A young Yoshihiro Tatsumi sits in front of his desk, his imagination fueling his hand as the pen swipes around the paper. Soon enough, his creation is brought to life as the pen strokes and ink fill the once empty piece of paper with a world filled with those not unlike what we see today. Inspired by his hero, Osamu Tezuka, Tatsumi begins to fill paper after paper with countless stories telling a tale of that only the adult could handle.
Tatsumi, directed by Eric Khoo, is both a story of the life and times of Yoshihiro Tatsumi as he discovers his love for drawing and creating manga, as well as recounting a few animations he had created throughout his career. Influenced by the works of Osamu Tezuka—whom many a manga lover would know as the creator of Astro Boy—Tatsumi spent a large portion of his teenage life creating and publishing manga in an attempt to support his family after war. While he originally worked on children focused manga, he soon grew tired of having his more adult work being habitually classified as children’s books because they were called manga. He then had the brilliant idea to coin his own genre of manga called Gekiga. With this new name for the genre, his ideas flourished and were now perceived as dramatic readings for adults. These Gekiga stories dealt with the harshness of reality, focusing on dark and depressing situations experienced by some in post-war Japan.
This Ovid.TV Film Brings Manga to Life
The film is animated in a way that replicates Tatsumi’s original art style in great detail, even down to how specific stories were either in color or black and white. When the story starts to divert back into the life of Tatsumi, the film maintains this manga artstyle. While it is clear this was mostly done in some sort of digital animation program, the animation has not left any little detail behind and has captured that traditional sketch work-like artstyle. Every scene is depicted with shadows and lighting effects made with little paint splotches, or sometimes many black lines filling in a crevice. Yoshihiro Tatsumi himself played a part in the film’s production to make sure the animators captured the authenticity of his artwork and allow the film to look the part. In some segments, colors are used to pop and bring stark contrast to the awful realities in a story. We are drawn towards these vibrant colors. We almost forget that what hides behind their beauty is often a depressing story such as in Occupied where a man loses his sense of purpose. Even the black and white segments of the story are filled to the brim with intricate details such as scratches and patterns on wood and trees’ bark, or mud splattered onto the floor by a military jeep. The animators were not only able to capture the authenticity of Tatsumi’s work, but to truly bring it to life, in this writer’s opinion.
These stories offer a harsh, yet full-of-life depiction of the unfortunate circumstances the story characters are forced to endure. For example, we meet Yoshida in Beloved Monkey working at an industrial factory during the Vietnam war. Working class but poor, he has to travel in cramped trains to travel far for work. He lives in a tiny apartment with only his monkey. Tragically, Yoshida is forced to give up his monkey companion when he loses his arm in the factory accident, just as he pens his letter of resignation. We learn from this gekiga that such accidents are actually not uncommon in these type factory jobs. In Just a Man, we see Hanayama as an old man, feeling his worth vanish as society slowly deems him unnecessary due to his advanced age. His employer no longer gives him any work, and the idea of having to retire to spend more time with his spiteful, cheating wife fills him with gloom. These are just two of the five dark and depressing tales that Tatsumi had written and Eric Khoo has brought to life through this animated film. You, like this writer, might agree that they are all harrowing, dark, depressing, and yet giving a realistic view of life that tugs at heartstrings.
Tatsumi is especially a top film pick for those interested in manga and Gekiga influenced by Osamu Tezuka, and others engulfed in the world of manga, or wanting to personally explore comic illustration and/or animations. This documentary’s stories of grueling hardships will likely appeal to anyone who appreciates animated films delving into much more adult themes. That being said, this is not for the easily disturbed or the squeamish. There are topics of sexual themes, nudity, and even a bit of blood.
Creative Team: Eric Khoo (Director and Producer), Tan Fong Cheng (Producer), and Phil Mitchell, Freddie Yeo (Producer)
Cast: Tetsuya Bessho, Yoshihiro Tatsumi
For more information or to watch this film visit the OVID.tv webpage for Tatsumi.
Images courtesy of OVID.tv.
About the Author:
Daniel is currently a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Creative Writing. During his high school years, Daniel attended Chicago Bulls College Prep where he had been a video editor and also a frequent participant in skits. He has also worked closely with the Chicago Public Library Library of Games as a content creator, artist, writer, and video editor. During his free time, Daniel likes to draw cartoons, write creative stories both short and long, and work on small video projects.After college, Daniel plans on writing creatively and professionally as an editor and writing stories for multiple forms of media.