Thursday, February 05, 2009

PREVIEW OF TATSUMI'S A DRIFTING LIFE

Hot on the heels of the Most Anticipated Books of 2009 list, a glimpse into A DRIFTING LIFE, the upcoming manga autobiography/masterpiece from Yoshihiro Tatsumi, has made its way online. The book will be published by Drawn & Quarterly a little later this year, in a giant 800+ page hardcover tome designed and lettered by Adrian Tomine. Interestingly, the second and final installment of this book was just recently published last month in Japanese, by Seirin Kogeisha - quite a fast turnaround for English publication!

On the site of international lit magazine, Words Without Borders, they've debuted a 16 page preview of the forthcoming English edition of this book (link via MangaBlog!).

I've had the chance to read the first 100 pages or so, and it provides a personal history and eyewitness account of the early years of the manga industry, and the development of the gekiga movement. Incredible stuff, both for fans and for academically-minded manga/Japanese literature nerds. It's easy to imagine this alongside Schodt's Manga! Manga! in a syllabus for a college course on Japanese Pop Culture.

Here's an example of what we're talking about (click the preview above for more pages!):


According to Amazon, A Drifting Life will be released on 4/16/2009. The recently-updated marketing summary of the book reads,
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.

Anyone else gonna be at the Toronto Comic Art Festival in May, and attending the Tatsumi/Tomine presentation? I'm leaning toward trying to go... I wonder if Edgar Wright (who is in Toronto for filming) will stop by with Bryan Lee O'Malley to talk about the Scott Pilgrim movie?

UPDATE! - I thought this excellent comment from my buddy Nate (SH's Man in Japan) was worth bringing up to the top of the page. Nate is living in Japan right now doing PhD dissertation work, and had this to share about A Drfiting Life:
Having just burned through this in Japanese, I can confirm that this book is indeed the shit, and I was happy to pay the almost 40 bucks that the two volumes of the Japanese version set me back.

The beauty of this book is that it's not only the story of Tatsumi's career and life, or of gekiga, but really of both manga itself and even early postwar Japan. If you know your postwar manga (which I don't...) the list of characters is stunning; if you don't, it's a great introduction - Tatsumi palled around with Saito Takao of Golgo 13 fame and tons of others who are no doubt waiting to be discoverd by manga fans.

If I could make a criticism it would be that he spends a long amount of time in the second half really going into a lot of nitty gritty about the formation of different associations and contracts with different publishers - it drags a bit, but its stuff like this that make it really valuable as history, like Ryan says. The other thing I wanted was more!! Apparently Tatsumi spent 13 years and 800 pages on it, but he still only gets up to 1960 - in other words, way before he even got around to crafting the stories that we all have been introduced to! I wanted to find out how he went from near-virginal young manga boy to chronicler of dirty down and out shit. There are hints, but I want to know about the NEXT decade of his life...

One interesting thing is that I always thought "gekiga" referred more to said gritty side of life tales, but it really is closer, at least at that point Tatsumi chronicles, to "hard-boiled" type noir stories, and apparently went through some similar censorship issues as American comics in the 50s (comics code, Wertham, etc) Hopefully this book opens up the way for more of those classics to be published in English!!

Short story long, if you're not waiting with bated breath you should be!


UPDATE #2: I wanted to remind folks that Evan actually met Tatsumi back at Comic Con 2006, and we have the posts and videos to prove it! He also got us autographed and personalized copies of Abandon The Old in Tokyo! CLICK HERE for those pics and videos.


One of the videos from our YouTube Channel:

30 comments:

Azraelito said...

Impresionante!!

ohoho sorry I forgot it is in spanish xD!!Astonishing, Incredible!!

very cool for dq to have these kind of licenses, tatsumi deserves these kind of treatment!The best editions and designs!!

This will be my first book of Tatsumi in Dq, I have other work of him but in other publishers like Ponent Mon but the one that publish in Spain and La Cupula that is also from Spain.

I hope we can have more work of others monsters of Gekiga like Matsumo Masuhiko, Sanpei Shirato or Hiroshi Hirata!!

saludos and also to evan who is always in darkness like a ninja!!xD

sheisept said...

Thanks for this post! What an exciting preview! Funny to see Tezuka in Tatsumi's style.

This is also such a relatively optimistic little vignette. Tezuka makes everything better :]

kouros said...

Damn it, I was already eagerly anticipating this, and this preview just made it worse! April can't come soon enough.

ryan said...

@azraelito: It's gonna be amazing. Such a great book!

If you are interested in Matsumoto, Sanpei Shirato or Hirata, then you will be VERY interested in the upcoming English history of Gekiga book that Sean Michael Wilson is working on... It's gonna cover all those old and influential early dudes. In addition to that, I believe that A Drifting Life will quickly become one of the most important "History of Manga" books by a Japanese witness that there is...

@Sheisept: I put this on the other post (most anticipated list) but again: "I believe the price of A Drifting Life will be $30 retail, which is insanely fair and WORTH IT. There are more Tezuka panels in the excerpt I read (for this grant support letter I wrote, long story) and he was like pixie dust and rainbows. Even at a young age he made quite an important impression on the other manga pioneers and his contemporaries. Dude died WAY. TOO. YOUNG."

ryan said...

@kouros: I know, right? It's gonna be hard to wait for it. At least it JUST came out in Japan... we're getting it just 3 months after them :) Nice to get an important book like this so close to contemporaneously as possible!

Nate said...

Having just burned through this in Japanese, I can confirm that this book is indeed the shit, and I was happy to pay the almost 40 bucks that the two volumes of the Japanese version set me back.

The beauty of this book is that it's not only the story of Tatsumi's career and life, or of gekiga, but really of both manga itself and even early postwar Japan. If you know your postwar manga (which I don't...) the list of characters is stunning; if you don't, it's a great introduction - Tatsumi palled around with Saito Takao of Golgo 13 fame and tons of others who are no doubt waiting to be discoverd by manga fans.

If I could make a criticism it would be that he spends a long amount of time in the second half really going into a lot of nitty gritty about the formation of different associations and contracts with different publishers - it drags a bit, but its stuff like this that make it really valuable as history, like Ryan says. The other thing I wanted was more!! Apparently Tatsumi spent 13 years and 800 pages on it, but he still only gets up to 1960 - in other words, way before he even got around to crafting the stories that we all have been introduced to! I wanted to find out how he went from near-virginal young manga boy to chronicler of dirty down and out shit. There are hints, but I want to know about the NEXT decade of his life...

One interesting thing is that I always thought "gekiga" referred more to said gritty side of life tales, but it really is closer, at least at that point Tatsumi chronicles, to "hard-boiled" type noir stories, and apparently went through some similar censorship issues as American comics in the 50s (comics code, Wertham, etc) Hopefully this book opens up the way for more of those classics to be published in English!!

Short story long, if you're not waiting with bated breath you should be!

i'm nick said...

Exciting! I just read "Good-Bye" last night and was blown away. I am definitely adding more Tatsumi to my shopping cart. I hope all is well in the bay,

Nick

Joseph Luster said...

Wow, $30 isn't bad at all for a massive book like this. I can't wait!

Joseph Luster said...

Good lord, it's $19.77 on Amazon. That's amazing.

ryan said...

@Joseph: Yeah, but you should buy from your local comic shop or from D&Q direct :) Be a good comics supporter!

ryan said...

@joseph: haha, as if I have to tell you ! You're already a king of supporting indie manga :)

ryan said...

Gonna update the post once more, with a link to when Evan met TATSUMI!

Sean Michael Wilson said...

Well done for continuing to promote this mature style manga Ryan - whit a grand lad ye are!

I also have Drifting life in Japanese. I was lucky enough to be sent the 2 volumes by Asakawa, who originally commissioned Tatsumi to make the book in the first place. In fact it was Asakawa being busy on getting the Japanese version of Drifting life ready that meant we had to delay production a bit on the AX collection in English. Though, we are absolutely back on track with that, more than a quarter of the big AX book is now done. Including a 22 page story from Tatsumi that have never been seen in English before.

Yes, the English version of Drifting life is coming out very much hot on the heels of the Japanese version. Well done to Drawn & Quarterly! As Nate notes the book ends in the initial period of Gekiga and does not yet venture into the more surreal/gritty/autobiographical strands that developed in the mid to late 60's. As Ryan notes, the GEKIGA ROOTS book that Asakawa and myself will focus on next will cover that in great depth, so fear not!

I think May in Toronto is a very rare chance to meet Tatsumi. Get your Japanese ready please! I have already taught a simple Japanese sentence for Brett of Top Shelf to say to Tatsumi when he meets him there - Brett Gambatte!

Last thing: as I said in my speech in San Francisco, when Ryan helped me, the next guy we should be thinking of getting out there in English is Masahiko Matsumoto. He is one of those folk that Tatsumi worked alongside in the early days of Gekiga. Matsumoto was, according to Tatsumi himself in an interview for the Gekiga Roots book, a big influence in creating some of the key aspects of gekiga. Yet so far he has had almost no attention. Of course Asakawa and myself want to help change that if we can.

Joseph Luster said...

@Ryan Definitely. I just know not everyone has really AWESOME comic shops anywhere near them. Decent alternative, at least.

Joseph Luster said...

@Ryan Going to spam one more time. You guys aren't at NYCC by any chance, are you? About to roll to the city in a few minutes.

ryan said...

@Joseph: oh definitely, it's a great way to get the book... I am trying to think of another manga that is that big... Ode to Kirihito, I guess?

And nope, I am not there for NYCC this year. I haven't solidified my plans, but I'm thinking:

Stumptown: possssssibly
TCAF: tentatively yeah
Design Festa in Tokyo: god, i wish
MoCCA: most hopefully yes
APE: yep
SPX: if i can afford it

Joseph Luster said...

I don't know why I thought you were, haha.

I'd really like to hit up APE, I've never been. I'd also like to have some comics done when I go, so maybe I'll have to save it for next year and get a booth with someone or something.

Sean Michael Wilson said...

A cute little thing in Drifting Life is Tatsumi noting the cost of a meal when he was a teenager. On page 67 he notes that Curry rice was 80 yen. Now its about 700 yen. Oh, the inflation!
But we are talking about more than 50 years ago...

Azraelito said...

god bless you sean and all the words towards Masahiko Matsumoto.

Apart from Tatsumi who is a god of gekiga, there a lot more who deserves the same treatment! one of the mis Matsumoto or Tsuge!

but well, if this is one of the books that has to open a path for publishers to re think what they are publishing and search for others kind of authors I hope it is!
I dont think that tokyopop will ever publish shintaro kago or miyaya kazuhiko, but maybe publishers like vertical inc, last gasp(cof cof cof cof huge hardcore fans of kago), top shelf, Drawn Quarterly or Picture Box maybe yes!

I hope this kind of mangas open a new path in reading to people in countries in order to publish other authors apart from Toriyama, Kurumada and the ovbiously ones!

saludos!!

ps: Apart from the ax book, I know that I will be one of the first ones here in Argentina to be a hardcore fan of that book called gekiga roots that you want to publish sean!

NANA said...

I was at the last TCAF really briefly to meet Bryan Lee O'Malley and attend a panel or two, and it was pretty darn neat. Smallish venue, so you really had the chance to talk with people :)

Plus Toronto's a nice place to visit. I know the Beguiling stocks Electric Ant, but have you ever had a chance to visit? And there's always http://www.trashpalace.ca/ on Friday nights for a not so mainstream movie fix... (I'm not an advertisement, really.)

ryan said...

@Joseph: Oh yeah, you should come to APE! it's quite fun and can you ask for a better location? Evan and I have tabled with the same crew the last 3 years running:
+ Hellen Jo
+ Calvin Wong
+ Derek Yu
+ Anthony Wu
We are lucky to have them and couldn't ask for more talented co-tablers. At the last one, I tried to sell the zine to folks that came specifically to see Hellen and her amazing stuff :)

@Sean: Can't wait to read the gekiga book :)

@azraelito: Awesome thoughts to hear as always!

@NANA: Yeah, I'm hoping the SP panel this year will have movie guests and stuff. I actually met Edgar Wright briefly at SDCC on the floor and offered him a copy of Tokyo Zombie... but he already had it?? :B

I grew up in SE michigan, so I've actually been to Toronto 2 or 3 times-- thought not recently. Last time was for a weekend road trip after high school graduation in 2000. I have a good buddy named Vivian who lives there, along with new comics friends Michael DeForge and some others. PLUS! I'd love to have a change to see the beguiling in person. also um.. the CN tower? is that correct?

i hope i can make it out. we'll see :)

Nate said...

@Sean - the Gekiga Roots book you mentions sounds absolutely, absolutely fabulous! I had never heard of guys like Matsumoto before, but after reading Tatsumi's book, my curiosity is piqued, since so much of it is (as you know) devoted to their mostly friendly rivalry, and the competition to develop new theoretical styles and name them. I'm considering taking another flip through the book, jotting down all the names, and then just taking the list to Mandarake in Tokyo and seeing what happens. Good luck on your amazing project!

As an aside, I was reading some early 70s Tezuka stuff today, and in one scene a character is flipping through the newspaper notices. As a gag, some of the notes on the page include "Yoshihiro, I'm waiting for you at Hinomaru - Yamada" and "To Akatsuka Fujio: Get your shit together! - Dad"

Does anyone know what is the deal with the rampant popularity of "Fujio" as a pen name in the early postwar?

by Michael DeForge said...

dude, come to Toronto! i will take you on a pizza and burger tour of the city.

Joseph Luster said...

@ryan That's a killer table. I love Hellen Jo's art!

vivian said...

I totally somehow didn't catch the bold magenta first time around. AWESOME. Keep me posted!!

vivian said...

Also: Matt moved kind of far away so me bunking with him might be annoying since it's too far for me to walk to work from his new place. But I can figure something out and you + friends are still totally welcome to crash at my place!

We will discuss.

ryan said...

@Michael: Dude, sounds perfect!

@Joseph: We are a proud crew:
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3064/3007941869_97c87c77bf.jpg?v=0

@viv: oooh, sounds cool. Even if I don't crash with you I definitely would wanna hannnnng out while in town. And it's not sub-zero in Toronto in May, which is a plus.

The only question remaining is if I can get away with skipping my mom's birthday to go (I sometimes fly out to see her then since it's mothers day too)

bittermelon said...

whoa, ryan. 27 comments?! yeah. we're excited.

Sean Michael Wilson said...

Hi all,

Two things to tell you: the AX book nterior is now complete - Top Shelf will soon begin the final design stage and wrap it up in the cover, etc. It is, of course, looking super good!

Second thing, is that a French edition of the AX collection will soon be agreed on. I will help put that together too.

And... (third thing!) I may soon have some very good news to tell about ANOTHER classic gekiga book to come out in English.... watch this page.

- exciting stuff!

Sean Michael

ryan said...

@Sean: Wow, exciting news! Thanks for the update :) I'll post it to the front of Same Hat now.

Exciting news for indie manga fans! Thanks for keeping us abreast of your progress!