rest, you’ll burn yourself out.’
‘Believe in what you cannot see – The things that mean the most are things you cannot hold in your hand.’
RIP Shigeru Mizuki, and thanks for everything. It’s hard to think of anyone that has done so much for folklore, let alone in such an entertaining way that managed to capture the imagination of children and adults alike.
I wish I was more artistically inclined so that could draw up a tribute, but his work speaks for itself.