Friday, March 27, 2015

R.I.P. Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Earlier this month, on March 7, 2015, a member of the mangaka old guard passed away. Yoshihiro Tatsumi was seventy-nine year-old. He is most famous for having invented the word “gekiga” (lit. dramatic pictures) to describe the style of graphic novels he was producing in the '50s. Nearly a dozen of his works have been translated either in english by Drawn & Quarterly or in french by Cornélius or Vertige, but he is best known for his graphical autobiography A Drifting Life (which I have previously commented).

Yoshihiro TATSUMI [辰巳 ヨシヒロ] was born in 1935 in Tennōji-ku, Osaka. Inspired by the work of Osamu TEZUKA and Noboru ÔSHIRO, he starts drawing manga in junior high school and has his first works (simple 4-panel and postcard manga) published in 1949. His first full-length story, Kodomojima (Children's Island), is published by Tsurushobô in 1954. He becomes part of a group of artists based in the Kansai region publishing mostly for the Kashi-hon ya market (libraries specialized in renting hardcover books—many publishers, like Hinomaru bunko, produced their books and anthologies exclusively for that market). He then starts to be regularly published in manga compilation (contributing to anthologies like Kage [Shadow] or Machi [City]) and constantly experiments with his storytelling. His stylistic research culminate with the publication of Kuroi Fubuki (Black Snowstorm) in 1956.

Tatsumi (and the group of artists he associated with: Takao SAITÔ, Masaaki SATÔ, Masahiko MATSUMOTO among others) was writing action-oriented stories that were darker than the typical manga, and therefore, aimed at an older, more mature readership. His stories were about people's everyday life and were using realistic themes that were more in sync with the socio-political problems of the time. In order to express such a complex storytelling he was using artistic techniques inspired by cinema (he was a big movie fan). That allowed for more expressive stories, as the narrative was better paced and the action flowing more naturally through the panels. In order to distinguish his style from the more comical and childish manga that was usual at the time, Tatsumi gave it the name “gekiga” (drama pictures). His group of artist was known as the “gekiga workshop.”

Yoshihiro TATSUMI is not my favourite mangaka (and so far i've read only A Drifting Life) but I have great respect for his role in the history of manga and for his work. His style was rather crude and cartoony (like most artists of his time) but he created great stories.

For more information you can check the following websites:

(Sources: ANN, The Guardian, ICv2 / Image Source: Andreas Rentz-Getty Images Europe [via ANN])

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