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Điện Biên Phủ is a 2006 manga by Daisuke Nishijima. It tells the story of a 19-year-old Japanese-American photographer, Hikaru Minami, sent to South Vietnam to report for the Stars and Stripes in 1965 and his encounters with a mysterious Viet Cong warrior girl only identified as "Princess." It is distinguished by its peculiar style, which combines simple, anatomically deformed and unrealistic "kawaii" character designs (albeit drawn in a style more akin to Western cartoons than Japanese ones) with grim, graphic imagery, subject matter and tone. The manga includes much background material on the conflict, both within the main narrative and in omake appended to the story.

Plot

The manga begins in 1973, during the American military's hasty evacuation of the South. Two people die in an explosion, leaving only their intertwined hands. The story then flashes back to 1965, when Hikaru first arrives in Vietnam. He is briefed by Sergeant Watermelon on the nature of the conflict: that it is impossible to understand and that neither side is right. The sergeant also stresses that the debauchery of Saigon combined with the heartless brutality of combat erases soldiers' sense of morality. This is underlined later when Hikaru and Compton find the sergeant and a group of his men torturing Vietnamese prisoners, and the sergeant shoots Compton to keep him quiet. He is about to kill Hikaru as well when the entire group is mercilessly cut down by Princess; by a stroke of luck Hikaru's camera, hanging over his chest, softens his wound. He daydreams romantically about Princess during his convalescence.

After he recovers, Hikaru is given a new camera by his editor. It is promptly stolen by Bao and ends up on the black market for ten times its original price. Hikaru soon re-encounters Bao and tackles him, but after hearing about his dire circumstances, he lets him go. But Bao is soon tasked with detonating a suicide bomb in the US barracks. Despite another intervention by Hikaru, it explodes, although his and Bao's lives are saved by Princess, who mysteriously leaps in to carry them to safety.

Characters

  • Hikaru Minami - A 19-year-old Japanese-American photographer for the Stars and Stripes. He is tiny, naive, and innocent, yet sometimes oddly ambivalent about the gruesome events occurring around him.
  • Princess - The mysterious lead female figure. A Viet Cong guerilla, she massacres American soldiers with terrifying ease, and never says anything other than the chuckle "Nkuku." She exerts a powerful attraction over Hikaru.
  • Compton - Hikaru's companion, he is older and more mature and exhibits an earnest desire to seek out journalistic truth. He is murdered by the Sergeant in the first chapter.
  • Sergeant Watermelon - So named for his bulbous head, he has long been inured to the vicious immorality of Vietnam and exhibits a heartless lack of regard for Vietnamese prisoners and the journalists. He is beheaded by Princess in the first chapter.
  • Editor - Hikaru's boss. He is always seen smoking and looks rather ill. He thinks very little of Hikaru and does not hesitate to verbally and physically abuse him.
  • Bao - An 8-year-old street urchin orphaned by a stray American bomb. He also lost his right leg in said bomb and now performs odd jobs, some illegal and dangerous, to support his sister. He already smokes and speaks with the confidence of someone twice his age.
  • Nyu - Bao's 6-year-old sister. She works hard at school and disapproves of Bao's rough lifestyle. She has large eyebrows.

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