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A Drifting Life

(Gekiga Hyoryu #Complete)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  2,824 ratings  ·  260 reviews

The epic autobiography of a manga master

Acclaimed for his visionary short-story collections The Push Man and Other Stories, Abandon the Old in Tokyo, and Good-Bye—originally created nearly forty years ago, but just as resonant now as ever—the legendary Japanese cartoonist Yoshihiro Tatsumi has come to be recognized in North America as a precursor of today’s graphic

Paperback, 856 pages
Published April 14th 2009 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published January 1st 2008)
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Austin Coolguy Separating oneself from the main character can allow the author to separate themselves from the events and with less bias perhaps. I don't think any o…moreSeparating oneself from the main character can allow the author to separate themselves from the events and with less bias perhaps. I don't think any other names were changed.

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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  2,824 ratings  ·  260 reviews

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William Parham
Jul 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans Of Biography, Manga Otaku, Gekiga Geeks, People Interested In Post WWII Japan
First off, don't read this book expecting a fast paced, high energy read. This is a book about a man making manga and not a book of manga. That distinction needs to be kept in your mind at all times while reading this book. There are no wide-eyed, big tittied manga babes in short skirts. There are no slick, suit wearing secret agents hiding in the bushes with silenced guns. There is a lot of crippling self doubt and talking about the way books were being published in the middle of the 20th centu ...more
Sam Quixote
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The book starts in 1948 where the author is 13 years old and embarking on single panels of manga and sending it into magazines, and finishes in 1960 when the author is 25 and a successful author of manga and a new style he created, "gekiga". The book is autobiographical, taking in details of Tatsumi's (renamed Katsumi HIroshi in the book) home life, his ill brother, his philandering father, his dedicated mother, and moving him through high school becoming progressively interested and committed t ...more
First of all, while this is by a legendary mangaka (manga artist), this is not a work of fast paced, action packed manga. If that's what you're looking for, I would not pick this massive volume up.

Rather, this is an artist's odyssey from a young kid obsessed with reading manga to a visionary artist and author striving to push the boundaries of his art form. It's a bit slow, some times even tedious or repetitive, but I honestly loved every second of it.

I was particularly drawn to Hiroshi's strugg
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The 800 or so pages of this book are initially a little daunting, but I was hooked on this book from the very beginning. It's a kind of 'portrait of the artist as a young man.' But it's also the story of the development of manga publishing in Japan as well as of Japan itself and the morale of the Japanese in the post-war period. It's interesting to see Hiroshi's (Tatsumi writes about himself in the third person, giving his character the name Hiroshi) growth from 7th grader sending postcard manga ...more
Jun 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
currently about 100 pages in...gah, boring. hopefully it gets better. i mean, he never goes in to what DRIVES him to draw. as a kid, was he really ONLY about drawing? ugh, what a childhood. he just talks about how he slowly got published- blah.

i'll give it another 100 pages in a few days but he better amp it up a bit.

Some Wks Later:
I give up. This graphic novel is boring me to DEATH. I hate to be harsh but...I mean, he never delves into his personal life. It's just about his focus on his art.
A wonderful memoir following Yoshihiro Tatsumi's early career, from his childhood's infatuation with short, funny manga to the short but exciting experience with the Gekiga Workshop.

A Drifting Life follows the artist through all the different phases of his work as mangaka, as he tries to refine his art and create a 'manga that isn't manga.'

At the same time, though, the book gives a vivid and animated depiction of Japan's social, political and cultural changes from 1945 until 1960. We see the
Apr 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, graphicnovel
Fictionalized autobiography of a manga-creator who's apparently a pretty big deal.

Covers 1945-1995 or so. There are some interesting sections every chapter or so where they highlight popular cultural artifacts/events of the time. Highlights artistic struggles, invention and innovation of form, publishing games, infighting between creators....

I've read a fair number of graphic novel memoirs, which by definition are generally about graphic novel creators, but this may have been my first manga of
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
This update follows a read of two anthologies of the short stories that brought Tatsumi fame, and cements my view of this work and its author as not worth the time.

Largely tracing his life from post-WWII middle school manga enthusiast to 25 year old struggling author, this roman-a-clef reads like a pointless and endless annotated bibliography of post-war Japanese cultural output with little window on the artist's thoughts, experiences, or actual maturation process. Primarily, we learn that Tatsu
Eddie Watkins
Oct 02, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: manga-comics
Masterful, but after speedily flipping through 1 5/16” of its 2 1/16” thickness boredom set in. And reading this in conjunction with Gaddis’ JR (one of whose themes is how money crowds out all other subjects) did not help matters, for A Drifting Life is a bildungsroman but instead of focusing on the artist’s emotional or psychic life it concerns itself almost entirely with how the artist constantly adapts to please the public and convert that public interest into money. This does not particu ...more
Ed Erwin
Basically an autobiography, but also traces the history of Manga (and related forms) and some of 20th century post-war Japanese history. This will probably be of most interest to those who already know some of the characters involved. For me, it was a whole bunch of people I'd never heard of, and too many of them to keep track of. Basically, just not the right book for me. ...more
Mar 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
First thing’s first: this is not a review. In fact, do not trust my critical opinion on this book at all. I’m in love with it, and I have been since first laying my hands on the original Japanese manuscript and the Microsoft Word translation document back in May 2008. If you want my opinion, anyone with even a passing interest in graphica and/or manga and gekiga should pick this brick of a book up. It’s epic, sweeping, and an absolute joy to get caught up in.

But again, might be best to make up y
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics, memoirs
As skillfully paced a comic as you'll find, this 800 page book reads quickly - more like 200 pages - but with enough depth and emotional impact to keep it from feeling like you're eating candy. If Tatsumi was as popular in the manga/anime world as something like "Bleach", the world of comics would be a much different, and better, place. ...more
Alex Robinson
Apr 27, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: dweebs
Shelves: comics
I really wanted to like this book but was somewhat disappointed. I think part of it was that there was a lot of discussion about Japanese comics which went over my head so if you're more familiar with the artists he's talking about you may find it more compelling than I did. ...more
Mavis Ros
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing

“In high school, working on manga was fun, but now that it was a way to make a living, it felt different somehow.”

For a massive comic, it turns out to be such an influential read coming from a legendary Japanese manga artist. So not only do we experience the ups and downs of a struggling artist, but the culture and history of Japan throughout. It’s that fascinating especially for artists like me to get into.

Peter Derk
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
Holy lord, that bastard was long. I mean long. I mean like [Apatow joke] long.

This epic graphic novel follows the life of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, from a young manga fan to a writer to, apparently, a manga master.

I don't know much about manga, so don't take my ignorance here as a slam on ol' Yoshi.

The best parts were the stories from his personal life, and the small details about living in post WWII Japan were interesting. For example, it was years after the war before Japanese citizens were allowed t
Nov 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: comics
I expected more from this, having been a huge fan of the author's collections of shorter pieces like "Abandon the Old in Tokyo." Here, each chapter is about the length of those shorter stories but the narrative often lacks any kind of energy.

Ach, will the hero publish with this manga house or that one? Well, a couple chapters of these kinds of dilemmas go a long way, but Tatsumi spends more than the necessary time in his 800ish pages putting his thinly veiled autobiographical stand-in through t
Tom Ewing
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A gently paced but fascinating memoir of the postwar manga scene in Osaka and Tokyo. Earnest, ambitious Katsumi develops from submitting four panel gag manga to magazines to being at the forefront of the short-lived, but influential, "gegika" movement towards more cinematic and adult comics. By 25 he's edited several titles, formed and dissolved an artist's collective, and had run-ins with vast numbers of publishers, but still feels unsatisfied and driven by his feelings of unachieved potential ...more
May 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Tatasumi is a poetic genius when he's writing about the every-day man in Osaka (or is it Tokyo?) dealing with their various sexual fantasies, etc. But here we have a massive book regarding the history of post-war manga - and for me it's a fascinating history. For other people it may be not that interesting.

Since I am a publisher, I am always obsessed by publishing trends in the past. And this book is heaven sent to me, because I am very much interested in Japanese pop culture of the post-war yea
Stewart Tame
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was superb! The book is basically an autobiographical account of the rise of the Japanese manga industry in the 50's and 60's. It makes a nice companion volume to Fred Schodt's classic Manga! Manga! Full of observed detail and incident, this book is a must for anyone with an interest in the medium. Legendary creators such as Osamu Tezuka and Takao Saito are part of the story, naturally. There's an extensive section of footnotes at the back translating some of the text appearing in the backg ...more
Lars Guthrie
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely extraordinary. Stunning. It was interesting to read this cheek by jowel with 'Reading Lolita in Tehran,' because it operates on the same three levels: profoundly moving personal memoir, valuable historical overview, and exemplary model of cultural analysis. The story begins in Japan immediately after World War II, and follows the insecure but vastly talented Tatsumi as he becomes a manga star in the 60s. Along the way, we get glimpses at, and insights on, literary works from Dumas to ...more
Katt Hansen
Oct 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: manga, biography
A monster book, at times engrossing, at times a bit tedious. This is an unexpected work, though if a manga artist were to write an autobiography, how else to do it but in the format of manga. Hundreds of pages long, this is not a 'light' read on any level. Still, it was not only enjoyable but at times inspiring. To me as a writer, I came away with the desire to create and not give up, much like our main character who set out to do something different and to redefine an art form at a time when it ...more
Derek Royal
Feb 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was on the fence of whether to give this book a four-star or five-star rating on Goodreads, and I decided on the latter. The one thing that had me consider the four stars is the book's ending, which, out of contexts, seems to be abrupt. But if you look at this longer narrative alongside Tatsumi's short stories, then the type of an ending makes more sense. This is definitely a long and encompassing story. It covers the early life of Tatsumi as he develops into a manga artist, and in this way, t ...more
Oct 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A graphic novel about the process of creating and how the inception of the Gekiga movement came about in Japan from the master himself. The 800+ pages spans through the history from the birth of manga post WW2 through to a recent contemporary. Yoshihiro Tatsumi brings a unique authenticity to his own autobiographical work with plenty of panache.

Even if one is not so familiar with the movement, we can relate to the universal theme of the creative industry; how creative workers struggle and thrive
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Insipiring to read how an artist sees their own life. Also learned some Japanese history on the way, although the boom after the post-war era was repeated atleast three times which makes me wonder whether the original texts were a bit different in each, while the English was rather similar.

In any case a very enjoyable read.
Jun 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: manga
pretty interesting introduction to how gekiga was born tbh. can't say i cared too much about it besides its historical aspect/value, but it was worth it. ...more
Jun 11, 2018 marked it as abandoned
Interesting, but way too long for me to finish right now. Maybe after I have been to Japan...
Robert Beveridge
Yoshihiro Tatsumi, A Drifting Life (Drawn and Quarterly, 2009)

Despite my loathing of memoirs, every once in a while one comes along I can't not read. And while Yoshihiro Tatsumi's monstrous A Drifting Life is not, in the strictest sense, a memoir, by all accounts this “autobiographical fiction” is truer to Tatsumi's early years in the comics industry than are most memoirs. At over 850 pages, it's also Tatsumi's most ambitious work. Despite the usual scope of Tatsumi's material, it's also in many
Jun 10, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: manga-and-comics
This is an autobiography of the manga creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi, who was one of the fathers of 'gekiga' - a subset of manga that was created back in the '50s in order to differentiate manga written for adults from children's comics (as, at that time, almost all manga were still written for children).

As well as the differentiation between adults and children's books, gekiga artists were instrumental in taking manga from its beginning as 4-panel gag comics towards the form we see it in today - lot
Feb 13, 2012 rated it liked it
This autobio brick of a book, originally published in installments as with most Japanese manga, traces the development of Tatsumi as a manga artist trying to change and expand the possibilities, perception, role and audience of manga. For the beginning and middle section of the book, I was very engaged by his development as an artist, his growing career and relationships with various publishers. However, in the last section things started to feel fairly repetitive. Tatsumi is constantly taking o ...more
Apr 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: manga
A Drifting Life is an autobiographical work that follows the protagonist Hiroshi Katsumi (read : Yoshihiro Tatsumi) from his youthful days of obsessive manga creation to being a full fledged artist.

For a budding mangaka who found it difficult to write beyond 20 pages, this book is a whopping 800 pager mammoth! The story flows in a form of a series of vignettes - thematically shifting from discovering a passion for manga to petty sibling jealousy, from young ambition & (sometimes) thwarted dream
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Yoshihiro Tatsumi (辰巳 ヨシヒロ Tatsumi Yoshihiro, June 10, 1935 in Tennōji-ku, Osaka) was a Japanese manga artist who was widely credited with starting the gekiga style of alternative comics in Japan, having allegedly coined the term in 1957.

His work has been translated into many languages, and Canadian publisher Drawn and Quarterly have embarked on a project to publish an annual compendium of his wo

Other books in the series

Gekiga Hyoryu (2 books)
  • Una vida errante, Volumen uno (Gekiga Hyoryu, #1)
  • Una vida errante, Volumen Dos (Gekiga Hyoryu, #2)

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