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.


  1. An absolutely wonderful artist. I would like to add to/correct the description of his history in the West. I first saw his work in the book Good-Bye and Other Stories (http://www.amazon.com/GoodBye-Other-Stories-Yoshihiro-Tatsumi/dp/0874160561), published when Tomine (and I! =( ) was 13. That was translated from the Spanish edition. My understanding is that he had been published already in other European languages as well. So, while Drawn & Quarterly helped get his work on Time Magazine best of lists, he was definitely a known artist in the West before D&Q started publishing him.

    In Japan, he still isn’t particularly well known unless you’re into serious manga, such as knowing Gero or such alt-comix publications. I’ve only met two manga readers who had ever heard of him, and both were employed manga professionals. Depressing, but absolutely the truth. He is virtually unknown in the country despite it being a place where numerous manga artists are household names.

  2. An absolute giant who late in his life received the accolades he so richly deserved, even if it wasn’t in his country.

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