I'm moving to my new home in Oak Creek, WI tomorrow, and I won't have internet access for the day, so here's Manga Monday a day early!
A Drifting Life
Yoshihiro Tatsumi's autobiographic work A Drifting Life is quite the undertaking, clocking in at over 830 pages. Often when I'd been reading the book for hours, I would be amazed to see how little progress I'd made along the thick spine. But if you're looking for what's bound to be one of the best manga to be published in America this year, then you won't be disappointed.
For whatever reason, Tatsumi chose to tell this story in third person under the name of Hiroshi Katsumi, and as such, we see manga develop during his early life. This autobiography is more about his involvement with the industry than anything too personal, although I really think that Tatsumi was so immersed in this world that this is what his life was like, even if we don't get to see too much within his brilliant mind. There's plenty of life at home with his sickly brother growing up, and a few brief love interests that dart into his life. But the bulk of the story is his own rise within manga, from submitting to contests, getting his first books published, to being a part of some revolutionary ventures in manga, including the creation of gekiga. It's really fascinating seeing the rise of manga through his eyes, as he was part of the wars between several publishers, and quite an instrumental force in shaping how manga looks today. For anyone who's interested in manga's history or the influences of other artforms on the medium, this is a must-read. I was a little surprised that the book ended so abruptly, however. There's no indication in this novel of how gekiga grows after the Gekiga Workshop disbands, or how the artform turns into the type of thing we see in this actual manga we are reading. Also, I was waiting for Tatsumi to publish some of his highly regarded stories like The Push-Man, and see the manga anthologies move from short stories to chapters of stories that carry through the magazines from one issue to another. But despite what my expectations were, this is a really riveting look at Tatsumi's early life in his struggle to become a manga artist and follow in the footsteps of his hero Osamu Tezuka. Tatsumi had quite the vision, if only we could have seen more of that realized within this, his life story. But overall, an absolute delight to read, and quite inspiring. Tatsumi is really a man of artistic integrity who wants to see the medium grow. He loves manga and you can see it on every page of this enormous project.