Archive for the 'Manga' Category

Sailing the Seas of Manga: A Drifting Life

A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi


Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life (Drawing & Quarterly, 2009) is a graphic memoir of epic proportions. It is an autobiographical work thinly veiled as fiction, which recounts the story of two brothers, Hiroshi and Okimasa Katsumi as they grow from adolescence to adulthood. Both boys are obsessed with reading and drawing manga.

The Early Years

In grade seven, one of Okimasa’s “postcard comics” is published in the monthly magazine Manga Shonen, much to Hiroshi’s chagrin. Not long afterwards, however, Hiroshi follows suit with work published in Manga Yomimono (Manga and Literature) and numerous other magazines. He begins receiving letters from other youth who are equally enthralled with manga, which leads to Hiroshi’s formation of the Children’s Manga Association with six other postcard comic creators. The association publishes the hand-drawn magazine Stars of Manga, “…likely the first national amateur manga association formed in the post-war period (41). Continue reading ‘Sailing the Seas of Manga: A Drifting Life’

Manga Meets Nouvelle Vague: Red Colored Elegy

Red Colored Elegy by Seiichi Hayashi

Red Colored Elegy is a story told in the space between words. Two young lovers named Sachiko and Ichiro are living a simultaneously simple and complex life. They are mirrors to one another, and are finding their voices through a difficult period of trial and error, presence and absence. Dialogue in Red Colored Elegy is used with restraint; the book’s narrative is fragmented and riddled with despair, and just holds together on a first reading. Some speech balloons are populated with emptiness, others with nothing more than an ellipsis.

The faces of Hayashi’s characters are at times rendered with only the eyes drawn in, which gives them a ghostly appearance. His artwork possesses a quality reminiscent of naïve and primitive artists, with a softness of line that depicts bodies with the innocence of children’s drawings. And though Red Colored Elegy was not written for children, it does address the hardships involved with growing up. Continue reading ‘Manga Meets Nouvelle Vague: Red Colored Elegy’


Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

With the remarkable influence of Osama Tezuka’s work beginning in 1947, manga were legitimized and embraced in Japanese popular culture.  The majority of the volumes were published in Tokyo, but an alternate industry competed  with the monthly magazines that were voraciously purchased by readers. Based in Osaka, kashibon’ya were pay-libraries that charged a small fee to loan out manga according to the number of days they were borrowed. In the 1950s, as many as 30 000 lending shops operated in Japan. The readership of these comics grew to include many young adults and factory employees. Consequently, the stories in these volumes began to introduce increasingly mature storylines. Yoshihiro Tatsumi was among the vanguard of artists experimenting with this form.

Especially with the publication of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s A Drifting Life in English, it is fitting to revisit Abandon the Old in Tokyo (Drawn & Quarterly, 2006), one of Tatsumi’s highly acclaimed early works.

Edited, designed and lettered by Adrian Tomine, the stories in Abandon the Old in Tokyo marked a turning point in graphic narrative in Japan. At the end of the collection, Tatsumi remarks in a written interview between Tomine and Tatsumi that these works were among the first instances of gekiga:

Translated literally as “dramatic pictures,” gekiga is a term Tatsumi coined in 1957 to describe the darker, more realistic style of cartooning that he and his peers were pioneering. Gekiga might best be thought of as a style or genre within the broader term of manga, in the way that “underground” or “alternative” are subsets of the term “comics” (197).

The dark tales that Tatsumi was developing at the time were a reaction against the gag humour that was omnipresent in the early manga of Japan, and which continue to flourish to this day. Continue reading ‘Gekiga’

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