License request day: Zipang

From the Manga Moveable Feast to a lively but technologically challenged Manga Out Loud podcast, it’s all about World War II this week. Barefoot Gen (Last Gasp) addresses history directly and brutally, and Ayako (Vertical) invents a tale of history’s victims, so one might be forgiven the impulse to rewrite history. That leads us to this week’s license request.

Kaiji Kawaguchi’s Zipang, which yielded an astonishing 43 volumes in Kodansha’s Morning, sends visitors from the present into the past and explores the potential consequences of that kind of junket. In this case, it’s a contemporary Defense Force vessel, the Mirai, which takes a wrong turn on the way to Hawaii and winds up in the Pacific on the eve of the decisive Battle of Midway.

The crew of the Mirai encompasses a number of different viewpoints on the tricky subject of time travel, from those who yearn to rewrite history whenever the opportunity presents itself to those who don’t so much want to divert a butterfly, lest that butterfly be headed someplace really, really important. I admit that I’m not especially interested in either war stories or treatises on the elasticity of time, but this book is supposed to be really, really good.

It won the Kodansha Manga Award in 2002. It was one of the Official Selections at the 2007 Festival International de la Bande Desinée. Four volumes were apparently published as a part of Kodansha’s Bilingual Comics project back in the day, but I can’t find confirmation of that claim, and I can only imagine what they’d cost, if they do exist. You’re in better shape if you’re able to read French, as Kana is publishing the book in that language, and they’re up to the 29th volume at this point.

Highly regarded as Kawaguchi is, his only work to see complete publication in English was Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President (Viz, originally serialized in Shogakukan’s Big Comic), which I think is out of print. Its five volumes don’t seem to be fetching the prices that some out-of-print titles do, but I’m not sure how easy it is to find all five volumes. Casterman’s Sakka imprint published it in French in 11 volumes.

The likelihood of this request being fulfilled seems rather slim. It’s long, it’s manly, and I’d wager it displays a shortage of girls in body stockings doing cartwheels. This is the kind of title that makes publishers ask you why you’re wishing bankruptcy on them when you bring it up. But if I could go back in time and rewrite the history of manga in English, I would divert whatever butterfly I could to improve the chances of books like this.