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|| 38 Dousen ||

1 volume
BL, Historical-Drama, War Stories
Publisher: Zero Comics
ISBN: 4882716941
Mangaka: Ishihara Satoru

Other manga on this site by Satoru Ishihara: Afuresou na Pool, Charisma, Shounen wa Asu o Kurosu, Tokyo Boogie-Woogie, Watashi no Kakurega e Douzo, Yarouze!

This is Ishihara's debut work. It is a collection of short stories based on various wars: WWII, Korean, and Vietnam. I'll try to summarize them briefly, but they all have such depth and pathos that is impossible to convey.

Nagai Knife no Yoru (Night of the Long Knife) is about a German spy for the Allies who has been caught by the SS. He is awaiting his execution. During that night he remembers everything that brought him to this point, including the SS officer whom he has loved since he was a child.

Normandy de Aimashou (We'll meet at Normandy) is a more lighthearted story which doesn't quite seem to fit with all of the other more serious stories in this collection. In it a German unit and a British unit run into each other. They happen to each be made up of men who were on football (soccer) teams before the war began. They had played each other and the British had lost badly. They take some time to reminisce before the battle moves towards them and they are forced to return to their own sides of the line.

Sakura, Sakura is the story of two young men who enlist to be pilots in the Japanese army during WWII. Their friendship and training is paralleled by two young men currently flying in the war. "To live, to continue to live. That is the most difficult thing."

Housei wa Tooi (The Distant Sounds of Battle) is about two boys who meet and become good friends in high school. One gets into a terrible car accident and is crippled. The other is drafted into the Vietnam War. The one who stays behind is forced to deal with the terrible irony of being one of the only 'whole' young men left in his generation as the wounded return. And some never return. The true nature of their relationship was never realized between them until one final letter.

38 Dousen (The 38th Parallel) takes place in Korea shortly after the Korean War. The border is tensely guarded on both sides. One American with a clownish personality is determined to make his North Korean counterpart crack a smile. Every day for weeks/months he pulls faces and does insane things with no results from the stony-faced man. Finally he flips him a Mickey coin. He gets a smile, but something sets off both sides and in the ensuing firefight the other man dies.

What I Thought:
Gah! I can never get enough Ishihara. No matter what she writes, I melt into a puddle of goo. These stories were simply amazing. With the exception of the Normandy story, they all had me gapping in disbelief over their terrible cruelty. Really excellent stories that will make you think.