‘Ashita no Joe’ manga creator’s new work tells tales of war and career-endangering injuries

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This July 2020 archive photo shows Tetsuya Chiba. In the background is an illustration of Joe Yabuki, the main character of his manga series “Ashita no Joe”. (Mainichi / Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO – It has been 65 years since the debut of manga artist “Ashita no Joe” (“Tomorrow’s Joe”) Chiba Tetsuya, and her latest work was recently published – an autobiographical collection of short comics illustrating the progress of the world. Post-war Japan from the perspective of an ordinary person.

In his new collection “Tetsuya Chiba Short Stories”, published by Shogakukan Inc., he also reveals the truth behind an “incident” which put his life as a mangaka in danger. The Mainichi Shimbun interviewed him online and heard his thoughts on the job.

Chiba, who has produced many masterpieces, is now 82 years old. One memory he will never forget is his experience repatriating from the ancient region of Manchuria (now northeast China) immediately after the end of World War II. One of the short stories in the new book, “Ieji 1945-2003”, “The Road to Home 1945-2003” in Japanese, describes the experience in detail.

Due to her father’s work, Chiba’s family moved to Mukden (now Shenyang, China) in the ancient region of Manchuria. On August 15, 1945, the day the Second World War ended, the local Chinese attacked the Japanese, for example by smashing the windows of their houses.



The cover of the new comic “Tetsuya Chiba Short Stories” is visible. (Photo courtesy of Shogakukan Inc.)

The Japanese tried to return to their homeland, but many lost their lives to raids and disease. There were also families who committed suicide with hand grenades, people who begged the defeated soldiers to shoot them and adults who strangled their now sick children.

Although not described in the book, a nail in one of Chiba’s leather shoes got stuck in his foot and prevented him from walking. This meant that the family had separated from the group. However, they had a chance encounter with a Chinese who was a colleague of his father’s, and the man has long housed the six members of Chiba’s family.

“In my father’s business, there were people from China, Mongolia, and Korea, and they were good friends. For example, they ate together in the company accommodation. He didn’t feel like their leader because he was Japanese, but instead he socialized with them as colleagues, ”recalls Chiba. In short, the personality of his father probably saved the family.

Some Japanese who were returning with the family also once told Chiba’s parents, “It is impossible to bring back four children, why don’t you sell one (to the Chinese)?”

“But I guess my mother must have been strong, because she was determined to protect her four children. After about a year, we were all able to come home,” the mangaka said.

Chiba made his debut as a manga artist at 17. Surprisingly, there weren’t any comics in the house when he was growing up. “I think my mom thought if we had manga we wouldn’t study. She got mad at us just for saying the ‘ma’ in manga,” he said. It meant he didn’t even know that “the manga artist” was a real job. He grew up believing that comics in magazines and newspapers were “drawn by several employees of publishing houses and newspapers.”

When he was in high school, he saw an ad in a newspaper recruiting a children’s cartoonist and visited a publishing house in Kanda, Tokyo. “The president was a very nice man. I brought work that looked like a doodle, but he taught me to use paper and ink by saying, ‘This is how you draw.’ “, he recalls.



This image shows a scene from the short story “Ieji 1945-2003” in the comic book “Tetsuya Chiba Short Stories”. It represents Japanese returning from ancient Manchuria (now northeast China). (Copyright Tetuya Chiba / Shogakukan Inc.)

Thanks to the advice of this president, “Fukushu no Semushi Otoko” of Chiba (“the Hunchback Avenger”), became his first job. He received a manuscript fee of 12,351 yen (approximately $ 110). It was the equivalent of the starting salary of a college graduate at the time.

In the two-part short story of the new book “Tomogaki”, which literally means “friends”, Chiba tells the whole story of a serious accident he had about 60 years ago.

Just before finishing a manuscript, Chiba accidentally walked head first into a studio window. A shard of glass pierced her mouth and tore the tendon of her right wrist. He was in no condition to sit and draw at his desk, and Chiba’s editor was so worried that he visited Tokiwa-so, a building where famous designers lived at the time, and saw asked mangakas including Shotaro Ishinomori and Fujio Akatsuka to help him finish the work.

Looking back, Chiba said, “I am grateful that they helped me out even though everyone was exhausted (due to their own work). I have remained friends with the people who have helped me with this. moment. I gained a lot from my injury. “After looking at the finished manuscript, he said,” I could say ‘this is Ishinomori’s line’ and ‘this is Akatsuka’s line’, but I don’t think the readers noticed it. ”

For many years, the cause of the accident was blamed on Chiba “reeling from lack of sleep and rushing for the window.” But the truth is different.

When Chiba’s editor came to ask for the manuscript, the two started having fun, and Chiba played a popular Japanese prank on his editor in which he planted his foot in their crotch jokingly. But things got too difficult, and suddenly Chiba rushed into the glass.



This image shows a scene from the second part of the short story “Tomogaki” in the comic strip “Tetsuya Chiba Short Stories”. (Copyright Tetuya Chiba / Shogakukan Inc.)

“As my editor was still working in the field, I kept it a secret for a long time. Now that they are retired, I can finally reveal the truth,” he said. Chiba was also apparently embarrassed that the incident had happened because they were doing silly things.

The manga artist conveyed the tragedy of war not only in art, but also through his lectures. “There was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the air strikes of the B-29s. All Japanese have been through hell. There is a sense of crisis now that people who have been through these things die year after year. Why the If we don’t know what really happened, it may happen again. I’m studying history again too, “he said.

Now 82, Chiba’s creative spirit has not wavered. He continues to write “Hinemosu-Notari Nikki”, which literally means all day chill out diary, in Shogakukan’s manga magazine “Big Comic”.

Chiba said, “I always wonder, ‘Even though I think it’s interesting, will readers feel the same? “I still wonder, but if readers find it stimulating, I would love to keep drawing.”

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Tetsuya Chiba

Born in Tokyo in 1939, Chiba has created numerous manga series, including many serializations in girls’ magazines. He has been president of the Japan Cartoonists Association since 2018 and president of Bunsei University of Arts since 2019.

(Japanese original by Hisanori Yashiro, Department of Cultural News)

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