Sunday, March 14, 2010

Review: A Drifting Life

So this week is a review of the title is A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Let me start off by saying, this is a the first title in a while that I enjoyed a whole lot. This manga is an abundance of elements rolled up in one. First and foremost it's a biography of Tatsumi's life, which I feel he really managed to capture different moments in life. I really felt what he was feeling at different points in the story. I felt very drawn into manga, I felt like I could see everything going one before me. An example of this is when he is at Kyoto University to take the entrance exam. He starts to take the exam but the weight of all the numerous things going on in his life at the time drive him to run out in the middle as a whirlwind of emotion overcomes him. I felt almost dizzy during it, I was so drawn into the story. I can't say much about the title as a biography, I really haven't read that many. If they are all this engrossing though, maybe I should read more of them.

Next it is also a view of post war Japan in daily life and pop culture. It really gives a feel for Tastsumi's daily life growing up with his family and going to school. The title as presents the good and the bad of his family in a balanced manner. Sure his Father did some rather idiot things, he isn't painted in a stereotypical bad Father light. (I also learned from this title that during the early post where period Japan used vehicles powered by coal...Sakura Wars makes so much more sense now!) The story also often takes short breaks where Tatsumi will interject with what is going on in pop culture at the time. These make great reference points to the time of the story and to give a general feeling of the world at the time.

On another level it's also a history of not just Gekiga (what Tatsumi is known for) but of manga in general. We see him and his brother doing short four panel strips, admiring early Tezuka, and discussing what manga is. And trust me all of the different people he meets along the way have a different meaning of manga in their hearts. I also got the feeling for just how much western works influenced manga (here's a secret...a whole fucking lot). Tatsumi goes to the movies often and works to incorporate the style of narrative from his favorite films into his work. There is also a great point in the tale where we learn how much on of the first hard boiled novels really influenced Gekiga and manga in general.

The art is a pretty unique style, on one hand it's undeniably manga and Japanese but on the other hand it's not like any art style we see today. It does hearken back to a different time of manga, a time I've only really ever dipped my toes into really. The art is rather expressive and well done and I do think it does a great job of helping immerse one into Tatsumi's world. The problem being is that it doesn't look like today's manga and that will most likely be a turn off for every but the super serious manga fan, or the alternative comics fan.

That being said this is a title that is really worth checking out if you are a anime/manga fan just for the rich history it goes into. With the parts that talked about Osamu Tezuka, really gives life and understanding to the knowledge of just how important he was. That being said this title is really about Gekiga which is another cornerstone that has influenced anime/manga. Without Gekiga perhaps much of the anime/manga anyone who grew up in the 90's loved wouldn't have existed.

A biography is at it's in essence a slice of life story and this was one I felt really engrossed in. It really gave off the feeling something important is happening around these people but even they are a bit oblivious to it. I wanted to meet these people he worked in and live in this world though, there was just some much energy. A sensation that they were on to something. This title is a must of any serious fan of manga, it's also worthing looking at for the personal look of post WWII Japan.

Final Verdict: If history class was this awesome...I would have learned more.

1 comment:

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