Zack Davisson has a fine obituary at TCJ which has much more info about the life of the great Jiro Taniguchi, who passed away on Saturday. One thing the piece makes clear: Taniguchi was REALLY famous in France, where he was hired to work on a Cartier ad campaign, and he was presented with a Chevalier de Letters:
Although respected and admired in his native Japan, Taniguchi was not exactly a household name. His quiet, introspective brilliance was not the sort of thing that splashed out from the cover of magazines, or got molded into plastic figures. His voice was much more appreciated in Europe. A Belgian film company produced a live action adaptation of his comic A Distant Neighborhood, changing the setting to Paris. He collaborated with legendary artist Moebius. His work inspired an art movement in France called Nouvelle Manga, led by Frederic Boilet and Benoit Peeters, with whom Taniguchi worked on the comic Tokyo is My Garden.
At last year’s New York Comic COn, i moderated a panel with several French cartoonists on it, including Snowpiercer artist Jean-Marc Rochette, who is something of a mountain climber himself, and whose Facebook page is filled with imaged of him in the mountains. On the panel I asked if he liked Taniguchi’s work, and Rochette got a fond smile on his face and said that they had been able to meet at a comics show and become friends. The idea of these two singular and great artists meeting and finding common ground fills me with the love of comics anew.
While the meditative aspects of Taniguchi’s work appealed to Franco-Belgian readers, in his native Japan he was best known for Kaduko no Gorume, a typically Japanese book about a solitary businessman who goes around eating food.
A tv show based on this manga is INCREDIBLY POPULAR in Japan, where it’s run for years. The AV Club has a description:
Tenderly, graphically, Gorō inserts food into his mouth. Gorō eats, slurps, and moans, all the while maintaining a stoic exterior. But his inside voice speaks in utter satisfaction: “Delicious sashimi, soy sauce, and white rice. I’m glad I’m Japanese.” At one point the camera pans slowly over fish tartare while a song that sounds a lot like Yello’s “Oh Yeah” plays. And that’s how it plays out for the remainder of the episode. The soundtrack gets manic. Gorō, as if he can hear the music, eats faster. Groaning, he finishes off the meal without spilling anything on his tie. Finally, he thanks the staff and walks out, stuffed, muttering something about how a good lunch has washed away the gloominess of walking away from that big job. Roll credits.
You can watch the show on illegal streaming services and I would never link to them but use your imagination.
The most incredibly thing of all is that I was called upon by the BBC radio to talk about Taniguchi and was questioned by Julian Marshall. The sound of my voice coming from the BBC website is undoubtedly one of the most surreal things I have ever encountered.
Finally, as mentioned, many of Taniguchi’s best books are available on Amazon. He’s a rare manga artist whose work was readily accessible to the Western audience, and I hope he continues to get better known here in the US.
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.