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Apocalypse Meow Volume 1 Paperback – July 13, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
This engrossing manga replaces the human characters who fought and died in the Vietnam War with cute anthropomorphic animals, recreating the conflict with its horrific violence and vivid military exploits intact. Kobayashi explains that a standard war comic would be "boring." So he offers American soldiers as rabbits, Vietnamese as cats, Chinese as pandas, etc. Painstakingly rendered and set roughly during the Tet offensive, the story follows the in-country exploits of Sergeants Perky, Rats and Botasky, the "men" (or bunnies, as it were) of Catshit One, a special forces unit engaged in risky missions involving recon patrol, jungle ambushes, tactical assaults and rescue operations. Kobayashi's impressively detailed military research includes a short prose history of the U.S. Special Forces, a prose history of the Vietnam War, notes on military procedures and a careful listing and rendering of period arms and munitions. Much like the mice and cats Art Spiegelman created for his Pulitzer Prize–winning Holocaust memoir, Maus, the animal characters are used to emphasize the horrors of war as well as the transcendent moments of personal courage that follow in its bloody wake. Kobayashi's soldier-bunnies have the tough, profane personas of hardened, dedicated soldiers, and this unusual manga manages to capture the courage, humor and military ingenuity of real soldiers in combat.
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It is a compliment to compare this to Spiegleman's epic, and I believe it is deserved.
This is the first of three available volumes, of English-translated manga. It follows the adventures of three rabbits (U.S. GI's), fighting a very real, historically accurate war.
There are even footnotes. The ordnance is referred to by their acronyms in the story, yet they're spelled out for you at the bottom of each page. Events like The Tet Offensive are given short explanatory blurbs to amplify and give context to what's happening in the panels.
You will learn an amazing amount of information about the Vietnam War. Geography. Politics. How to take out a bridge. How to perform a targeted bombing. The history of the U.S. Special Forces.
I'm being dead serious.
Similar to "Maus", different races/cultures are rendered as different animals. The Vietnamese, for example, are cats. Whether they are "good" cats or "bad" cats is sometimes hard to tell, and that's exactly the point.
Getting past these technical details, the story here is exquisite. If I had to compare this to a film, it would be "Platoon". It has that same sort of gritty realism to it. It's a true page-turner. You'll revel in some of the really cool artistic details, but the plot will have you wanting to read faster and faster...
To be honest, more than a few times I had a hard time following what was going on, but in retrospect, that was probably the author's intent.
Worst thing I can say about this book is that it ends in a cliffhanger...
...so I'm ordering the next books as soon as I finish this review.