Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Tatsumi wasn’t well known in North America until his work started appearing in English translation several years ago.  But he’s apparently been known to Japanese audiences for decades.  The Canadian company Drawn & Quarterly has come out with five different Tatsumi volumes since 2005.  D&Q appear to be issuing new Tatsumi volumes on approximately an annual basis.  The thickest of these books is the 834-page A Drifting Life.

A Drifting Life chronicles Tatsumi’s early development from a manga-crazed schoolboy to an established artist in his mid-20s (a period of about 15 years).  It’s divided into 48 chapters of about 16 pages each.  I prefer to think of this book not as a unified graphic novel but rather as a 48-issue comic series joined into a single binding.  Each chapter opens with a striking splash page.  (One of these was used for the book’s cover.  See above.)  Here’s a sample of some typical panels, so you can see what his drawing style is like:

For comics aficionados, definitely a work to be read, enjoyed, studied, and returned to.  For anyone interested, here are the titles of the 48 chapters:

THE BIRTH OF MANGA

MANGA OBSESSION

THE JOURNALIST FROM MAINICHI SHIMBUN

ENTER TEZUKA

SIBLING RIVALRY

TEZUKA VANISHES

BELOVED MANGA

TORN APART

SUMMERTIME DREAMS

THE CON ARTIST

THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

DEBUT

THE SUN SETS ON HIGH SCHOOL DAYS

DESERT TRAVELER

A DREAM FULFILLED

COLD CALLING

HINOMARU BUNKO, RENTAL MANGA PUBLISHER

NOM DE PLUME

AN INFINITELY FREE WORLD

THE MANGA MONSTER

SEARCHING FOR A NEW METHOD

SHADOW

EXPERIMENTAL WORK

LIFE DRAWING

MASAMI KURODA’S PAST

SUMMER TRAINING CAMP

IN THE BALANCE

ESCAPE FROM CAMP

PASSION AND SEDUCTION

A TIME FOR GOOD-BYE

THE JOY OF CREATION

THE FALL OF HINOMARU BUNKO

MANAGING EDITOR

THE SHORT STORY BOOM

DRUNK WITH POWER

TO TOKYO, AND “GEKIGA”

KOTOBUKISO DAYS

THE BOOM CONTINUES

RENTAL MANGA WARS

DRAWING FROM TURMOIL

REACHING TOWARDS GEKIGA

THE BIRTH OF THE GEKIGA WORKSHOP

PROS AND CONS

THE VAMPIRE KILLER BECOMES A VAMPIRE

PASSION FOR GEKIGA DWINDLES

JEALOUSY AND FRUSTRATION

THE QUICK DISSOLUTION OF THE GEKIGA WORKSHOP

FUELED BY ANGER

[EPILOGUE]

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3 Comments

  1. acilius

     /  May 2, 2010

    I’ve never been into manga, but this autobiography does look very interesting. Surely it would be worth buying exactly six copies of that book.

  2. lefalcon

     /  May 2, 2010

    Yes – it’s certainly worth purchasing exactly six copies of this book. Something I didn’t get into in the post is, Tatsumi was the prime mover in the Gekiga movement. “Gekiga” is supposed to mean something like “dramatic pictures.” The Gekiga label was intended as a way of distinguishing more mature comics from childish Manga. It seems to have been a matter of dispute whether Gekiga was a subtype of Manga or a different medium entirely. In any case, Tatsumi has a reputation as an innovative figure who pioneered an underground comics movement in reaction against the cutesiness of much Manga. He’s got some great short stories about people finding dead foetuses in the sewer system, a traveling porn projectionist, a man that has bizarre erotic relations with dogs, etc. What I have learned is that Manga as a whole cannot be dismissed; it contains within it some compelling currents … in addition to the incredibly annoying “big eyes” aesthetic.

  3. acilius

     /  May 2, 2010

    I remember you talking about the traveling porn projectionist story. That sounds like a fascinating glimpse of cultural history. Surely that’s an occupation that must have become obsolete.

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