Monday, September 2, 2019

Manga to inspire your war-gaming

Here is a list of several manga (Japanese comics( that I have read that can inspire your war-gaming. Most are historical fiction, and some are a-historical but full of historical themes. All of these are centered in Europe or fictional depictions of Europe.  In alphabetical order

1.Alexandros : Dream of World Conquest,Yoshikazu Yasuhiko

A more or less straight telling of the story of Alexander the Great, with Lysimachus playing the role of narrator. It is pretty good with a good balance between Alexander's bad and good characteristics. The art is pretty good though battle scenes are not evocative of a wargame. Still a good read.

2.Cesare,Fuyumi Souryo

A well drawn story of the rise of Cesare Borgia, avoiding the ludicrous vulgarity of many of the alternative portrayals. Not replete with battle scenes it does get you into the political events of the period before and during the early Italian Wars.

3.Gunka No Baltzar,Nakajima Michitsune

One of my current favorites. Set in a fictional 1840s-1870s European settings, the series follows the adventures of an innovative young officer caught up in great power politics, a conflict between progressives and conservatives in a buffer state, the machinations of a charismatic anarchist, all in the backdrop of a revolution in military affairs brought about by the introduction of blot action rifles, breech-loading artillery, barbed wire etc. Throw in some pretty good commentary on 19th century capitalism and you get a good political/military thriller. The author has done his homework, and all anachronisms are explained by him. I love the art-work and the full panel battle-scenes. A must read for fans of Bloody Big Battles!

4.Historie and Heureka,  Iwaaki Hitoshi

Another story set within the wider story of Alexander the Great. Historie tells the story of the era through the eyes of Eumenes, Alexander's non-Macedonian Greek secretary, though with many departs from history. Still the story is great, and the attention to historical details pretty good. Think of it as a interpretation. Alexandros is much closer to the historical narrative, but this series is much richer. The character art and art-work is not the best, but the battle scenes are great. His one shot Heruka is about the story of Archimedes, and the battle scene below is from it. Highly recommended for the lovers of ancient warfare.

5.Shoukoku no Altair, Katou Kotono

Another fictional setting with historical overtures. This time it is 16th century Europe (Rumelia here) and we have a the conflict pitting on one side an alliance of states headed by a country that has a republican political system but a Ottoman Turkish culture, Birilik Turkiye (United Turkey), vs. an expansionist Empire, modeled around a unified Holy Roman Empire. We follow the adventures of one of the Pasha's of Turkiye, Altair, as he first tries to avert the coming war, and then becomes entangled in it. The story is really great, and the fictional world has recognizable stand ins for historical cases (Ancient Greece via Phoinice, Wallachia, Venetia, the Italian city states etc). The art is unique but once you get used to it, quite like-able. Again you get full battle-scenes, though not as clearly drawn as in Historie. Definitely recommended for the Renaissance fan.

6. Vinland Saga, Yukimura Makoto

Vinland Saga is a remarkable piece of work. Set in the early 11the century, it follows the adventures of Throffin, a rather angry young man. He gets caught up in the spiral of vengeance, and the politics of the Danish invasions of Britain. A cast of memorable characters makes this a rich story, as does an attention to detail. But what is truly great is how much this story actually sees character growth. I will not spoil it, but it is tremendous and not forced. The art is great, and the battle scenes gory and nicley busy. A must for Saga Dark Ages players.

7. Zipang, Kawaguchi Kaiji

Zipang is set in alternative Second World War. A modern Japanese naval ship travels back to time, and the crew has to navigate between their pride as democratic soldiers, their feelings of responsibility and affinity for Japan, even if not for the Imperial system, and the impact of their presence and the future they expose other to on the thinking of that Japanese of that time. Zipang could easily fall into a lazy nationalistic riff. And undoubtedly it holds some of its punches back when it comes to the character of Japanese imperialism in the Second World War. But generally it tells a nuanced story. It is a great political thriller with many historical characters showing up. The art is great, with a good attention to detail. 

 There you go. Seven manga to get you going. There are more historical manga out there, especially based on the history of Japan and China. But these seven have held my attention over the last 15 years.

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