Graphic Novel Review: Tokyo Rose — Zero Hour
Posted on December 27, 2022 at 6:34 am by Gene Ambaum
Iva Toguri was born in Los Angeles in 1916 to parents who immigrated to the US from Japan. This graphic novel opens with a brief scene from her trial as a traitor after World War II, after she returned from Japan where she worked as an announcer during the war. It then goes back to the beginning, when Iva’s family sent her to Japan in the summer of 1941, and how she was put to work helping her family there. She was supposed to return home in early December of that year, but the Japanese bureaucracy made that impossible, and she was stuck in Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Offered the choice of renouncing her American citizenship, she refused and left her family’s home. While working a low level job at the broadcasting company NHK, she risked a lot keep up the spirits of and get much needed supplies two POWs brought in to create English-language programming. They saw something special in her and eventually put her on the air as “Orphan Ann.” (They were supposed to help lower the morale of the Allied forces listening to the broadcasts, but managed to create programming that secretly did just the opposite.)
How and why that all led to Iva being vilified in the media and then charged with treason on her return to the US made for a compelling read. Kasenow’s black and white art does a great job of bringing the WWII-era to life, as does her character design and the amount of details shown in each panel, which is never overwhelming.
Worth noting: The book includes a foreward by letterer Janie Chiang and a preface by writer Frattino which provide more information on Iva Toguri’s story, as well as short biographies of both plus of Kasenow, a script reader, and the book’s three sensitivity readers. There’s also an epilogue, a timeline of Iva Toguri’s life, and a list of quotes from Radio Tokyo Broadcasts directed at Allied Forces during WWII.