Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Push Man and other stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Rating: A

Synopsis: Originally published in 1969, this manga is a surprising departure into a gritty realistic world. This is a collection of short stories that give us a glimpse into the more private and horrible details of the character's every day lives. Though there are not recurring characters in every story, there is a theme of isolation, lustfulness, and violence that runs throughout each one.

I picked up The Push Man and other stories in the library and I was completely amazed by the great drawing style, and by the fact that this gritty noir-style manga was published over 35 years ago. The collection was picked up and re-published in English by Drawn & Quarterly (the link in the title of this entry will show you a preview). As I mentioned, there are no recurring characters, but several have similar character designs, and there's usually one average joe and one bar hostess in each vignette.

Piranha (a story sample):
A man intentionally smashes his hand in the machinery at work so he can get an insurance payout, to buy his girlfriend her own bar to hostess. When she ends up spending more hours at her new bar, he purchases some piranha as pets to keep him company. When his girlfriend begins to insult him for loafing around all the time and threatens to leave him, he sticks her arm in the piranha tank, and a struggle ensues. The piranha get tipped out and die, and his girlfriend demands he leave. He wanders the city all night, and in the morning, finds a factory that will employ the disabled.

I highly recommend this, but as I said, be prepared for a dark and gripping look at people's dirty secrets - the art style really lends itself to this. You don't look at the first page and think to yourself "There's going to be a fairy princess in here" and there certainly isn't.

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