Sunday, January 27, 2008

John Hersey's Hiroshima: Graphic Adaptation of Mrs. Nakamura's Experience (Emily Morris)


(Note: I have included a text transcript for each panel; however, if you wish, you may click onto to each page, and you will load a large and readable version of each page.)

Page One (Above)

Panel 1:

(Home of Mrs. Nakamura, widowed mother of three; 3/4 of a mile from center:)

MRS. NAKAMURA (Thinking.): Tearing his house down. What a shame--Soon he will have nowhere to live.

Panel 2:

AIR DRILL: Warning! Warning! Warning!

Panel 3:

MRS. NAKAMURA (Thinking about the night before, when she and her children had fled to Asano Park): Everyone is so tired. Maybe I can let them sleep this time.

Panel 4:

(Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura chose not to wake her three children that morning. They have been to the shelter many times in the past few days, and they were tired. It may have been this decision that saved their lives.)

Panel 5:

(Center Hiroshima during the explosion.)

Panel 6:

CRASH! Boom!


Panel 7:

TOSHIO: Mama, I'm scared.


YAEKO: (Sobbing.)

MRS. NAKAMURA: Hush, darlings! I don't know what happened--I think we need to get to safety, then ask questions. Don't cry--it'll be okay soon.

Panel 8:

(Before leaving for Asano Park, MRS. NAKAMURA chose to keep her only source of income safe. Her husband's old sewing machine was how she provided for her family. When this was all over, she would need to make money to feed her children.)

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Thinking as she tosses her sewing machine into the Water Reserve Tank.) This should be safe in here.

Page Two (Above)

Panel 1:

(Many neighborhoods had safe areas they were to retreat to if there was a bombing. MRS. NAKAMURA followed a neighbor through the wreckage of her community to Asano Park, outside of town.)

Welcome Asano Park

Panel 2:

MYEKO: I am so thirsty.

MRS. NAKAMURA: Here, sweetie, drink this.

YAEKO: I don't feel so good, Mama.

Panel 3:

(After drinking from the river, MRS NAKAMURA and her children became very ill and spent the next few days with stomach sickness. As they lay ill, many in the park lay dead or dying. Some seemed healthy one day and perished the next. The scene was horrific and no help ever came. MRS. NAKAMURA had to make a decision to move her children away from the park to a nearby shelter.)

Panel 4:

(Six days later [the Nakamuras] left the shelter [Novitiate] to stay with her sister-in-law.)

Panel 5:

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Crying.) I am so ashamed. I can not go anywhere looking like this. My hair is gone. I am a Bald Dreadful woman. UGLY! I am ugly. BALD!

Panel 6:

(MRS. NAKAMURA lost all her hair due to nuclear radiation exposure. Her youngest daughter had a cut on her arm that took months to heal. MRS. NAKAMURA could not afford a doctor's visit so they waited their sickness out and soon MRS. NAKAMURA was planning for their future. She had sent her brother to her old house to retrieve the sewing machine she had stored in the water tank. When he returned it was with bad news.)

Panel 7:

MRS. NAKAMURA: It's useless--This will never work again! It has completely rusted! What am I going to do now?

Panel 8:

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Thinking.) Please, God. Give me strength. I need money desperately. Please?

Panel 9:

BANK CLERK: (Handing money to MRS. NAKAMURA.) MRS. NAKAMURA, this is how much the bank has for you. Have a nice day.

Panel 10:

(At the Machine Repair shop.)

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Crying.) How much is this [sewing machine] worth?

OWNER OF SHOP: It's junk--all rust!

MRS. NAKAMURA (Still crying.) Please--whatever you can give me.

Panel 11:

(After selling everything she owned, MRS. NAKAMURA moved her family into a small wooden shack, their new home in Hiroshima. MRS. NAKAMURA scavenged for supplies and did all she could to provide for her family.)

Page Three (Above)

Panel 1:

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Thinking.) This has all been my bad luck. My fate, that I must accept. This suffering is my test of faith. I must survive. My children rely on me and only me.

Panel 2:

RADIO: ...Hiroshima Survivors, also known as Hibakusha... This just in. Our Government has just passed a new program providing health care options to all of our survivors...Please report to your closest agency to receive your card...

Panel 3:

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Handing someone a loaf of bread.) Your fresh loaf, Ma'am.

Panel 4:

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Handing someone a newspaper.) Your daily news, Sir.

Panel 5:

(Factory work: Moth ball belt)

MRS. NAKAMURA: (Holding a bowl of moth balls.) All good...Sir.

Panel 6:

(Although the Japanese Government provided assistance for their survivors, MRS. NAKAMURA's pride prohibited her from accepting any assistance for many years. She held many low paying jobs just to pay for food and rent. The long term effects of radiation made her have to take frequent resting periods throughout the day. In 1951 her family moved to a better home and she continued working at the Moth Ball factory until she retired.)

Panel 7:

(MRS. NAKAMURA's luck began to change. Life continued to happen. Things were changing all around her. The town eventually got rebuilt. MRS. NAKAMURA watched her children grow up. Eventually she began to accept Governmental services like health care and pension plans. It is noted that MRS. NAKAMURA completed her life one day at a time.)

(Her son got married...)



(MRS. NAKAMURA danced in a festival.)

Panel 8:

The End.


Emily Morris: I chose to pick only one of the main characters from John Hersey’s [account] and complete a graphic version of that [survivor’s] experience during the bomb drop on Hiroshima. The graphic version will be from the point of view of that [survivor] (first person) and contain only pertinent information to tell her story. The graphics will be selected based on the main events that tell the story of that [survivor] and the feelings or emotions that [she] must have felt during the bombing of Hiroshima and the aftermath. While I am aware that the [survivor] is Japanese and does not speak or even think in the same English context, I will need to summarize what I believe [she] felt in my terms.

Reflecting on the process. After completing the graphic representation of Mrs. Nakamura’s experience of the bombing of Hiroshima I feel a little less confident in my execution. It was difficult depicting everything in a graphic square without going overboard with pictures. I believe I chose the main events that Mrs. Nakamura went through; however, there were a few circumstances where I had to write a brief paragraph to place the readers where I needed them to be. This was a strip that spanned over many years; a lot of middle ground was tossed aside to illustrate only what was important. I’m not 100% positive that the reader would be able to pick up this graphic strip and know what really happened. Reading the stories of the Hibakusha (survivors) through a non-fiction account seems to me to be the best way to tell their stories.

I still enjoyed the challenge of completing this journal in a graphic version. It may not be perfect, but it was a good experience. I know now that I will not follow a career as a comic book artist.


LIT160 Introduction to Literature, Fall 2007

Posted with author's permission.

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