New Release: Black Ships

Posted by – March 07, 2017
Categories: Excerpt Martial Arts New Release Society & Politics

Award-winning comic book writer Sean Michael Wilson and manga artist Akiko Shimojima team up for a graphic novel that tells the compelling story of the four American black ships that arrived in Japan in 1853 under the command of Commodore Perry to force Japan to open up to trade.

“Black ships” is the phrase used in Japan to describe the vessels in which foreigners—or gaijin—arrived during the 16th and 19th centuries. The dramatic narration and striking images capture the fearsome scenes of military power, the dark might of the black ships and the anxious response of the Japanese Shogunate, which struggled to reach an agreement under the threat of violence and unwelcome change.

Historically accurate and with an easy-to-read format, Black Ships brings to life the characters and events that sparked this pivotal moment in Japanese history—one that transformed the culture and opened up the country to the modern period. We hope you enjoy this sneak peek!


A letter from Sean Michael Wilson on Black Ships:

Our goal with Black Ships, as with all the Japanese history, samurai, and martial arts books that we have done—thirteen of them so far—can be summarized as combining two aspects: accuracy and accessibility. We want to make books that make history more accessible as well as easier to enjoy and take in, and to do it via the mix of visuals and text that make comic books and manga special. It is regrettable that many of us, especially younger readers, have little knowledge of our own histories. In Japan this is particularly true, with people in their twenties knowing very little about the history of their own country. They often think of history as boring and difficult.

For these young people in Japan, and also in the United States, Britain, and other countries, I have this to say: history is interesting, and history is easy. It’s not all about memorizing meaningless dates. If that is how it is being taught to you, then your educational system needs to change. History is about you; it is about your father, your grandmother, and your friends. It’s about what those individuals struggled against, and how the things that surround you got to be that way. It’s about how people used to live, what places used to look like. It’s about the ghosts of yesterday who once walked the streets of today. It’s also about learning lessons from our past so that we don’t have to make the same mistakes. In a world of growing conflict among various countries, systems, and religions, having a knowledge of history helps us be smarter, make better decisions, and avoid wars.

History is made up of engaging stories of fascinating characters, powerful movements, and events both large and small. Using a graphic format can help bring these stories to life, through combining an interesting narrative with drawings that help us visualize this pivotal period of Japanese history.

—Seán Michael Wilson, Kumamoto, Japan

About the Author

Maren began her publishing career as an intern at Counterpoint and Soft Skull Press, where she stayed on for more than four years as a publicist and web coordinator. She joined the NAB team in 2015 and is still stoked about it—she gets to read her Rob Brezsny horoscope (Scorpio)​ before anyone else! Maren lives in Oakland with a monstrous Maine Coon and spends the majority of her spare time convincing him to not eat all of her houseplants. Sometimes she has time to write, paint things, garden, or repair furniture.​