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posted May 22, 2008
Drawn and Quarterly, hardcover, 208 pages, July 2008, $19.95
The latest effort in Drawn and Quarterly and Adrian Tomine's efforts to bring the work of seminal gekiga artist into English, Good-Bye
is a stunning crystallization of positive elements from the previous reprints into powerful, seamless comics. As noted in the supplementary material included in the volume, the work reprinted in Good-Bye
marked Tatsumi's move from rental comics into comics magazine; as Tomine notes, it also seems to have instigated a more direct state of inquiry into the cartoonist's work. Where his earlier comics seemed to be grasping at a state of mind and certain effects of economic and spiritual turmoil that gripped many people as Japan surged some years after the way, stories like "Hell" and "Just a Man" seem to point a finger squarely at specific causes and beliefs that plagued Tatsumi's peers and countrymen. It's not that the kid gloves are off; in this volume, Tatsumi abandons gloves altogether.
Tatsumi's narratives are more complex here, too. The gem of the bunch in that sense is the story "Hell," which manages to encompass both a pulp twist on the subject of Holocaust photography and activism along with an evinced tenderness for the motives of those involved in that movement. In the title story, "Good-Bye," Tatsumi hints at an even grander scale to his stories when he himself makes a brief, unremarkable cameo appearance as a small child. In an interview with editor Tomine, Tastumi discusses in frank fashion his disgust with the actions of occupying American soldiers that although initially dashing sought open, physical relationships with the Japanese women in his community. For Tatsumi, that child's take on things seems as important as any of the leads on which he tends to hang his stories to an almost unbearable degree; it makes me want to read all of Tatsumi's work over again. This is a tightly focused work for a cartoonist whom should grow in stature as more of his work is released: not just as an historical, not just as wonderfully charming story of an artist receiving recognition from an unlikely source late in life, but as an artist of sympathy and insight.