ABANDON THE OLD IN TOKYO reviewed in Booklist

Abandon the Old in Tokyo

Booklist     |    Gordon Flagg    |    September 27, 2006

Tatsumi, Yoshihiro.
Abandon the Old in Tokyo. Ed. by Adrian Tomine. Tr. by Yuji Oniki.
Sept. 2006. 200p. illus.
Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (1-894937-87-2). 741.5.

The stories in editor Tomine's second collection of this groundbreaking comics creator originally appeared in 1970, when Japan had recovered from the psychic setback of World War II and embarked on its "economic miracle." Tatsumi reveals, however, a segment of Japanese society that remained defeated, made up of weary, emasculated, working-class men, often paired with resentful women. In the title story, a frustrated truck driver taking care of his decrepit, demanding mother reaches his limit. In others, a disgraced businessman returns to his deserted office every day, long after the company has gone under, and a burned-out children's manga artist turns his talents to more disreputable pursuits. It's hard not to read an autobiographical element into that last one, related to the fact that Tatsumi combined the words for drama and art to coin a term, gekiga, for his work to set it apart from comics aimed at children. His powerful drawing style depicts the characters with a starkness and simplicity that matches what is presented of their lives and conjures a convincing urban milieu through detailed backdrops. These decades-old tales are unlike anything published in the U.S. before or since, and it's gratifying that America is now finally catching up with Tatsumi's genius.

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