At the Santa Anita Assembly Center reunion last weekend, one of the things mentioned to me was the cartoon Lil’ Neebo (Little Nisei Boy) by Chris Ishii that ran in the assembly center newspaper the Santa Anita Pacemaker. Ishii, a Disney animator and graduate of Chouinard Art Institute, would also draw Lil’ Neebo cartoons at Amache for the Granada Pioneer. More cartoons and a good article on Ishii, who passed away in 2001, are available at the animation blog Cartoon Brew.
As a kid, I always wanted to be a cartoonist and one of the first things that really caught my attention from the camps was my dad’s old copy of the Lil Dan’l cartoons created by George Akimoto for the Rohwer Outpost. Sometimes a cartoon or illustration can convey a lot more than words. I’m not sure, but perhaps Lil’ Neebo and Lil Dan’l (what’s up with the Lil?) were for young Nisei, what Bill Maudlin’s weary infantrymen Willie and Joe, were for the soldiers reading Stars and Stripes. Through these characters, they could see a part of themselves.
I hope someday that these cartoons will be republished so that more people can enjoy them, they tell an important part of the wartime story.