By Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
In the world of Japanese manga, Yoshihiro Tatsumi was a pioneer of the craft and is largely over-looked now in the country of his birth where there is a constant focus on the new. Us westerners still have a lot to learn and discover about Japanese comics, so itís gratifying that Drawn & Quarterly are taking the trouble to collect his work and make it available to an English-speaking audience.
This particular volume focuses on some of Tatsumiís short-stories, originally created around 1971. Theyíre not a jolly read by any means, and show a bleaker, darker side to life in Japan, in some cases still haunted by the events of the second world war.
The first tale is very much about this, featuring a military journalist who photographs a ghostly silhouette of a mother and sonís shadow, etched into the wall by the flash of the Hiroshima bomb. He believes the son is massaging the tired shoulders of his mother and the blast caught them unawares, making it a poignant and powerful moment in time and it rockets him into the limelight as the nation takes the photo to heart. However, when the photo turns out to have captured a very different moment, the photographer finds his reputation threatened.
In another tale a woman remains faithful to her rogue of a man while heís incarcerated, getting by as a hostess in a bar and having to suffer the daily drunken and lecherous punters. For four years she waits and is faithful to him, but on the day before her manís release she realises what a fool sheís been to hold out for such a despicable character and ends up avenging the matter in the only way she knows how.
Thereís little redemption or hope displayed in these tales, but the cultural and historical differences make this a fascinating and captivating collection. If modern manga isnít quite your cup of tea then you may well find this more to your taste.
And if you liked that: Look up a copy of Barefoot Gen.