Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Book-A-Day #184 (1/16): Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Abandon the Old in Tokyo is the second in a series of books reprinting the comics work of Tatsumi (or should I say Yoshihiro? I'm not sure which one is the family name). The first one, The Push Man and Other Stories, came out about a year ago, and got excellent reviews, but I managed to miss it. This one collects short stories Tatsumi published in 1970, as I believe Push Man covered 1969.

These are dark, adult short stories -- very different from the big manga series that we're used to seeing. Tatsumi was one of the founders of the underground comics movement in Japan; he even coined the usual term for describing these kind of stories, gekiga. (The timing of his career makes him seem like the Japanese R. Crumb or Gilbert Shelton, but I suspect he's more like a Japanese Will Eisner -- someone trying to use the tools of a broad, youth-oriented popular medium to tell very specific, grown-up stories about more rounded, less savory characters.)

I recommend this guy highly to anyone who reads modern American alternative comics -- the Hernandez brothers, Chris Ware, Seth, Craig Thompson, Dan Clowes, and particularly Charles Burns. Tatsumi was doing something not too far removed from them over thirty years ago, on the other side of the world. They're still great stories (though some of them are very dark; he could be the manga Joyce Carol Oates), and the warts-and-all look at a very different society is fascinating. (If "Beloved Monkey" isn't in the next Best American Comics annual, there's no justice in this world.)

I'll be looking for Push Man the next time I'm at my comics store, and I hope Drawn & Quarterly continues with this series -- I want to see more of this guy's stuff.

(Oh, and today is the six-month anniversary of Book-A-Day; I've now been doing this for half a year. So how come the stacks of books don't seem to be getting any lower?)

The Fabulous Book-A-Day Index!

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