A Drifting Life

I recently finished reading A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, which was bought for me as a Christmas present.


It’s a huge memoir written by an influential figure in Japanese manga. This is an area I know next to nothing about, but I really enjoyed reading it. It tells the story of Tatsumi’s involvement in manga from his childhood just after WWII to the 1960s. Tatsumi is mainly known for establishing a more adult form of manga aimed at teenagers rather than children (which became known as gekiga). The story also tells how this new style developed and shows the key figures and events in the manga publishing industry around that time, as well as key events in Japanese history as well as ordinary life from the 1940s to the 1960s.

It’s interesting to see depictions of the creative process in books like this. It reiterates how much work is involved in creating, as Tatsumi is shown hunched over his desk, scratching away with his pen for hours until finally flopping backwards with relief and satisfaction when the manga is completed.

His enthusiasm for the topic is really entertaining and gripping. As this book is so huge, I felt sad to leave the story at the end and I wanted to know more about his life since the 1960s. Without spoiling it, the epilogue leaves a bittersweet taste as Tatsumi is shown years later attending the funeral of a mentor and friend, and it is implied that the period shown in the book was when he was most happy. There is a sense of melancholy, as Tatsumi is illustrated with a shadow obscuring his face, and you wonder what had happened to him to cause such a sad change from the character you have grown to know and admire through the course of the autobiography.

Anyway, this is a pretty good review and summary of the book from a manga fan:

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