A Drifting Life
By Yoshihiro Tatsumi
856 Pages, Softcover, $29.99/$39.99
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
I have no doubt that much will be written about this book when it is officially released this spring. There’s a deceptive density to A Drifting Life, Tatsumi Yoshihiro’s arms’ length autobiography. It’s a story told very directly, switching between the first and third person to describe a young man’s passion and struggle, set against a larger picture of a nation looking to rebuild after World War II. The 800+ pages of the book read quickly, but the ideas expressed are potent and the history chronicled Important (and largely unkown); the effect of completing the book is disorienting. At one point I flipped to the back looking for footnotes to try and match my own understanding of the origins of Japanese comics to the incredible amount of information Tatsumi dolls out in a few key chapters (though the entire birth of the manga industry, and Tatsumi’s own Gekiga can be found in these pages) (about the footnotes: there are none). At its heart A Drifting Life is a memoir, filled with a density of details to give it a setting and place that will be immediately familiar to Japanese readers of the last generation but that will largely evade North American ones. This is not a bad thing, if anything the unfamiliarity of the time and place of this story will add to the experience of the lead drifting through his life, tied only to the comic that I hope you’ll be holding in your hands.
Yoshihiro Tatsumi will be a Guest of Honour at the 2009 Toronto Comic Arts Festival, of which I am the Festival Director.