A Drifting Life

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is an autobiography of the manga creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who was one of the fathers of ‘gekiga’ – a subset of manga that was created back in the ’50s in order to differentiate manga written for adults from children’s comics (as, at that time, almost all manga were still written for children).

As well as the differentiation between adults and children’s books, gekiga artists were instrumental in taking manga from its beginning as 4-panel gag comics towards the form we see it in today – lots of long-form works with pretty much infinite styles of art and panel pacing on the page.

Readers who are already interested in gekiga would probably get more out of this book than I did as someone who has only heard the term in passing and never read any gekiga works before. I bought this book as I wanted to read about the life of this famous manga artist – when were his big breaks? How did he achieve what he did? Did he ever go through hard times? What kind of person was he?

These questions were addressed more in the first half of the book, so I preferred the first half to the second. As the book goes on it becomes more of a chronological list of what gekiga artists lived where and which circles and publishers they were affiliated with, and seeing as I didn’t recognise most of the names involved, it wasn’t very interesting to me.

Overall I found this book to be a good read – its surprisingly easy to get into, and for its size (doorstop) a surprisingly quick read. This has made me want to read some of Tatsumi’s actual gekiga comics, so hopefully I’ll be able to write about Black Blizzard or The Push Man and Other Stories at some point.



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