Hamakua Hero: A True Plantation Story, Written by Patsy Iwasaki and Illustrated by Avery Berido

The large-eyed and stylized characters in manga belie the fact that they often tackle mature themes.  Hamakua Hero represents the murder of Japanese immigrant Katsu Goto in 1889, bringing to life a dark chapter in the history of plantation-era Hawai‘i.

For author Patsy Iwasaki it was her young children who insisted she pursue Goto’s story in a manga format.  Recognizing that manga could appeal to young adults, she set about conveying the gravity of this poignant tale in an age-appropriate manner.

Despite its dark plot, Hamakua Hero does not linger on violent aspects of the story.  Starting as a lowly plantation worker, Katsu Goto worked tirelessly to become a successful business owner. His rising status was met with contempt by the primarily Caucasian business owners of the day.  They viewed Goto’s advocacy for immigrant rights as a threat to their livelihoods.  By juxtaposing Goto’s successes alongside his violent murder, this manga highlights the need for respect and tolerance among diverse communities.  It also reminds readers that racial and class problems still exist in contemporary Hawai‘i.




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