Sunday, 28 October 2012


Tatsumi directed by Eric Khoo, is an animated biographical film of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, which dips into Tatsumi's A Drifting Life, the film achieves a fantastic balance between biography and adaption, which if you're not familiar with his manga or gekiga, (dramatic pictures), as Tatsumi renamed his genre, will make you eager to seek out his books, or perhaps more of them if you've not read all of them already. The film was premiered at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, Tatsumi was involved in the making of the film, and the artwork on film captures what we see on the page of his books very well. The film begins with an honorific salute to Tatsumi's inspiration, Tezuka Osamu, and his appreciation is never too faraway from the narrative throughout the film, in one of the later biographical segments Tatsumi recalls his first meeting with Tezuka, before the he departs for Tokyo, the film alternates between biographical segments and adapted stories. The first of the stories presented is 'Hell', a story that follows a photographer sent to Hiroshima to document the aftermath of the bomb, reduced to tears by what he sees, he discovers the burnt shadow of what appears to be a son massaging his mother's back and takes a photo-graph of it, later returning to the shadow he discovers that the wall has been pulled down. The story goes on in time to the 1950's and Koyanagi's photo is used as part of a 'No More Hiroshima's' campaign, which sees the photographer begin to profit from his image, which bites at his conscious. Then a stranger gets in contact with Koyanagi claiming to be the son who everyone thought had been killed in the blast as seen in the shadow image, he tells Koyanagi that the boy whose shadow could be seen was actually a friend he had organised to kill his mother so that he could inherit her money, the crime caught in the flash of the bomb and then by Koyanagi's photograph. The story is an excellent example of the way that Tatsumi can build a set of circumstances and then completely change their direction and adopt an opposing set of meanings and implications, the hand of fate intervenes.

Each of the biographical segments are opened with a little animated look at historical events occurring to Japan that transpired throughout Tatsumi's life, these drift into scenes from Tatsumi's life, the strained relationship with his brother, Okicahn, also a manga artist who was ill with a lung complaint and was jealous of Yoshihiro's active life. Tatsumi's family was hit by financial hardship and this lead to Tatsumi determined to continue with his drawing, entering competitions with his work in an effort to contribute to the family, eventually we see him leave home and move into a flat with other artists and have his first experiences with women. Another point that comes across emphatically is that of Tatsumi distinguishing his work from manga drawn for children with that of the manga he wanted to draw for adults, and another milestone in his life is the publication of his first manga Black Blizzard. In the meantime more stories taken from his works are introduced, Beloved Monkey, a story about a lonely factory worker with a pet monkey who suffers an industrial accident that severs his arm, Just A Man, follows a manager at a firm caught in a loveless marriage who with secret savings endeavours to have an affair, before facing his secluded pension years with his wife, most of Tatsumi's stories have a spiritual bereftness about them, people caught in unwanted lives, usually searching for a way out or finding some form of appeasement, be it permanent of temporary.

The last two stories are Occupied from Abandon the Old in Tokyo and Goodbye from the collection of the same name, Occupied, feels like a story that perhaps is drawn from experience, or perhaps draws parallels with Tatsumi's ex-periences and themes within his work, a manga artist who draws for a children's publication is being laid off after the publication of the work his contracted for, he finds himself up against a severe bout of writer's block, and after a meal he succumbs to sickness, in a toilet he sees pornographic graffiti drawn on the walls which after an offer of work drawing erotic manga proves to be a source of inspiration, for him the moment is almost an epiphany, but he is discovered when he can't stop himself drawing on the walls and his moment of salvation is drowned with accusations of 'Pervet!' from the people outside and the police are called, the story, as also can be seen in Tatsumi's work is imbued with an almost feverish desperation. The film ends with Tatsumi looking and thinking over his life and work, and it's one to be inspired by.

Tatsumi at Soda Pictures

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