Although he is best known for his fictional works inspired by Japan’s lores of supernatural beings (called youkai), I have always thought that his magnum opus were his autobiographical accounts in manga format, namely:
- Nononba [のんのんばあとオレ] (1977)
- Showa: A History of Japan [コミック昭和史] (1998-1989)
- Boku no Isshou wa Gegege no Rakuen da [ボクの一生はゲゲゲの楽園だ] (2001)
These are memoirs of his life – drawn from memories happy and tragic from a childhood during the Great Depression surrounded by the mysteries of the Tottori countryside, early adulthood as a lowly foot soldier in a brutal war which left him with several near-death experiences and an amputated arm, his subsequent years as a struggling manga artist, and finally his prosperous and mature years in which he was free to explore the supernatural side of the world which had always fascinated him. With nostalgia and poignancy, he depicted his lively, lovable and oddball family and friends. Without illusions, he also painted the terrible events in history that claimed the best of his youthful years. Interestingly, he also spoke with frankness about his encounters with inexplicable mysteries.
When he was a child, he had a nanny who was affectionately known as ‘Nononba’. Nononba’s late husband was a local priest who performed forms of magic, exorcism and spiritual channeling. Nononba herself was a rich deposit of local folklore and legends. Naturally, she passed on her knowledge of otherworldly things to the young Mizuki.
Mizuki recalls an instance when he was suddenly seized by a great pain and hunger when he was having a stroll in the countryside. After taking some rice grains on the roadside, he was back to normal after a mere 30 minutes, as though nothing had taken place. In local lores, this was known as being possessed by hidaru-kami [ひだる神] – hungry demons who preyed on passers-by but could be exorcised by ingesting food.
Another time, he went into the countryside in search of butterfly specimens, and accidentally sighted the ‘little people,’ who were equally shocked to see a human being. They disappeared in no time, leaving behind a shaken young Mizuki.
Then for many years, army life and ongoing poverty claimed his time and energies, until he finally reached commercial success as a manga artist. In his mature years, he came to have both time and money to travel to many exotic places known for their age-old mysteries, among them the Mayan relics in Mexico.
There he had a trip by taking the mushrooms given to him by a local wise woman. This trip enabled him to see many strange visions, which left him even more puzzled than before about the other side.
In Australia, he learned that the aboriginal people saw drawing pictures as a way of communicating with unseen spirits. Perhaps that is exactly what he had been doing all his life.