Wednesday, June 30, 2010
NEW ARRIVALS: Comix: Three from Japan
Susumu Katsumata: Red Snow
Red Snow continues D+Q’s groundbreaking exploration of the fascinating world of Gekiga in this collection of short stories drawn with great delicacy and told with subtle nuance by legendary Japanese artist Susumu Katsumata. The setting is the pre-modern Japanese countryside of the author’s youth, a slightly magical world where ancestral traditions hold sway over a people in the full vigor of life, struggling to survive the harsh seasons and the difficult life of manual laborers and farmers. While the world they inhabit has faded into memory and myth, the universal fundamental emotions of the human heart prevail at the center of these tender stories.
Susumu Katsumata began publishing comic strips in the legendary avant-garde magazine Garo (which also published his contemporaries Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Yoshiharu Tsuge) in 1965 while enrolled in the faculty of Science in Tokyo. He abandoned his studies in 1971 to become a professional comics artist, alternating the short humorous strips, upon which he built his reputation, with stories of a more personal nature in which he tenderly depicted the lives of peasants and farmers from his native region. In 2006, Susumu Katsumata won the 35th Japanese Cartoonists Association Award Grand prize for Red Snow.
Yoshihiro Tatsumi: Good-Bye
Good-Bye is the third in a series of collected short stories from Drawn & Quarterly by the legendary Japanese cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi, whose previous work has been selected for several annual "top 10" lists, including those compiled by Amazon and Time.com. Drawn in 1971 and 1972, these stories expand the prolific artist's vocabulary for characters contextualized by themes of depravity and disorientation in twentieth-century Japan.
Some of the tales focus on the devastation the country felt directly as a result of World War II: a prostitute loses all hope when American GIs go home to their wives; a man devotes twenty years of his life to preserving the memory of those killed at Hiroshima, only to discover a horrible misconception at the heart of his tribute. Yet, while American influence does play a role in the disturbing and bizarre stories contained within this volume, it is hardly the overriding theme. A philanthropic foot fetishist, a rash-ridden retiree and a lonely public onanist are but a few of the characters etching out darkly nuanced lives in the midst of isolated despair and fleeting pleasure.
Praise for Yoshihiro Tatsumi:
"Prepare to be disturbed and blown away. The stuff is remarkable, amazing..." --Los Angeles Times
"Abandon the Old in Tokyo is a revealing time capsule and a strangely moving portrait of survival in a land where everything is changing." --Time
"Tatsumi's stories have an artistic expressiveness, philosophical coherence and dark, emotional weight that is undeniable." --The Daily Yomiuri (Japan)
"These stories...reveal an artist who was making comics that weren't just adult, but truly mature." --The Village Voice
Imiri Sakabashira: Box Man
Enter the strange world of Imiri Sakabashira whose denizens are zoomorphic creatures that emerge from one another as well as their equally bizarre environs. The Box Man follows its protagonists along a scooter trip through a complex landscape that oscillates between a dense city, a countryside simplified to near abstraction, and hybrids of the two; the theme of hybridity permeates throughout. One is unsurprised to encounter a creature that is half elderly man, half crab or a flying frog in this world where our guide apparent is an anthropomorphic, mollusk-like cat. Sakabashira weaves this absurdist tale in a seamless tapestry constructed of elements as seemingly disparate as Japanese folklore, pop culture, and surrealism. Within these panels, it becomes difficult to distinguish between the animate and the inanimate, the real and the imagined, a tension that adds a layer of complexity to this near-wordless psychedelic travelogue.
Imiri Sakabashira (real name Mochizuki Katsuhiro) was born in Shizuoka, Japan in 1964, the same year that Garo, the influential manga anthology in which he would first be published, was founded.
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