Review: Tatsumi (15) / Director: Erick Khoo / Screenplay: / Starring: Tetsuya Bessho, Motoko Gollent, Yoshihiro Tatsumi / Release date: May 28th
Tatsumi is a dark Japanese animation film that is striking, informative and thought provoking. It moves between the manga memoir A Drifting Life and some short stories written by Japanese Manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi providing an excellent platform to showcase his work. For those already acquainted with his work it is a beautifully produced animation film that brings his comics to life. For those who are not, but interested in manga, it provides a great introduction to the artist and his body of work. Tatsumi is credited with starting the Gekiga style of alternative comics in Japan, writing and drawing stories of a more adult and dramatic nature, that started off with an underground readership in the 1960s and slowly moved into the mainstream.
A Drifting Life is over 800 pages long so the film has shaved down the content to include an overview of Tatsumi’s life along with some of his stories that depict the cultural shift in Japan. Tatsumi became successful at a young age in manga and was inspired by Osamu Tezuku, whose comics were influenced by Disney and of a lighter subject matter. Tatsumi rebelled against the early manga comics and moved to writing about more serious issues after the war, and so the story begins with a tale set just after the atomic bombings in Hiroshima that is both heart-breaking and fascinating.
On one hand this films tells the story of a struggling artist trying to get his work accepted and on the other it is a story of a country coming to terms with tragedy. The film manages to convey the anger and frustration of both the personal and public outrage. It is intense viewing that doesn’t let up; each story has a dark or political edge to it that will make you think about the root of the human condition. With mature material on offer here, there are scenes of a saucy nature that may seem gratuitous to a mainstream audience. Masturbation and frenzied sex scenes may have you slightly perplexed if you are not familiar with his work.
The autobiographical side of the story comes across as extremely honest. Tatsumi’s relationship with his brother portrays the jealousy and competitiveness between siblings without sentimentality. The decline of Tatsumi’s relationship with manga artist Tezuku is also told with candour. The cultural views on Japanese life are interesting and give an overview of the world in which Tatsumi grew up in and a brief history of the country seen through his eyes.
Insightful, moving and informative, Tatsumi’s mature material works well on the big screen. The animation is reflective of the graphic novels it is based on and the stories are both startling and gripping.