Tatsumi interviewed by The Toronto Star

Just Visiting: Manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi

The Toronto Star    |    San Grewal    |    May 9, 2009

Tatsumi, 73, who began a comic book revolution, is here for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. The 'godfather of Gekiga' recalls how he began to take a darker view of life in postwar Japan in the 1950s, while the North American comic scene was still dominated by the youthful appeal of Superman, Barney Google and The Katzenjammer Kids, a Japanese manga artist named Yoshihiro Tatsumi began a comic revolution.

Now 73, the godfather of the Gekiga (dramatic pictures) movement, which later inspired graphic novels, darker comic books and many of the hugely popular manga titles now sold throughout the world, talked to the Star while in town this weekend for the 2009 Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Q: What led you away from children's manga to create the darker, more adult-themed Gekiga style back in the mid-'50s?

A: In Japan they weren't really making a lot of films at that time, so I watched a lot of European and American films. I pretty much watched everything from overseas. In American films, the bad guy always gets it in the end and justice wins. It was fun to watch American films, but everything was just so good, though. I thought there weren't very many people that could actually live like that.

In European films, the bad guy wins and justice loses out. That's when I started creating manga, where sometimes the bad wins and the good loses.

Q: What effect did the war with America have on your work?

A: Life wasn't easy, not even 10 years after the war had ended. The citizens were really poor. The majority of Japanese didn't really have proper jobs. Gekiga was an expression of all that, of what it means to be a human being, the joy and the sadness.

Q: How did people in Japan react to your first few Gekiga-style manga books?

A: They definitely had a response. It was unlike any manga up until that period. Back then there was the idea that manga was something that had a good influence on children, so we were condemned by some. Parents were asking what was this that their children brought home. But it was very popular.

Then, until recently, many young people in Japan became more rah-rah, like in America.

But now the mood is darker again. The young, the old, the salary man, most people in Japan don't have a lot of hope for the future.

Q: While in Toronto you will debut the English edition of your 840-page masterwork about your career, A Drifting Life. How do you feel about being commonly referred to as the godfather of adult-styled comics?

A: I don't know about godfather, maybe grandfather. Once it was just father. I don't think I've had that big of an influence. Manga is too big, there are so many choices, genres. Manga has penetrated everything: movies, books, TV, everything.

Yoshihiro Tatsumi appeared last night at a Toronto Comic Arts Festival reception at Harbourfront Centre's Brigantine Room. He appears over the weekend at festival events at the Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St. For more info, call 416-533-9168 or go to torontocomics.com.

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