Nationalist comics become popular in Japan

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In one book, crazed Chinese communist guerrillas spray benevolent Japanese troops with cyanide. In another, savage Korean immigrants massacre innocent Tokyo residents in the wake of World War II.

If this sounds like a reversal of Japan's history of aggression in Asia, that is just what the authors intend. The scenes appear in two best-selling examples of a growing literary genre in Japan: nationalist comics.

The trend, typified by the runaway hits ``Hate Korea: A Comic'' and ``Introduction to China,'' has struck a chord among young readers who resent Japan's being cast as the bully in 20th century history - and say it is time for a change.

``These books finally depict history from a Japanese perspective, and there is nothing wrong with that,'' says Atsushi Iwata, 22, student at Tokyo's prestigious Waseda University who attends a weekly seminar by a co-author of ``Introduction to China.''

``It's the right of any nation to interpret history as it feels it should,'' he said.

The interpretation in the recent comic books is nothing short of provocative - at a time of rising tensions between Tokyo and its neighbors, and as Japan takes a decided tilt toward an unapologetic view of previous military action.

``Hate Korea'' tells the tale of wide-eyed Japanese college freshmen who discover that Japan's colonial rule over the Korean peninsula in 1910-45 - seen in Korea as brutal subjugation - was a well-intentioned attempt to bring civilization to a backward country.

"It's not an exaggeration to say modern Korea was built by Japan,'' one of the Japanese students, eyes shining, declares toward the end of the book. Her Korean debate opponent, fuming at the mouth, is unable to respond.

The China tome covers similar territory, vehemently denying Japanese atrocities in China during its invasion during the 1930s and 40s, such as biological experiments carried out by the Imperial Army's top-secret Unit 731.

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