Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Drifting Life

As a history of manga, A Drifting Life, is concise and more interesting than a text book. But as something to read for pleasure it's about 400 pages too long. I got through the first 100 pages pretty quickly but after that I found myself... well, drifting.
Starting around page 201, with the chapter Road to Success, a pattern sets in that repeats for the rest of the story. The protagonist, Hiroshi, has to make a decision between two avenues to move forward as a manga artist. In Road to Success, it's whether to try for art school or apprentice under Ooshiro Sensei like he promised. He always turns to his brother for advice (pg. 207), then argues with him, but then ultimately comes to a decision. This decision usually leads to some initial success before things start to go wrong and the pattern begins again.
My main complaint about this memoir is that Hiroshi is not very captivating as a main character. He often blends in with the other characters that he works with at Hinomaru. He seems to never make any real mistakes, runs away from confrontation, and only talks about manga as an abstract idea not any in depth details of his own stories.
But what Tatsumi does a great job of is showing the difficulties of being a writer/artist in a professional capacity. Hiroshi's story really shows how hard it is to stay creative and put out your best work on a deadline. How you can be so passionate about something but become distracted so easily (The manga camp in Tokyo is a great example of this).
Tatsumi's art style fits the narration. A Drifting Life reminded me a lot of blankets, not only because they are both memoirs, but because the art style is like a voice itself. It has personality and adds another angle to the character.

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