SINGAPORE, Oct 30 ― For Yoshio Nabeta, the Japanese author of the first manga-style biographical comic book on Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, it was the similarities between Japanese and Singapore culture which made the publication easy to work on.
The non-fiction and manga writer told TODAY: “This is a fictional comic based on historic events, so I have to imagine what Mr Lee Kuan Yew has said, how the other characters responded - all this have to come from me since I am the author. If this book had been about someone from a culture I have never known and is very far from my own culture, I would have found it very difficult. However, Singaporeans have a lot of similarities with Japanese people so it was easy for me to imagine how Mr Lee would have felt.”
The writer, 53, went pointed out one big similarity — Singaporeans are very serious people just like Japanese.
The author, along with illustrator Yoshihide Fujiwara, was in Singapore last week for the launch of the comic book The LKY Story – Lee Kuan Yew: The Man Who Shaped a Nation by publishing company Shogakukan Asia. A fictional retelling based on a historical timeline, the English publication chronicles the life and story of Mr Lee’s life leading up to Singapore’s independence in 248 painstakingly hand drawn pages.
While using this literary medium to portray a respected world leader maybe new to us here, in Japan, “it is quite normal to do this kind of manga to portray historical events or the biographies of famous people,” shared Fujiwara.
Prior to this book, Fujiwara worked on illustrations for other short manga biographies such as Akashi Yasushi, senior Japanese diplomat and United Nations administrator. However, The LKY Story was the first time he was attempting a long form manga novel with eight episodes instead of just one.
“I spent two weeks on each episode, culminating in a total of four months. It was very challenging,” admitted the 50 year old award-winning artist who started to dabble in illustrations following his introduction to calligraphy as a young student.
Nabeta revealed his two year process was spent doing quite a bit of research and looking at pictures to find out more about Mr Lee. “When I received the offer in summer 2014, the subsequent first year I started reading biographies on Mr Lee Kuan Yew published in Japanese including The Singapore Story. I also read some books about the history of Singapore, looked online for English resources on Mr Lee and visited Singapore last year August to learn more about the country.”
The decision to take on Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew was one made by the publishing company, which subsequently approached the writer and illustrator in 2014 to be involved in the project.
“The manga format is often used because even youth and children find it appealing to read and there is general understanding that manga format works on a global scale to attract many potential readers,” shared Bunsho Kajiya, managing director of Shogakukan Asia.
“The more I learned about the history of Singapore and people’s sentiments in Singapore, the more I wanted to publish Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s history. Manga is a new way to reach both young and old people to read his story,” he added.
The LKY Story is available in all leading bookstores in Singapore at S$16.90 (RM51). ― TODAY