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Posted on Jun 28, 2007 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

Dragon of The Mangroves – Book Review

By C.D.Bledsoe II

cover.jpgBook Review:  Dragon of The Mangroves, A Novel by Yasuyuki Kasai, 139 pages with Bibliography

It is a rare thing to read Historical accounts of the Japanese side of World War 2. It is even a rarer thing to read a Fictional account of the Japanese side in World War 2, but that’s just what Dragon is. Set in Burma, Ramree Island from 16 February to 20 February of 1945, this is the story of  two Japanese soldiers, and what occurs to them during the battle for Ramree Island.

2nd Lieutenant Yoshihisa Sumi is a commander of a Type 97 tankette platoon on mainland Burma, who finds himself assigned by his superiors to a mission, a mission to travel by boat to Ramree Island and evacuate the remnants of the 121st Regt. He picks his team and takes up his mission. He proves to be an able officer who takes pride in his mission. He disguises his team as Burmese fishermen at the request of a Burmese soldier in the Service of the IJA.

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Our other protagonist is Senior Private Minoru Kasuga, a machine gunner in the beleaguered Regiment trapped on Ramree Island. The book follows his exploits as he fights and retreats across the island as his comrades are killed by British and Indian troops and planes.  Kasuga stumbles across something vile that lives on Ramree and the Myinkhon Creek that separates Ramree from the mainland. The creek and surrounding mangroves are full of saltwater crocodiles. And these Crocs sometimes have been known to take lone fishermen or lone villagers who come too close to the waterways of the island.

While Sumi is undertaking his mission and searches for survivors of the 121st Regt to rescue, Kasuga and his comrades must dodge English patrols and gunboats, as they attempt to make a dangerous nighttime swim across Myinkhon Creek. He and his friends run from the barrages of shells and English bullets and reach the creek. But the creek has a surprise awaiting the hapless Japanese as they try to escape.

I found the style to be new and refreshing. It has a very Japanese taste to it. Kasai’s Characters are very real and act as real Japanese soldiers must have acted during that time. He has written this story based on actual accounts of the 121st Regt. and the battle of Ramree Island. These accounts also speak of a horrendous loss of life as the Regiment attempted to escape form Ramree across the Myinkhon Creek to Mainland Burma. In the book’s opening, Kasai  mentions, that nearly 1,000 Japanese Soldiers died in the jaws of the saltwater crocodiles that infest the Creek and mangroves. The book has a macabre feeling and was exciting without being gory. It is well written from the soldier’s view and the horror is real to them when they realize what is happening in that dark, sinister creek.

I for one, will wait to see if Kasai-san will write more fiction of this caliber.

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