Manga pioneer Yoshihiro Tatsumi has passed away at age 79, according to a letter received by Paul Gravett. Tatsumi had been battling cancer for several years.
Tatsumi is best known as the pioneer of the “gekiga” style of manga (a term be invented), true to life stories of ordinary people. He own work featured haunting adult themes of alienation, dread and obsession. His autobiography A Drifting Life, depicting his struggles as an artist, won the Eisner award for Best Reality Based Work in 2010. He also won the World Outlook Award at Angoulême and the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize.
While Tatsumi’s work was influential in Japan he was mostly unknown in the US until Adrian Tomine pushed to get his work published in English, Drawn & Quarterly took up the call and put out several collections of his short stories and A Drifting Life. His other works include Midnight Fishermen, Fallen Words, Black Blizzard, Good-Bye, The Push Man and Other Stories and Abandon the Old in Tokyo. The attention from the US led to more recognition in his homeland and worldwide, attention that was much deserved.
Tatsumi and his wife came to the US and Canada in 2009 for several events including TCAF. I was fortunate enough to see him on a panel at the PEN America Literary festival, and was invited to a dinner with him and his wife later on, a privilege I ‘ll always be grateful for. It was very clear that the pair were enjoying this new found attention and respect with a joy was that was incredibly gratifying to behold. D&Q’s Peggy Burns recalls her own experiences with him in a touching FB post:
I found a few pictures from the PEN event and signing. Wish I’d taken more.
A movie based on his work came out in 2011, and he was said to be working on a second part of his autobiography up until his death, which would end with the premiere of the Tatsumi film at the Cannes Film Festival.
Tatsumi’s work is universal in its message and artistry. If you’re not familiar with his work, I urge you to seek out some of his work. It’s powerful, unique and a lasting legacy of a man who lived his life with dignity and kindness.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.