The birth of Mustachio

It wasn't easy

By Dan Rush

Adapted from the 1995 Kodansha School manga "Kame-da Manga Osamu" and from Mister Tezuka's personal writings, interviews, friends and associates.

Forewords

Shunsaku Ban, Hidogi, Mustacho, Max McNugget, Pompous. He's one of Osamu Tezuka's oldest characters. Teacher, Professor, explorer, private eye or comical mis-stepper, the origin of this pudgy, grumpy, quick tempered but lovable curmudgeon has various stories.

The most common, told by Tezuka himself, is that a friend of his in elementary school had drawn a picture of his father and that Tezuka re-drew it so it would look more comical. But where exactly did the soul of old man Mustachio come from? Why is he such a quick tempered, pompous and at times ill mannered man? Well as Tezuka described once…some people deserve an afterlife on paper.

It's July 15th 1943

In Europe…

French Resistance leader Jean Moulin is killed by the SS butcher Klaus Barbie.

The largest tank battle in history happens in Kursk, Russia. 3,000 German and Russian tanks wage all out hell. Though the Russians lose more tanks and men than the Germans, the Russians bleed German supplies dry, forcing an all out retreat.

The allies invade Sicily

Non-Germans begin to join the Waffen SS.

Hamburg, Germany is bombed by combined allied air assault.

In the Pacific…

Japanese and American naval forces clash at Kula Gulf in the Solomon Islands. The Cruiser USS Helena is sunk.

American Naval air forces defeat the Japanese air arm over the Solomons in a decisive day long dog fight that decimates Japanese air strength in the region.

Fighting on the Island of New Georgia bogs down as Japanese snipers exact a heavy toll on allied officers. On the Island of Munda, though the Island is only 3 miles long and wide, the allies have advanced only half of the way in two weeks. There are 1,300 allied casualties to date. Japanese losses are unknown.

Japan's military government, while telling the populace of victories that never happened, of sinking American warships that never existed, of attacking American cities with brave commandos, is quietly starting to mobilize teenagers for the "community assistance corps" a neat cover name for operation "extra military bodies to throw at the enemy when needed to save our sorry behinds."

Osamu Tezuka is now 14 years old. Unfortunately he has been considered "physically insufficient" to serve in the "Community Assistance Corps" Not physically adept during his childhood and considered somewhat small among his classmates, Tezuka is enrolled in a special class for physically needy boys. Why was it unfortunate?

2pm

Takarazuka Middle School

"TEZUKA!" The booming voice made Osamu bobble the large ball in his hands. "WHAT DO YOU CALL THAT?"

Osamu looked at the ball, which made the uniformed man asking the question red enough to boil green tea atop his nearly bald head…

"Uh?...I was throwing the ball?" The boy replied with the look of an undone ball of bread dough.

"Give me that!" The man snapped as he ripped the ball from Tezuka's hands. "Throwing this to the side is NOT a throw. This is what women do when they're throwing piss out of the house. If you're going to "throw" a ball? Throw it like a man!"

With that, the man let loose with a one handed cannon shot that sent his smaller receiver flying into the dirt. "You! The least you could do is catch it properly! I swear! Has the Emperor sent straw backed, weak armed, geisha…."

"Sergeant Tadao Ichikato. Loyal servant of his majesty, veteran of countless battles in Manchuria, creator of men, the finest example of Japanese manhood ever created by the first Emperor Jimu…"

"Are you kidding me?"

"We had more fitting names for him, some I can't mention out of respect for young children. Needless to say…we couldn't stand him. My favorite name for him was "The Snap Dragon" because of his speed in going from lucidly calm to outrageously enraged in a second flat."

"What….are you….doing boy!"Ichikato jumped upon as he was trying to catch his breath.

"I finished the twenty laps you demanded Sensei…gasp…gasp…"

"Oh…so you have?" Ichikato said as he straitened up and smiled calmly. "But you did not finish them correctly did you? Your running posture is pathetic! If you were ordered to charge an enemy foxhole, they wouldn't die from your bayonet but from their laughter at your miserable charge! You look like a drunken idiot! Another twenty laps NOW!"

"But Sensei?...gasp…."

"MOVE YOU WIND CHIME! I SWEAR I COULD BLOW YOU ACROSS THE GROUNDS YOU'RE SO PATHETICALLY LIGHT!"

"The poor kid old Snap Dragon is determined to have cut a new imperial moat trench on our school parade field is 13 year old Tadayoshi Ida. Yoshi was a new comer to our school and unfortunately like me and the others was found "physically un-adept

"Personally, I always wondered why I had to be adept to drive a tank when I wasn't old enough for military service. Snap dragon always seemed to see me driving a tank for some reason…"

"Tezuka?" Ichikado snorted as he watched Osamu give his ball a weak over-head toss. "How can his majesty expect you to be a good tank driver with those straw pole legs? Join Ida on his run, maybe you can prevent the wind from blowing him away."

"For the information of all, I am Osamu Tezuka, unfortunate son of weak minded, soft comforted, Western influenced, liberal parents. Woe should I be, curse my existence I should, the emperor laughs in my face…"

"Be honest in your humble opinion. Since when has any child had the time or the care to concern themselves with the Emperor when he laughs?"

Osamu caught up to poor Yoshi as he almost stumbled in the dirt. "You're making progress. We could have a moat in no time!"

"Gasp…..gasp…I need help. I'm not good at bulldozing dirt with my toes." Yoshi replied smiling.

So what insulting lineage to your ancestry brought you to our torture, I mean, pleasure camp?" Osamu asked.

"My father's a lawyer." Yoshi replied as he gasped.

"Oh you're doomed. Wait…my Grandfather's a lawyer! Now I'm really in trouble! We'll escape tonight ok? You bring your favorite blanket, I'll get some rice balls, I know a good place to hide from the secret police, Snap Dragon will never find us! Of course it kinda stinks a little down there…"

Yoshi waved his hands around. "Gasp….gasp….will you shut up? You'll get us another twenty laps!"

Osamu scoffed. "You think this is bad? Wait till Snap Dragon tells one of his thrilling war stories, like the time he saved the Emperor from rampaging ultra-nationalists."

"He did?" Yoshi replied.

"Oh yeah." Osamu chuckled. "Bare handed in his sumo rap…while wounded…while fighting enraged Geisha….an escaped circus bear, the list gets longer every time!"

Osamu leaned into Yoshi. "I think he's lying to cover the fact that he still lives in his parents house. Oh yeah, tell him you heard he used a cannon single handed? It'll be in the next story trust me."

Their agony finally stopped short of the number they needed to run when Ichikado waved them down. "That's enough for this afternoon. Join the others over there for break."

Osamu all but collapsed at the feet of his friend Shinwa. "I have that drawing…sorry but it's kinda wet."

Shinwa held it up. "Ok? What is it?"

Osamu rolled over onto his stomach. "Donald Duck! You can't see him?"

"What did you do? Draw it while you ran?"

"A little bit." Osamu replied as he pointed.

Another boy, Mitsujiro, looked over Shinwa's shoulder. "It kinda looks like Hitler."

"Nah…" Tamao said as he turned the paper in Shinwa's hands. "Osamu…that's perverted!"

"Where the heck is your mind at?" Shinwa said as he bounced his fist off Tamao's head.

"You guys didn't hear the latest did you?" Tamao said, which got the sudden interest of the whole group. Of everyone in class, Tamao seemed to get the latest "war dirt" as he was the class know-it-all of machines and gadgets.

"I gave my idea to my Uncle Nishima, the one for the pedal powered flying machine for our commandos? He said it was accepted for study by the Imperial War Ministry!"

"No fooling?" Shinwa said smirking. "I hope you at least added a few machine guns. I give that thing five seconds against an American fighter plane at the least. I think they should go with my idea of a fish looking stealth sub."

"If it escapes being captured by a fisherman, we'll all be shocked." Osamu said smiling. "By the way…what are you doing here Shinwa? You're not like us."

"Yeah!" Tamao snorted. "Maybe they sent you here because your brain was "woefully unadept."

Shinwa grabbed Tamao and "noogied" him hard on the head. "Just the opposite…I failed the physical fitness test because I couldn't climb the obstacle walls."

Osamu smirked as he patted Shinwa's stomach. "I'm not shocked."

"Cut it out!" Shinwa replied. "I mean I couldn't climb over them…I walked around them. The proctors refused to accept my logic that climbing things I could walk around was a waste of time."

"Of course, none of us kids took things seriously, after all we were children. War to us was throwing dirt clumps, finger pistols, stick rifles and pretend dying. Reality had yet to honestly sink in. Even when we saw other kids and their parents or mothers crying because they got "the word" the horrible concept of what it meant had yet to fully strike us. Even with the concerted efforts of the government propaganda machine to turn us into hard carbon copies of the glorious Japanese soldier…they could never figure out how to stop all the adolescent nose picking in the ranks."

Soon Ichikado appeared dressed once more in his Imperial Army uniform replete with cap, who's insignia pin was resplendently shined to gleaming perfection. "Before you leave today, I shall impart to you another important lesson to take with you for contemplation as to why you should become fit and firm in service to his majesty."

"Oh hell…another story? To be a horse at the slaughter house was my wish about now."

"Sensei!" Yoshi asked as he waved his hand frantically, "Does this story involve a cannon? I think cannons are so awesome!"

Ichikado replied. "Yes….yes it does."

"See? Wasn't I right? You should have heard the laughter."

"I was a squad leader in the Imperial 7th Division in Tangoon, Manchuko…"

"All his stories began with "I was…"or "There I was."and he always had a quirk about him when he started saying that. He'd bring his right fist over his chest and cock his head slightly….as if he was Superman in glorious repose over a toilet urinal."

"My self and my faithful military mule Eyasu were surrounded by a thousand hypnotized Chinese puppets of colonial thugs…"

"His mule? He'd named this pack mule "Eyasu" after the 1st Shogun, he was convinced it was endowed with the Shogun's spirit and it was sent to save the Sergeant's life. He also had a German Shepherd named "Fritz". Funny how every story with Fritz ended with the dog committing glorious ritual suicide in battle. He must have been good at reincarnation because he died like thirty times! Oh yeah, the dog could fly a zero fighter too."

"Single handedly…"

"Yes…that had to come into the story at some point."

"I loaded and fired the cannon over and over!"

"His mule loaded the shells, he swears it did!"

"I then carried my faithful Ayasu down Mount Chu San…"

"If you had a good look at this man, you'd think that impossible too."

"You should take my experience as an example of what you should strive to become!"

"It would be helpful if I ended up un-employed and needed good bar stories to support my drinking habit."

The boys are trying not to laugh, knowing it meant instant death. A few made it way to obvious as they fled the ranks to save themselves from the darkening spots in their pants.

Ahhhhh-tennnn-hut!" Ichikado screamed as he brought the ranks of boys to attention. "Tomorrow we will embark on an all day marching hike through the forest! Dismissed!"

4pm

Osamu, Tamao, Shinwa, Yoshi and Kenichi walked together from the school grounds and once they were beyond the gaze of the scowling Sergeant, they formed a single line, foot stomping squad shouting the Gaiken Naval March with all the pomp and seriousness of an imperial unit…

With the non-serious comedy of unleashed young hooligans on parade.

Osamu led the troop and turned about to face the rest with his arm waving around like a drum major after he'd had too much sake…

"There I was, Imperial Sergeant Tadao Ichikado!" Osamu yelled.

Then Kenichi turned about. "With my dog Fritz who still can't blow himself up right! Bad dog! No treats for you!"

Then Shinwa turned about. "I single handedly bombed Pearl Harbor with my flying Mule! No really, I did!"

Then Tamao turned about. "You don't believe me? RUN TWENTY LAPS YOU IGNORANT DUMB ASS!"

Yoshi quickly started running about the troop as they yelled "Hup, two, three, four! Hup, two, three, four! Hurry up you noodle muscled disgrace! The Emperor is not laughing hard enough!"

They all stopped with Osamu putting his hands on his hips. "Wait! Are you boys laughing at me?"

"Why no Sensei." Shinwa replied. "Only at your lack of manhood. How is it that a man with so much valor? Could have such a small penis?"

Osamu snapped. "Why you disgusting slob! It was shot off at the Imperial Brothel in Osaka, how dare you!"

All the boys laughed…till one of them saw a military officer slip from a car outside a nearby house. They all watched as the man stood by the front door until a woman emerged. The man wasn't half way through his bow before the woman started crying and screaming…

Shinwa rested a hand on Tamao's shoulder. "Isn't that?...Etagawa's house?"

"Yeah." Tamao replied. "His Dad's on a destroyer I think."

The group of boys slowly and quietly passed the house by. There wasn't another word among them, at least for several blocks…

"It always came that way…the word. When I was old enough to know what it was about, it didn't happen so often. The older I got however….the more frequent it became. The cruelty in which children were subjected to how the state wanted people to act when loved ones were killed was horrific. They couldn't cry in public, it was weak and pathetic to show such pitiful emotion which "violated the spirit of the honorable battle dead." Tell that to a child who'll never see their father again!Tell them they can't cry…how criminal!"

The boys started talking again after a while. "Found any new interesting insects lately Osamu?" Tamao asked as the group stopped by a candy store.

"Not lately. I did see something that kinda disproves what I saw in a text book. You know the Tiger Beetle that's supposed to be this ravenous ant eater? That's false."

Shinwa scoffed. "I bet you sat watching it the whole day. I have better things I could be doing than watching some insect…like girls."

"Well I can do that too." Osamu replied smiling. "I took Hima into the woods."

Yoshi's eyes widened. "Hima Nonduraiko? How did you do that?"

"I asked her." Osamu replied proudly. "She loves bugs."

Tamao snorted. "No girls love bugs. You're lying."

Osamu raised a finger. "It's not just bugs. She also likes Mickey Mouse. Can you guys draw Mickey Mouse?"

Shinwa huffed. "None of us are willing to draw something that could get us shot stupid."

"How sad." Osamu replied. "Then you'll all remain miserably single won't you?" Osamu looked up at the clock on the wall of the store. "I gotta get home! My grandmother's cooking dinner and she's a tyrant if I end up late!"

Osamu started running till Yoshi chased after him. "Hey! Wait up!"

"Yeah?" Osamu said as he turned.

"I'm sorry if I…could I come with you? See my Aunt and Uncle have sent me ahead of them till they get settled in and till then I'll have to live at this boarding place…"

Osamu scratched his head. "I dunno….my Grandmother's kinda strict….I don't mind though…my Mom won't."

"Thanks!" Yoshi said as he shook Osamu's hand.

"You can sleep over too. I bet those boarding houses stink bad." Osamu said as he walked up the road to his house. "So why you living with your Uncle and Aunt?"

Yoshi kicked his feet. "My Mom died when I was like 6. My dad was in the Army with the Sendai Division. He was killed on Guadalcanal."

"Oh." Osamu replied quietly. "Sorry. My dad's in the army too. Manchuko."

"Is he alright?" Yoshi asked.

"So far he's fine." Osamu replied. "He's not on the front lines. He works with the supply corps. So your Uncle is the lawyer then, why didn't you say that earlier?"

Yoshi slightly smiled. "Funny isn't it. He's been so good to me I almost think he's my Dad. That must sound terrible."

"I don't think it's bad." Osamu said as he and Yoshi walked up to the front door of the house. "I mean if he's not mean to you and he treats you like you're his son, I guess it's ok. I bet you're not the only one with the same trouble."

"If you want to know where I got the idea for Atom's little sister? Meet Minako.

"There you are!" Minako snapped as she walked up to Osamu and Yoshi as they were pulling off their shoes. "Where is it?"

"Minako?" Osamu's mother called. "Voice young lady."

"He's been in my room again mother!" The young girl complained. "What did you take this time?"

"What did "I" take?" Osamu snorted. "Who's been taking my brushes? Who's taking my pencils?"

Fumiko Tezuka pointed to Yoshi. "You're both causing a fuss in front of a family guest? I thought I had taught you better! Forgive their ill manors."

Yoshi waved his hands. "Oh no! I wish I had brothers and sisters. My name is Tadayoshi Ida. Osamu invited me…he's not in trouble is he?"

Osamu smiled at his mother. "I told him the lady of the house who makes the meals is as beautiful as the Sun Goddess and the meals radiate with light."

Fumiko lightly bounced a fist off Osamu's head. "That might please me but your Grandmother will kill you for lying. Both of you clean up now." Fumiko pushed Osamu and Yoshi towards the bathroom. "Osamu? A letter from your father came for you, read it after dinner and I want you to write him before you go to bed."

"Yes mother." Osamu replied as he fight for space at the sink in the small bathroom with Yoshi. "She's right too. One thing to remember about my Grandmother? Don't rest your elbows on the table…she'll clobber you even though you're not family."

Dinner time

"SLAP!" "Young man…mind your elbows on the table?" Grandmother Tezuka said as she waved the wooden rice spoon in Yoshi's face.

"Told you." Osamu said smirking. "She's deadly with that spoon."

Grandmother looked at Osamu. "How is your training progressing Osamu?"

"It's ok. Our sensei is very tough." Osamu replied. He elbowed Yoshi when he started laughing. "Tomorrow we're going on a march through the forest!"

"I couldn't tell her what I really thought of training. I wasn't that brave."

Grandmother then turned to Yoshi. "Your father was killed with the Sendai? A great honor to have given himself for the nation with such a distinguished command and such heroic soldiers."

"I thought…."That wasn't right Grandmother! Do you think being a hero means anything to Yoshi right now?"I looked at how sad Yoshi was turning. "Thanks Grandmother, thanks for making my friend miserable."

"Grandmother?" Minako chimed in waving her hand. "We learned a new song at school today, do you want to hear it?"

"Oh great! Now my squeaky sister was going to sing. It was another cookie cutter propaganda number that started with how glorious we were, rose to how stupid the enemy was and finished with a rousing love of glorious ritual suicide. Yoshi could tell how "enthused" I was to sing it."

Osamu finished the song and stood up. "Mother…Grandmother….Yoshi and I are going to my room to do our homework."

Grandmother nodded stiffly. "Be sure you finish before 6 o'clock. The evening news will be played over the loudspeakers. Perhaps there will be more good news from Manchuko."

"Good news? I just wanted to escape Grandmother's incessant propaganda banter. It wasn't like I didn't hear "The good news" every five minutes from rise to sleep.

Osamu slid the shoji door to his bed room closed. "Boy she can ramble on."

Yoshi didn't know where to sit. "What a mess! You don't get in trouble for your room being like this?"

"Being the oldest child has its advantages." Osamu replied as he reached for a pad of paper, a pencil and a knife. As he started sketching, Yoshi looked around at the drawings covering the walls.

"You don't need wallpaper. You drew all these?" Yoshi asked.

"Yeah." Osamu replied. "It keeps me out of trouble."

After a few moments of sketching, Osamu reached into his pocket for the letter from his father. Yoshi watched him read it until Osamu threw it aside as if he was disgusted by it…

"Is it…..bad? Your Dad's not in trouble is he?"

"No…at least from what I can tell from this letter. It's the same thing, it's been the same for a while! "Hello, I'm fine, China's fine, the food's fine, the weather's fine, the army's fine…victory this, glorious that….over, over, over!"

Osamu crossed his arms in a disappointed huff. "It's all dog crap."

"I didn't know yet…but my mother had been writing the letters from my father since the summer of 1941, the last time we got an actual letter from him. She was trying not to fill us with worry.

Yoshi was looking around the room again until a pile of papers caught his eyes and he reached down to pick them up.

Osamu grabbed his hand. "Careful with those. We could get hung with them."

Yoshi smiled at each drawing. Some were multiple comic boxes, others were only single characters. "Buck Rodgers? Micky Mouse? What's this one, Super Mouse?"

"Mighty Mouse." Osamu replied. "Mighty Mouse sinking an American ship. It's the only way I could draw it at school."

"They won't let you draw at school?" Yoshi asked as he looked at another drawing.

"I can't draw….."that." Osamu said somewhat upset. "It's "subversive" it's "Round eye trash." It's insulting to our "superior culture". Mickey Mouse is ten times worse than Satan!"

Osamu showed Yoshi another drawing book. "See this one? I told my teacher I wanted to try and get it into the newspapers. Just some characters flying to the moon."

"You're good at this!" Yoshi replied. "They wouldn't publish this?"

Osamu shook his head. "It never got that far. My teacher said…"It looks too much like Walt Disney, you might get in trouble for it. The eyes are too round."

Osamu frowned. "Too round….not enough patriotism!...no military?...perhaps if you'd change it…."

Yoshi shrugged. "Maybe you should change just a few?"

"Maybe I should cut my hands off?" Osamu replied. "Change my drawings? Can't we just have one time when we're not thinking about the war? Just one minute?"

Things went quiet for a moment….till Yoshi checked the door and looked back at the brooding Tezuka. "You don't think we'll win….do you?"

"I don't know what to think." Osamu replied. "All I know is I miss my Dad. I miss watching the cartoons on our home movie machine. I miss the walks we would take in the woods. I miss when things were peaceful…I miss him being here at night to read to me…and I'm scared I'll never see him again. And I have to walk around all day like a stupid robot, shut my mouth and have no feelings…?"

Osamu screwed his eyes shut. "It all…it all just sucks!"

Osamu opened his eyes to see tears streaming down Yoshi's face. "Ugh?...Don't cry! If you start balling my Grandmother's gonna throw a fit!"

Osamu jumped next to Yoshi and wrapped his arm around his shoulder. "Hey! How about we become honorary brothers? You know, like the American Indians do? You could probably use an older brother to watch your back right?"

"Oooooo…..American decadence alert! Some one call the Secret Police, a couple of Juvenile traitors were about to destroy 1000 years of Japanese culture!"

"So how do we do that?" Yoshi asked.

Osamu reached for his knife and took Yoshi's hand. "See we make small cuts in our hands and join our blood….like this."

Osamu put a cut into Yoshi's palm…and just as quick Yoshi collapsed to the floor. Leaving Osamu to look at the blood running down the blade. "Wow…"

He just as quickly joined his friend.

"Well….that just about disqualified me for that tank driving position didn't it?"

8pm

"That hurt." Yoshi said as he looked at his bandaged hand. "I think you over-cut it."

"Yeah…" Osamu replied. "We couldn't have had enough blood could we?"

Both boys were sitting to the side of the house in the grass away from the rest of the family who sat under the rain ease at the front listening to the booming propaganda reports coming from a loudspeaker across the street. Radios in homes had been banned since the late 1930's because the Colonial gangsters had found a way to send their own propaganda through the radio channels. The news always came above the ever present repetition of patriotic war songs like the Nippon Guikin Kaiguno, the rousing Japanese Naval Anthem..written by a British composer.

"With great devotion to his imperial personage today, our forces on New Georgia rained destruction upon the American criminals and their Colonial gangsters! Our heroic navy delivered punishing blows to seaborne American maniacs with two of our intrepid destroyers fighting to the last to sink the American battleship South Dakota!"

" BANZAI! BANZAI TO OUR IMPERIAL FLEET! BANZAI!" Grandmother Tezuka jumped from her chair screaming and throwing her hands sky born with near drunken enthusiasm!

"In Europea, our great German allies continue their relentless, never tiring assault against the hated Bolshevik hordes who drink themselves to near stupidity before wasting themselves against the hail of Heir Hitler's glorious forces!"

"Our people must do all for his Imperial personage…no sacrifice by our people is too great enough to support our young warrior Gods who fight the oppressor Colonial vermin and their Jewish pursers. Every ounce of energy saved, every stitch of cloth prolonged, every grain of rice saved to give to our fighting men means one more dead filthy Western vermin! One step more towards glorious victory!"

"You couldn't remain immune for long, soon myself, Yoshi and my siblings were marching about the front yard throwing our arms and stomping hard with our feet with each beat of the Naval Anthem, my mother and Grandmother clapping to our stomps. Soon the neighbors came out of their houses and they too joined in the spontaneous impromptu march about the block. Once again it was the fun of it, the adults cheering for us and us enjoying it. The sinister nature of what the propaganda was doing to people who should have had better common sense was lost in the moment."

9:30pm

Yoshi came into Osamu's room from taking his bath and stood pursing his lips at the mess around him. "Soooo…where do I sleep?"

"Just move stuff." Osamu replied as he studied another work in progress. "What do you think?" He asked as he showed Yoshi the picture.

"What's it supposed to be?" Yoshi asked.

"A lion." Osamu said as he tapped the paper.

"Uh….it looks like a mouse." Yoshi said smirking

"No it doesn't?" Osamu replied frowning.

Osamu looked at the picture again. "Yeah….looks like a mouse."

Yoshi made himself a space and sat on the futon mat watching Osamu draw. "So when this war ends, what are you going to do?"

"It's a little over obvious…I'm going to be a famous artist. Maybe I'll get to work for Disney?"

"You know what my Aunt says about artists? She says they're like some of the poorest people in Japan. They tend to live in wooden boxes and shacks."

Osamu scratched his head. "Then…..I'll live in the nicest shack in Tokyo. It'll have lacquer bamboo walls, thick carpeting, central heating and an indoor pool."

"As for me?" Yoshi said confidently. "I'm going to be a pilot. I thought about becoming a lawyer but they're not very popular."

Osamu huffed. "It's going to be hard being a pilot if we have no planes left to fly. I might go to the moon if my art doesn't work out."

"How will you get there?" Yoshi asked.

"The Germans have rockets…or I'll throw some fireworks together, sit on a chair and blow myself into orbit." Osamu replied as he put the pad aside and laid down.

"Be honest?" Yoshi asked. "Do you think we're winning?"

"If we were…" Osamu replied sighing. "We'd be seeing our soldiers coming home. Not soldiers going to the doors of our school mates. Better not say any doubts in public though…you might end up getting flogged."

There was silence for a few minutes…" Night." Said Yoshi.

6:10 AM

The Woods above Takarazuka

"Oh no, no, no, no, no….we're dead!" Osamu was scrambling up the trail still trying to get his shoes on while Yoshi struggled behind with his heavy back pack. "Ugh! We over slept! Snap Dragon will have our heads!"

"It's not my fault you didn't get up when I pushed you!" Yoshi screamed. "What does he do when you're late?"

"It's not him I worry about! It's what my Grandmother will do when he calls her!" Osamu gasped as he snatched Yoshi by the shirt. "Run faster!"

The two scrambling boys weren't fast enough to escape the gaze of Sergeant Ichikado as they stumbled into the clearing where their school mates were gathered in ranks.

"Well…nice of you two too join us this morning." Ichikado said calmly. "Slept late didn't we? I hope you were comfortable?"

With one swipe, Ichikado pushed Osamu into the dirt. "YOU UNDISCIPLINED, SOFT, MONKIES! START PUSH UPS NOW TILL YOUR ARMS FALL OFF!"

"Yes Sir! Yes sir! Yes Sir!" Yoshi yelped as he dove for the dirt and started his push ups in earnest.

"Damn it boy! Slow down, this isn't a race." Ichikado snorted. "Tezuka! Is that all you can do? Your arms are pathetic! You need strong arms to work the controls of a tank!"

"Right then? I wanted strong arms to work my fists into Snap Dragon's face. As I struggled to do the push ups, he had the nerve to go through my back pack."

"What's this?" Ichikado asked as he waved a drawing in osamu's face. "Are you wasting time again with this nonsense?"

Ichikado stomped on the paper and slapped Tezuka on the back with his riding crop. "Your little obsession won't do you any good if you end up in the army will it? Then again I don't know if the Army would want such a weakling like you….GET UP!"

Ichikado pulled Yoshi and Osamu off the ground and threw them into rank. "Pick up your drill rifles! You two misfits had better smart up or you better hope the Sun Goddess will spare you a slow painful death."

Tamao whispered from behind as Osamu struggled with the heavy wooden rifle in his hands. "Welcome to this morning's amusement park ride."

"He's already pounded us for you two being late. There's talk of us making you both pay." Another boy whispered.

Shinwa snickered. "I have been made "Grand Torturer" so the wedgies will be extra brutal."

Osamu smiled back. "So kind of you."

Ichikado snapped to attention. "ICHIKADO BRIGADE! AAAAAA-TENNN-HUT!"

The ranks of boys came to attention with Ichikado stomping his way to the front and drawing his army sword over his shoulder. "FOE-WARD…MARCH!"

The column kicked up a dust cloud as it marched along the trail. After a few moments, Ichikado began a war cadence, bringing the boys to a loud song as they strode…

Thousands of enemies may come!

But they are only disorderly troops!

Even if they are not!

We have always absolute justice!

The evil, by nature, can not defeat the justice!

And the Justice must defeat the evil!

There is always a way!

As Li Gang's arrow pierced a stone!

What do we fear at all?

Nothing in the world shall threaten us!

"We marched around for 3 hours that morning singing patriotic war songs. Interesting now to think about that line…"We have always absolute justice." Seems to me those who led us into this mess had a different concept of "justice". Hitler preached the same "Justice" when he went about murdering Jewish people. Americans and the Soviets preached their own versions in the news as they went stomping like elephants through the hamlets of poor people in Vietnam."

9am

Finally Ichikado allowed the boys to take a break from their torment. They sat about in groups sipping water from canteens, lying down for quick naps or bantering about the currents that came to mind. One of them caught Osamu's attention as he sat doodling in the dirt with a stick…

It was Etigawa, the boy who's mother had been seen crying the day before when a soldier appeared at his house.

"Yes! My Father's destroyer came upon the American gangster-ship South Dakota in a fog. They knew a destroyer was no real match for a battleship but the crew made the decision to ram it! They put a big hole into it and set off all their ammunition! BOOM! The battleship exploded like a volcano!"

"When I get old enough, I will join the Imperial Army and slaughter hundreds of American Marines, just like my father did! I want to be face to face with one when I stab him right in his worthless heart!"

"See what propaganda does? Etigawa's father didn't die that way. His ship was caught in broad daylight by the American submarine Lionfish and torpedoed. As usual our ever truthful Ministry of Enlightenment and Truth lied. Etigawa would get his wish though…in November of 1944, Somehow he managed to get to Iwo Jima before the American invasion…he was only 15 when he was killed."

Osamu turned his attention back to Yoshi, who was doodling in the dirt at his feet himself. "Who's that?" Osamu asked as he pointed with his stick.

"Huh? Oh…that's my uncle. He's got this funny head, it's almost perfectly round like a ball with ears, you'd laugh if you saw him."

Osamu looked down at the drawing. "His ears are that big?"

Yoshi nodded. "How would you draw him?"

Osamu looked at Yoshi drawing then started his own. "He's not a comical character really. Being a lawyer, I'd draw your uncle with a little more respect. Make the ears right for the head…don't make the eyebrows so thick….keep the moustache like it is…"

Osamu stopped for a moment. "This looks cool…in fact? This might make for a good character."

"You think?" Yoshi asked as he looked between the drawing and seeing Snap Dragon badgering a group of boys with one of his war stories…"Hey? Make him like the sergeant!"

Osamu scratched his head. "Hmmm….he's a…private eye! A private eye who doubles as a loud mouth elementary school teacher!"

Yoshi nodded and laughed. "Yeah! Who bores his students with wild stories and has this really short temper!"

"But he's super cool!" Osamu said pointing. "He knows six forms of Taijutsu, is a master marksman and is a lawyer too!"

Yoshi laughed out loud. "And at times he's a complete klutz like Ichikado!"

They both learned too late the error of their ways. A boot came down on the dirt drawing like a clap of violent thunder…

"WHAT DID YOU SAY YOU LITTLE MAGGOT?"

"ON YOUR FEET! ON YOUR FEET NOW!"

Ichikado slapped Yoshi in the face. "YOU THINK YOU'RE FUNNY? YOU LIKE TO MAKE JOKES ABOUT ME YOU LITTLE SNOT!"

Yoshi shivered with fear. "No Sir! I didn't mean it!"

Osamu pushed Yoshi out of the way. "It was me Sir! I was the one making fun of you, please don't blame Tadayoshi." Osamu bowed deeply over and over…till Ichikado smacked him so hard, he sent Osamu flying into the dirt on his face!

"YOU WANT TO BE A JOKER? WELL YOU AND THE REST OF THE BRIGADE CAN JOKE YOURSELVES AROUND THE WOODS FOR THE REST OF THE DAY! GET IN RANKS!"

Osamu picked up his rifle and joined the ranks brooding with his upset pears. "Thanks a lot "Noodle bag", "Real smart Tezuka", "Dumb idiot.", "Oh you are so dead when this is over." Osamu cringed with every threat as the Sergeant screamed the boys back into a blistering 5 hour march.

3pm

Covered in dirt and wiping the snot running from his nose, Osamu stood at the door to Ichikawa's office cringing at the thought of what was to come…

"knock, knock…Sir? Tezuka reporting." Osamu said as he slowly opened the door and peaked inside.

The Sergeant was sitting behind his desk writing in a book. "You were hoping I wouldn't be here so late…weren't you?"

Osamu slowly walked in and closed the door with out a word.

"The others gave you a work over didn't they?" Ichikawa asked as he pointed to a chair. "You've had enough abuse then…sit."

Osamu started to cry till Ichikawa warned him with a finger. "Don't…you'll only make it worse for yourself." The man handed Tezuka a handkerchief. "Compose yourself son, I'm not going to kill you."

Ichikawa turned to look out the window of his office. "Tezuka? I've been in the army since 1930…I've seen a lot of horrible things, things I don't wish others to experience. To be honest…I'm tired and I'm worried. Worried for our country's future. You and the others are the future of Japan. Do you have any idea of why I am so hard?"

Osamu shook his head and watched as Ichikawa sat on the edge of his desk. "Son..I'm afraid none of you are ready. Life is going to be harder, much harder than any of us have ever known and if you're not ready to experience this hardness? None of you will make it."

Osamu squeaked out. "I'm afraid I shall be a disappointment as a tank driver Sir."

Ichikawa shook his head. "Do you think I want "you" to drive tanks? I'm going to shock you son…I could care less if you join the Army, in fact, I'd be happier if you would all head into the country and become rice farmers. If I could tell you all this without having to worry about the Secret Police putting a bullet through my skull, I would."

Tezuka's mouth dropped. "Sir! That's treason!"

"It's common sense!" Ichikawa snapped back. "Osamu…you're the smartest of all these boys, I see it in you, especially in your drawings. You have a remarkable influence with just a piece of scrap paper and a pencil boy…be the words I can't speak? Use this gift to save as many of these boys as you can from what I've seen. I can harden their bodies but you son can steady their minds for what's to come. To make them see how stupid this war has been and how we're all going to suffer for it"

Ichikawa grabbed Osamu by his shoulders. "Will you do this for me?"

Osamu nodded back. " I will Sir…I will try."

The Sergeant nodded pleased and pointed. "Now get out of my office you miserable little scum before I tell you the story of how Fritz saved the Imperial Fleet from the Russians."

"By blowing himself up?" Osamu replied smiling.

"No..by pissing on the Tzar's leg." Tachikawa replied.

San Diego Comic Con

Hotel Doubletree

1985

"I never saw Sergeant Tachikawa again. The special class ended in the summer of 1944 and we were sent to the arsenal in Osaka to work in the machine shops. He just vanished from life. Most of him still lives of course in Higeoyaji-san, especially his quick volcanic temper."

"Tadayoshi didn't stay long with our school. His Uncle and Aunt moved out of Osaka just before we were sent to the arsenal so they could set up a new law practice somewhere in Nagasaki. They all died in the atomic bombing in 1945, which is why in some parts of the manga and various anime Higeoyaji talks fondly of a favorite nephew named Yoshi.

The end