A Japanese publishing firm has re-edited a translation of Adolf Hitler’s ideological pamphlet, first published in 1924. But this edition has a new twist: it’s a manga-style comic. It’s made quite a splash in Japanese bookshops.
"Mein Kampf" is the latest publication in a collection of historical comic books called "Manga de Dokuha" ("Learn with mangas") edited by the publishing firm East Press. The collection already includes manga versions of Karl Marx’s "Capital" and Tolstoy’s "War and Peace". These revamped classics usually sell around 35,000 copies nationwide.
The publishing rights for “Mein Kampf” have until now been held by the German region of Bavaria, which decided which firms were authorised to publish new editions of the text. But the copyright will expire in 2015 and the pamphlet will enter the public domain.
East Press explains that the manga is a "tool to study Hitler’s personality", to "understand the thoughts that generated such a tragedy".
“Unlike the Germans, the Japanese don’t have much hindsight on World War II”
Thomas Bertrand is a freelance writer who lives in Kyoto, Japan.
I’m not surprised this book is a hit. War-lovers, ignorant people or fans of Japanese militarism are clearly attracted by this kind of publication, even if they don’t necessarily believe in the Nazi ideology. If there’s only 45,000 people out there reading it, that’s still reasonable. I also heard about revisionist mangas, which glorify Japan’s military past. I think they’re actually much more popular than the Mein Kampf one.
The West tends to criticise mangas every time they touch on a sensitive topic. But it’s important to realise that mangas are just a prop that supports all sorts of themes. There are mangas for children, for adults, for teenagers, for sick people, for paedophiles. The original Mein Kampf doesn’t carry a special "This book contains dangerous content" mention; why should the manga need one?
On the other hand, it is true that Japan hasn’t developed as much hindsight and critical analysis of World War II as Germany has. Nazism isn’t really studied here. Japanese schoolbooks don’t cover that period of history as much as European textbooks do.
I live near a little printing shop owned by a old man who works with his son. He uses an old printing press from the 1930s. It’s a German machine, decorated with III Reich symbols. The old man is a huge fan of that period, and he doesn’t hide it. His little motorcycle has an SS logo on it and he wears a German army helmet. He doesn’t see any problem with that and nobody seems offended by his shop."
The manga's cover