Hailed by the New York Times as “one of Japan’s most important visual artists” with work translated into 17 languages Yasuhiro Tatsumi is a living legend–a manga pioneer and inventor of gekiga, a style of dark adult-themed comics that saw their advent in postwar Japan. The mature stories and bleak visuals of this manga style elevated the comic form from being the purview of children’s stories to a legitimate art form where mature themes could be explored. Like his literary contemporaries, Tatsumi’s stories reflected the major anxieties and alienation of regular people in fast-changing post-war Japan.
Eric Khoo was first introduced to the works of Tatsumi during his military service and was captivated by the sadness and beauty of the stories. It was only when autobiographical manga A Drifting Life was published did Khoo discover Tatsumi was still alive and decided to pay tribute to the legendary artist by creating a film based on his life and work. Khoo lovingly strives to make the original work shine and reflect Tatsumi’s original character, and does so to great effect. Lifting Tatsumi’s arresting images from the page and putting them on the big screen, he strikes a balance between loyal reproduction and new rendition. Tatsumi’s fascinating and sinister short stories get cinematic treatment, as do the biographical elements about Tatsumi’s life. This animated biography is a real treat for Tatsumi’s admirers and those not familiar with his work are sure to become fans after seeing Khoo’s faithful tribute.