Synopses & Reviews
The epic autobiography of a manga master
Acclaimed for his visionary short-story collections The Push Man and Other Stories, Abandon the Old in Tokyo, and Good-Bye—originally created nearly forty years ago, but just as resonant now as ever—the legendary Japanese cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi has come to be recognized in North America as a precursor of todays graphic novel movement. A Drifting Life is his monumental memoir eleven years in the making, beginning with his experiences as a child in Osaka, growing up as part of a country burdened by the shadows of World War II.
Spanning fifteen years from August 1945 to June 1960, Tatsumis stand-in protagonist, Hiroshi, faces his fathers financial burdens and his parents failing marriage, his jealous brothers deteriorating health, and the innumerable pitfalls that await him in the competitive manga market of mid-twentieth-century Japan. He dreams of following in the considerable footsteps of his idol, the manga artist Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Apollos Song, Ode to Kirihito, Buddha)—with whom Tatsumi eventually became a peer and, at times, a stylistic rival. As with his short-story collection, A Drifting Life is designed by Adrian Tomine.
"Tatsumi revolutionized manga in the 1950s, inventing gekiga seething, slice-of-life stories about emotional crises. In this elephantine memoir (in which he barely disguises himself as 'Hiroshi Katsumi'), he tells the story of his early years in the comics business, from his teenage obsession with entering postwar magazines' reader-cartoon contests and poring over Osamu Tezuka's comics to the brief late-'50s heyday of the gekiga workshop over which he presided. It's also a history of Japan in that era, filtered through Tatsumi's own experience the sound of cicadas is a recurring symbol of portentousness and packed with digressions on cartooning technique, the movies and prose fiction that inspired him, and his nervous flirtations with women; the passage of time is marked by illustrated factoids about each year's headlines. Tatsumi's visual technique is very much a product of an earlier generation his characters' faces are simple, broad caricatures but the mastery he's gained in half a century of cartooning comes through in his immaculate staging and composition. Readers curious about Japanese comics history may find the book's wealth of detail fascinating; for the most part, though, Tatsumi's vivid, graceful dramatizations of the period's shifting business and creative alliances don't quite justify the tedious, repetitive hybrid of bildungsroman and industry time line he's created." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Born in 1935, Yoshihiro Tatsumi began writing and drawing comics for a sophisticated adult readership in a realistic style he called Gekiga. He has influenced generations of cartoonists and lives in Japan.