A gentle, good-natured introduction to a manga innovator


© 27 Productions Pte Ltd

Director: Eric Khoo
Starring: Tetsuya Bessho, Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Though he lacks the household name status of the late Osamu Tezuka, Yoshihiro Tatsumi is equally revered in many manga circles. Few artists chronicled the development of post-war Japan with a finer and more scabrous eye, while his efforts to promote a mature style of comics, which he dubbed 'gekiga', paralleled developments in the West. In the autumn of his career, Tatsumi found renewed acclaim with A Drifting Life, a sprawling autobiography that won the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2009.

This book provides one of the sources for Eric Khoo's Tatsumi, which brings the artist's work to jerkily animated life in a film that sits somewhere between documentary and omnibus. Narrated by Tatsumi himself, it picks up after the end of WWII, leading us through the early years of his career, including a formative encounter with Tezuka. These warm, nostalgic scenes are interspersed with short films based on some of his stories from the '70s – dark, psychological pieces that trade on existential angst and absurdity, be it the factory worker who loses his arm in 'Beloved Monkey' or the cartoonist reduced to drawing obscene pictures in public toilets in 'Occupied'.

Rather than create his own animations, Khoo uses CGI to bring a jerry-rigged sense of motion to Tatsumi's original drawings, which preserves the grittiness of the artwork though at times can feel more like watching a Ken Burns doc. Viewers already familiar with the work of this great manga innovator are unlikely to gain much from the experience, but for newbies it offers a gentle, good-natured introduction.

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By James Hadfield
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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