From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Tatsumi has been called the grandfather of Japanese alternative comics, and this third collection of his stories shows why. Tatsumi takes on subjects as difficult as the legacy of Hiroshima, incest and the sexual humiliations of postwar Japanese soldiers, yet is never exploitative. Instead, the stories humanize all of the characters involved. Tatsumi excels at depicting honest human reactions to complex situations, and he refuses to rely on a single style of storytelling. The first story, Hell, is a brief masterpiece. A freelance photojournalist snaps a picture of one of the infamous Hiroshima shadows—shadows of people burnt into the walls by the intensity of the atomic blast. The shadow appears to be a boy rubbing his mother's back, but years later, the photographer learns the awful truth behind the scene. By contrast, Just a Man forgoes the O. Henry twist, instead telling a circular slice-of-life story about the quiet despair of a Japanese salaryman. Rash, a brief story of a man afflicted with a psychosomatic skin condition, reads as if Haruki Murakami decided to try his hand at manga. Tatsumi's art is masterful: he switches art styles from cartoony manga to stark realism with ease and is equally adept at depicting graceful motion, grisly suffering and complicated emotion. (July)
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The 1971–72 stories in Tomine’s third collection of vintage works by revolutionary manga artist Tatsumi portray a society haunted by loss and mired in resignation in the quarter-century following World War II. Although Tatsumi typically depicts malaise-entrapped protagonists without spelling out the social causes of their despondency, several tales here are uncharacteristically political, set just after the war and addressing its actual effect or, more precisely, that of Japan’s face-losing defeat on the characters rather than only suggesting it. In the harrowing “Good-Bye,” a woman turns to prostitution with American soldiers, while her father heedlessly exploits her situation. In “Hell,” a photographer finds his life’s meaning in a photo he took in A-bombed Hiroshima but learns the harsh truth behind the image decades later. In other stories, a henpecked man decides to squander his squirreled-away savings on a prostitute, a bar hostess remains faithful to her imprisoned boyfriend, and a retired salaryman suffers a mysterious rash. Tatsumi’s mastery of the visual simplicity of classic manga gives a stark power to these devastating, uncompromising pieces. --Gordon Flagg
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