Kizu Tora

Tagged: Author

Pen-name of Mitsuyoshi Okazawa (1900-1950), also known as Ryōji Naka, Torao Kimura and several other pseudonyms, an early twentieth century Japanese author of Pulp fiction. Kizu appears to have been one of the Japanese intellectuals who embraced left-wing ideologies in the 1920s, leading to several of his stories to be informed by the anti-war concerns of Japan's "proletarian" movements. Paramount among his works in this mode is "Hai-iro ni Bokasareta Kekkon" ["The Wedding Shrouded in Grey"] (January 1927 Kagaku Gahō), set two hundred years in the future, in a world where 80% of the population has been wiped out by a Future War using phosgene gas (see Poisons). In search of a healthy husband, the heroine Miss Mikhalovich rejects an ailing Japanese suitor for a healthier European, only to discover as she takes her marriage vows that he has concealed numerous prosthetics from her. The titular pall issues from the gunsmoke of a salute at her wedding, which forms a dramatic, cinematic fog around her as she weeps.

With the suppression of the left wing in the 1930s, Kizu drifted into journalism. He translated or adapted an unidentified story by William Le Queux, an author with whom he had much in common, as "Satsujin Mashissō Jiken" ["The Case of the Vanishing Murderer"] (July 1931 Grotesque), and began to favor detective stories and mysteries. He worked as a journalist for the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper from 1938-1941, before joining the Seisen Gijutsu Kyōkai ["Crusade Technology Association"], a think-tank advising the Army Ministry on new Inventions and their possible applications. Most infamously, he suggested that the Tokyo air defence corps should confuse Allied radar by firing vast quantities of tin foil into the air; the idea was ridiculed by the military, although later independently developed and used by the Allies. Kizu also embraced, like his fellow authors Jūza Unno and Ranpo Edogawa, fiction in the service of the state, with stories such as "Tsubasa no Aru Taihō" ["The Winged Cannon"] (December 1943 Shūkan Shōkokumin) and "Seisōken Yōsai" ["Stratosphere Fortress"] (1943 Doitsu). He reached his book-length prime at the height of World War Two, leading to a rapid fall from grace in 1945, with his last propaganda story Sangodo Kōro ["Coral Island Highway"] (1944 venue unknown) abandoned midway through its serialization. Post-war, he worked mainly in children's publishing with the claim, seemingly made without irony, that it was "time to give children a new dream." His last work, as by Ryōji Naka, was "Dokugumo" ["Poisonous Spiders"] (October 1950 Jitsuwa Zasshi).

Kizu Tora's early work displays a profound mastery of genre forms, seeming decades ahead of its time, with strong resonances of what today would be called Steampunk. However, his place in the history of the genre has been occluded, not only by his own insistence on multiple pseudonyms, but also by the influence of the war on the content of his later fiction and, in turn, its sinking into obscurity following Japan's defeat. The precise extent of his popularity and influence on Japanese sf still requires detailed research into exactly who he was, or pretended to be. [JonC]

Mitsuyoshi Okazawa

born Fukuoka, Japan: 5 January 1900

died Japan: 16 December 1950

works (selected)

  • Kaitei Kokkyōsen ["Border of the Undersea Kingdom"] (Tokyo: Okugawa Shobō, 1942) [pb/]
  • Hibosō Kantai ["Demilitarized Fleet"] (Tokyo: Okugawa Shobō, 1942) [pb/]
  • Seisōken Yōsai ["Stratosphere Fortress"] (Tokyo: Tsuri no Kenkyūsha, 1944) [fixup: pb/]

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