A DRIFTING LIFE reviewed by The Onion AV Club

March 26, 2009

The AV Club    |    Keith Phipps, Noel Murray, Zack Handlen & Leonard Pierce    |    March 26, 2014

Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s reputation as a manga pioneer stems from his involvement with the development of the “gekiga” genre, dedicated to more realistic depictions of the trials of everyday existence. For the 800-page epic A Drifting Life (Drawn & Quarterly), the everyday existence Tatsumi depicts is his own, ranging from his boyhood interest in comics to his attempts to make his own name in the profession. It’s a passionate, personal book, lovingly and gorgeously rendered, and it’s informative reading both for fans of Japanese comics and those who’ve always kept manga at arm’s length. All of A Drifting Life’s small cultural details—the book-rental shops, the four-panel-comics contests, the juvenile manga clubs, the controversies over gekiga’s adult content—merge with the story of Tatsumi’s troubled family life and his addiction to western popular culture. A Drifting Life bears some similarities to Will Eisner’s autobiographical graphic novels both in its subject matter and its bluntness, but Tatsumi shows more ambition in trying to show a person and a country in transition. The story is all about developing new models for personal and artistic behavior in the wake of international disgrace. A Drifting Life is as involving and thorough as any prose memoir, while remaining as immediate and concise as the best comics. It is, honestly, one of the most significant works the medium has ever produced… A

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