The comic-strip dog character Norakuro waves from the cockpit of this ceramic water-dropper (for grinding ink) in the shape of a war-plane. A waterdropper (suiteki) is filled with water and used to drip water onto a stone when grinding ink. This Suiteki has a wingspan of roughly 9.5 cm (just less than 4 inches). Norakuro is a black and white dog enlisted as a private in the “Mokenrentai” (Fierce Dog Brigade), an Imperial army of white dogs fighting in a war against the Monkey Army. In the West we might consider mortal enemies to be like cats and dogs, but in Japan it has always been monkeys and dogs (later the enemy would become pigs). This war-time comic first appeared in 1931 in Shonen Kurabu (Boy’s Club) magazine and was clearly based on the Japanese Imperial Army of the time. The creator, Tagawa Suiho, had served in the army and used his experience as a basis for the comic strip. The series, with its simple dialogue and poetic illustrations, was one of the most successful Japanese comics of the 1930s. Although it was highly successful the main character, blundering his way through the banalities and harrows of daily military life, was taken to be critical of the Imperial Army and was forcibly cancelled in 1941 by government censors.
Tagawa Suiho (Takamizawa Nakatarō, 1899-1989) was born in Tokyo, his mother died in birth, and he was raised by his father and an uncle, both of whom died while Tagawa was still young. He received a basic education, and grew up an orphan. He was conscripted into the Imperial Army in 1919, finishing in 1922. In 1925, he graduated from Nihon Bijutsu Gakkō Art School, and initially wrote Rakugo, then began producing manga comics in 1927. His character Norakuro was picked up by Shonen Kurabu in 1931, and was one of the magazines most popular features, with a ten year run before being cancelled by the authorities. He is recognized as one of the pioneers of the Japanese manga industry and was recipient of numerous awards including the Imperial Order of the Rising Sun. Post war Norakuro was reinvented in the 1980s briefly as a television series. His student Hasegawa Machiko, one of the first female manga artists, is the creator of Sazaesan. This series began in 1946, and ended publication in 1974. It was subsequently made into a television series and holds the World record as the longest running animated series on television.