The US Navy, always faced with image problems at its Japanese naval bases, has commissioned a manga from two Japanese manga-ka known for their military comics. CVN-73, by Harumi Sato and Hiroshi Kazusa, is apparently a slice-of-life story from the point of view of a Japanese-American sailor named Jack Ohara. It’s his first time on ship duty, so he has comical troubles with walking into kneeknockers, bunking with eight other guys, and so on. The comic presents the Navy as a bunch of ordinary fallible human beings, and is intended to relieve tension with its civilian neighbors. Everyone seems to agree that this is a more accessible format than brochures or articles, although it does raise the spectre of propaganda.
Three hundred paper copies were handed out for free at a signing by the manga-ka. The main distribution channels, however, are the Navy’s manga sites, which went live today and provide free downloads of the manga in English and Japanese.
(Why English? Heh. The Navy’s not stupid. Why waste all that money from US taxpayers on a comic just for Japanese taxpayers? So they also mean to recruit American manga fans, or at least give them more understanding of where their tax money goes.)
I think this was a very good idea. The US military has a pretty long history of passing along information through art and comics for internal training use (mostly vivid safety reminders). So this is an old idea made new.
However, I find it interesting that the manga-ka chose such a retro style of illustration. I wonder if this is their normal style of art?