Being a manga fan for years , I always thought that I knew most of the people that made manga famous nowadays and spread the culture in the world. Until one day, I was scrolling some news website and I was shocked while reading an article titled “Mangaka Yoshihiro Tatsumi dies of cancer at the age of 79” and that’s how I ended up discovering gekiga!
I thought to myself, “why have I never heard of him before?. So I immediately went and spent the night reading his latest work, A Drifting Life. After I finished it I felt ashamed, yes really ashamed, that I came to know this legend too late and only after his death.
Yoshihiro Tatsumi was born in Osaka on June 10, 1935. He started drawing when he was a kid and publishing since he was a teen. Like rock and roll in America, reading manga was of form of rebellion in japan. So, Yoshihiro Tatsumi created the genre of Gekiga. Unlike the usual manga that were aimed at children, Gekiga was a more sober, grownup version of manga that was aimed at an adult audience and dealing in social pressures, responsibility, tradition, human impulse, guilt, and regret.
He was clearly influenced by the american cinema. The influence of cinematic imagery and technique, especially in the dramatic interplay of light and shadow, is recognizable in his work. Tatsumi aimed to make his readers feel and think , and that was clear in his works specially in Goodbye and Abandon the Old in Tokyo, where he drew a postwar Japan , at a time where the grief and horror of Hiroshima was still alive .
In the 70’s, gekiga made a revolution in the manga industry. Many critics see that it represented the golden age of manga to the point that even the great Osamu Tezuka started adapting gekiga style in his works like Adolf and MW. Katsuhiro Otomo who is also one of the more famous mangakas that represented the gekiga generation .
Even though gekiga made a strong impression at that time (60’s 70’s) by giving birth to the best forms of manga (Akira, Lone Wolf and Cub, Golgo 13), Yoshihiro’s work wasn’t really recognized outside of Japan till he released his last work, A Drifting Life, that many, including me, consider his best work. Dwight Garner said “It’s a book that manages to be, all at once, an insider’s history of manga, a mordant cultural tour of post-Hiroshima Japan and a scrappy portrait of a struggling artist”. Using his life long obsession with comics as a framework, Tatsumi made his manga come into life with his amazing way of storytelling and, let me assure you, only a few could manage that.
So i really recommend everyone to check out Yoshihiro’s work and give him the the appreciation he deserves, because it pains me to see the work of a man who did so much for the manga industry just fade away.
-Written by: Amuro Sellami