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Sunday 8th March 2015

Andrew Osmond on the real “adult” manga

TatsumiThe animated Tatsumi (available on British DVD from Soda) is a true curio. It was made in Singapore in tribute to a Japanese comic artist, who was drawing grown-up picture stories decades before Death Note. Tatsumi is not an anime film, nor an imitation of anime; rather, it offers an alternative interpretation of Japanese media.

Tatsumi is fascinating, not just as an insight into manga’s early history, but as a demonstration of parallel evolution. As most readers of this blog will know, the first postwar comic-strip star was Osamu Tezuka, the creator of characters including Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. But then in the 1960s, a generation of artists emerged who’d grown up as kids on Tezuka’s strips, and had adored them, but who wanted to stretch comics into more adult territory, using them to comment on contemporary life.

Much the same thing was also happening in America in the 1960s, with the rise of America’s “comix” movement – independent, adult, anti-establishment comics, popularised by their most famous artist, Robert Crumb. The fascinating thing, though (at least according to Tatsumi director Eric Khoo when I asked him) is that there was no cause and effect between America and Japan. The ‘60s Japanese artists weren’t influenced by Crumb or comix, though they did have to contend with the prevailing Japanese attitude that comics were for kids. (Yes, this was a long time ago.)

The artists’ response was to call their comics by a new name; not comix, but “gekiga,” meaning “dramatic pictures.” In the Tatsumi film, there’s a scene with the characters trying out different names for size, before crossing out each in turn.

The film focuses on one of the founders of gekiga, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who died on 7th March. The framing story is Tatsumi’s account of his life and development, growing up with a difficult family. He had none of the technology and luxuries that we take for granted, no reason to think he could ever make a living from the fledgling manga industry. And yet he was utterly driven to draw comics, like his hero Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka himself makes a guest appearance in Tatsumi’s story, in a charming if superficial account of how the wide-eyed boy met the God of Manga.

Into Tatsumi’s life are woven five stories from his strips. Really, it’s these that make the film work. The animation is mostly functional and rudimentary, but that doesn’t matter. What registers, as in many comics, are the linework and atmosphere: the black streaks of contaminated rain over Hiroshima after the A-bomb, the masses pushing onto a crammed Tokyo train, the shifts between black-and-white and more lurid hues.

In the first story, a young reporter is poking round the ruins of Hiroshima when he makes a shocking discovery, literally burned into a wall. This is the strongest tale, told in the manner of film noir. Elsewhere, a factory drone worker is unhinged by the pressures of the city, with only his pet monkey to console him – it won’t last! A bitter office worker nearing retirement plans a last glorious fling with a pretty female colleague. A cast-off manga artist becomes unhealthily obsessed with the pervy graffiti he finds in public toilets.

There are no Fritz the Cat subversive funny animals, nor saucer-eyed schoolkids. Tatsumi is writing for grown-ups, venting adult life’s frustrations like a stand-up comedian. The most frequent themes are failure and impotence, both physical and social. There’s a self-conscious interest in smut (most obviously in the toilet story) but no smutty wish-fulfilment. The sex always goes horribly wrong, and not in funny ways. Like Robert Crumb’s work, Tatsumi is a male vision, with no serious effort to explore female emotions, though the cynicism and sordidness extend to both genders equally.

The framing story is far more frustrating, a sketchy account of Tatsumi’s development with a few sweet scenes (especially the lad’s first adult initiation by a lady) and lots of misplaced sentimentality. Why was Tatsumi motivated to draw such dark adult manga? We get the fleeting suggestion that he was angered by the inequities of his time, and that’s it. As an introduction to Tatsumi’s art, this fresh, bracing film does the job well. But it still leaves you feeling you’ve only scratched the surface of this great, late artist.

Tatsumi is available on UK DVD.

Buy it now


The Transformers - The Movie Limited Edition, 30th Anniversary Steelbook (2-blu-ray Set + Digital Copy)

was £29.99
The TRANSFORMERS – THE MOVIE 30th Anniversary Edition featuring the newly remastered movie from a new 4K transfer of original film elements.

The AUTOBOTS, led by the heroic OPTIMUS PRIME, prepare to make a daring attempt to retake their planet from the evil forces of MEGATRON and the DECEPTICONS. Unknown to both sides, a menacing force is heading their way – UNICRON. The only hope of stopping UNICRON lies within the Matrix of Leadership and the AUTOBOT who can rise up and use its power to light their darkest hour. Will the AUTOBOTS be able to save their native planet from destruction or will the DECEPTICONS reign supreme?

Bonus Content:
• ‘Til All Are One – A brand-new, comprehensive documentary looking back at TRANSFORMERS: The Movie with members of the cast and crew, including story consultant Flint Dille, cast members Gregg Berger, Neil Ross, Dan Gilvezan, singer/songwriter Stan Bush, composer Vince Dicola and others!
•Audio Commentary with Director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and star Susan Blu
• Featurettes
• Animated Storyboards
• Trailers and TV Spots

For the ultimate fans and collectors, The TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE Limited Edition, 30th Anniversary Steelbook comes with highly collectible Steelbook packaging, 2 Blu-ray set of the newly remastered movie (Both aspect ratios), immersive bonus content including brand-new featurettes, plus many more. This is a must-own collection to every fan's library!        



Wrinkles vs Roujin Z

Animation for the old... there's only one way to settle this... FIGHT!
Wrinkles is a new grown-up Spanish animated film about elderly people in a care home. Hang on a bit, that can’t be right. Animation and the elderly; they’re two things which have nothing to do with each other. Well, except for...
Japan, the mecca of all things anime, have taken it upon themselves to create a popcorn bucket out of Eva Unit-01's head!
The new cross-content project, nowisee, (pronounced "noise"), is aimed at young people, asking them to "question the meaning of life".

Spyair: Back with the Best

Tom Smith on the return of one of anime's most popular rock bands
So where do the guys go from here? On their biggest domestic tour, that’s where! At least that was the plan, but halfway through the mostly soldout schedule, vocalist IKE suddenly takes to Twitter to make an announcement that would shock everyone, including his bandmates. The message simply stated; “I will leave SPYAIR”.
The official Japanese website for Blue Exorcist (Ao no Exorcist) has recently launched a countdown, which is set to end on 4th July at 8:00 JST (23:00 GMT).

Patema Inverted

Jonathan Clements on the movie that turns anime on its head
Boy-meets-girl has never been so strange as in this feature, in which the leads must literally cling to each other or fall away to an uncertain fate. Patema Inverted winningly plays with matters of spatial awareness, perspective and weight, regularly flipping its angles until the viewer literally can no longer remember which way is truly up.

Podcast: The Evangelion Two-Step

Box sets and brutal violence, in our 23rd podcast
Jeremy Graves is joined by Jerome Mazandarani and Andrew Hewson for our 23rd podcast., featuring cover woes, delayed shows, and several uses of the word Slash. Your questions answered, dodged or otherwise belittled, while Jerome confesses to his Facebook addiction, and Jeremy is reprimanded for flagging his own segues.

Interview: Yui Tanimura on Dark Souls II

Matt Kamen speaks with the director of the toughest game you’ll play this year.
For Dark Souls II, new directors Yui Tanimura and Tomohiro Shibuya promise the upcoming sequel will be every bit as challenging as its precursors.
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