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A Drifting Life

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Overview

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 today’s graphic novel movement. A Drifting Life is his monumental memoir eleven years in the making, beginning with his ...

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Overview

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 today’s 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, Tatsumi’s stand-in protagonist, Hiroshi, faces his father’s financial burdens and his parents’ failing marriage, his jealous brother’s 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, Apollo’s 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.

Winner of the 2010 Eisner Award for Best Reality-Based Work and for Best U.S. Edition of International Material - Asia

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Yoshihiro Tatsumi:

“In the hands of a talent like Tatsumi . . . hidden worlds are excavated and dark corners of the human condition illuminated.” —Bookforum

“His nakedly personal work, created when the medium was predominantly impersonal, made Tatsumi unique in Japan and around the world.” —Print

Dwight Garner
It's a book that manages to be, all at once, an insider's history of manga, a mordant cultural tour of post-Hiroshima Japan and a scrappy portrait of a struggling artist. It's a big, fat, greasy tub of salty popcorn for anyone interested (as Americans increasingly are) in the theory and practice of Japanese comics. It's among this genre's signal achievements…book has a rolling, rumbling grandeur. It's as if someone had taken a Haruki Murakami novel and drawn, beautifully and comprehensively, in its margins.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

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. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal
Gr 10 Up–This is a masterfully drafted autobiographical work by the creator of Good-bye (2008) and Abandon the Old in Tokyo (2006, both Drawn & Quarterly). Referring to himself as Hiroshi, Tatsumi begins his story with the surrender of Japan after World War II, when he was 10 years of age, and details the following 15 years of his life. Deeply passionate about manga at a young age, he chronicles the time from his start as an enthusiast to his rise as an influential and celebrated author/illustrator of the format. Although this book centers primarily on Tatsumi’s writing career, the history of manga, influential writers and publications of the time, and the turbulent manga publishing industry, much more is revealed. Family life and dynamics influenced by his parents’ troubled marriage, his father’s financial difficulties, and his friendship and rivalry with his brother are explored, first sexual interests and experiences are considered, and relationships among fellow artists are skillfully portrayed. Historical political and cultural events are introduced throughout the story, giving readers a feel for Japan’s climate and social landscape during the period. Black-ink images in a combination of detailed/realistic panels mixed with cartoon-style artwork enhance the atmosphere and bring the characters to life. This is a captivating autobiography, and one that should have high appeal to those interested in the history of manga and Japanese culture, and followers of Tatsumi’s works.–Lara McAllister, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781897299746
  • Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
  • Publication date: 4/14/2009
  • Pages: 840
  • Sales rank: 941,836
  • Product dimensions: 8.74 (w) x 6.52 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet 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.

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