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A Drifting Life Paperback – April 14, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Tatsumi revolutionized manga in the 1950s, inventing gekiga—seething, slice-of-life stories about emotional crises. In this elephantine memoir (in which he barely disguises himself as œHiroshi Katsumi), he tells the story of his early years in the comics business, from his teenage obsession with entering postwar magazines' reader-cartoon contests and poring over Osamu Tezuka's comics to the brief late-'50s heyday of the gekiga workshop over which he presided. It's also a history of Japan in that era, filtered through Tatsumi's own experience—the sound of cicadas is a recurring symbol of portentousness—and packed with digressions on cartooning technique, the movies and prose fiction that inspired him, and his nervous flirtations with women; the passage of time is marked by illustrated factoids about each year's headlines. Tatsumi's visual technique is very much a product of an earlier generation—his characters' faces are simple, broad caricatures—but the mastery he's gained in half a century of cartooning comes through in his immaculate staging and composition. Readers curious about Japanese comics history may find the book's wealth of detail fascinating; for the most part, though, Tatsumi's vivid, graceful dramatizations of the period's shifting business and creative alliances don't quite justify the tedious, repetitive hybrid of bildungsroman and industry time line he's created. (Apr.)
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From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up–This is a masterfully drafted autobiographical work by the creator of Good-bye (2008) and Abandon the Old in Tokyo (2006, both Drawn & Quarterly). Referring to himself as Hiroshi, Tatsumi begins his story with the surrender of Japan after World War II, when he was 10 years of age, and details the following 15 years of his life. Deeply passionate about manga at a young age, he chronicles the time from his start as an enthusiast to his rise as an influential and celebrated author/illustrator of the format. Although this book centers primarily on Tatsumi's writing career, the history of manga, influential writers and publications of the time, and the turbulent manga publishing industry, much more is revealed. Family life and dynamics influenced by his parents' troubled marriage, his father's financial difficulties, and his friendship and rivalry with his brother are explored, first sexual interests and experiences are considered, and relationships among fellow artists are skillfully portrayed. Historical political and cultural events are introduced throughout the story, giving readers a feel for Japan's climate and social landscape during the period. Black-ink images in a combination of detailed/realistic panels mixed with cartoon-style artwork enhance the atmosphere and bring the characters to life. This is a captivating autobiography, and one that should have high appeal to those interested in the history of manga and Japanese culture, and followers of Tatsumi's works.–Lara McAllister, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia END

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 855 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897299745
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897299746
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 2.2 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Parka TOP 50 REVIEWER on July 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
Length: 0:18 Mins
For those who follow the work of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, this book is a treat. It's a wonderful manga memoir that took almost 10 years to create. The main protagonist is no other than Yoshihiro himself, using another name of Hiroshi Katsumi.

In this book, he explores the journey he took to become a manga artist. It's an inspiring tale that looks into his relationship with his family, friend, fellow manga artists and publishers. The book title is apt as we see how Katsumi "drifts" along in his life, making the numerous career moves. Most of the time, you'll feel the doubt and uncertainty as he felt within the panels.

The book, at over 800 pages, is smartly inserted with historical events to portray the passing of time. It starts in 1948 and ends, a bit abruptly, in 1960 where Katsumi took part in the demonstration against the Security Treaty. Throughout the book, we also learn how manga has evolved and affected the artists.

I'll recommended this book to anyone who wishes to know Yoshihiro Tatsumi a little better, or a little bit of Japanese manga history.

(More pictures are available on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By David M. on June 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Manga legend Yoshihiro Tatsumi chronicles his life and career in post-war Japan as an ever struggling artist attempting to rediscover both himself and his craft, intertwining his autobiography with the history of Manga. These two narratives are backdropped by the reconstruction of Japan in the post-war period as it struggles to regain national pride while at once being influenced by foreign works such as Western films, animation, and later the hard-boiled realism of American detective comics. Tatsumi (who is depicted in the story as Hiroshi Katsumi) begins his career as a Manga artist as early as middle school, where he and his younger brother write postcard Manga everyday for submission in monthly regional Manga magazines. By the time he was in his second year of high school, Tatsumi was already a fairly well known Manga artist who would begin to tip-toe into the same elite social circle as acclaimed Manga artist Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka became Tatsumi's mentor during his formative years in high school and early college and was his lifelong inspiration.

The graphic novel traces Tatsumi's early obsession with Manga as a neophyte in middle school and early college through his development and maturity as a renowned and daringly experimental artist. The work starts off slowly and repetitively, as the reader is taken through rejection letter after rejection letter from various publishers as Tatsumi attempts to kick-start his career. The novel is at its strongest when detailing the chronology of these influences on Tatsumi and Japanese culture at large.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Albert on April 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Incredible and inspiring to see young Katsumi so driven as a high schooler! He was dealing with becoming a professional writer at age 19, an age at which most of his contemporaries in the US are warming seats in creative writing workshops. Especially moving was the part when he felt adrift, because of his transition from writing purely for fun to writing for money. This a true portrait of an artist -- one who works for the love of his work and to put food on the table.
The book is drawn well, and constantly puts the young Katsumi's struggles in historical context. LOVE IT.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sibelius on August 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
First off let me start by saying that I have been a big fan of the earlier Drawn & Quarterly collections of Tatsumi's work. Those collected works were gritty and unfiltered in portraying the despair and ugliness that lurks just beneath the surface of the veneer of normality - and for myself it is that 'peek' beyond the curtain that defines the brilliance of Tatsumi's story and art craft. "A Drifting Life" is a different reading experience being that it is an auto-biographical graphic novel chronicling Tatsumi's life from childhood into adulthood and primarily focusing on his interest in the medium of comics and how he built his career along the way. Keep in mind that this is a mammoth book - taking up 834 pages to tell the story. Tatsumi's simplistic and clean art style remains intact but the story and characterizations seem somewhat sanitized in comparison to the D&Q collections. The first 2/3rd's of this book is an engaging and engrossing coming of age tale that will appeal to anyone that experienced a creativity inspired childhood but the weakness in his story mostly takes place in the final third - this section was a bit too focused on the minutiae of the rapidly growing and evolving state of the Japanese manga industry and while i certainly recognize that there is an audience who will relish such focus on detail, ultimately it couldn't hold my interest to the very end. Still, I would highly recommend this book to anyone aspiring to a life in the creative world of comics and writing along with scholars of Japan's Post WWII evolution.
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