Tatsumi: ‘Alternative noir histories from Japan’s postwar period’


The stories of comic-book artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi — an originator of the gekiga (literally, “dramatic pictures”) style — reach the screen in this intriguing compilation film by Singaporean director Eric Khoo.

In “Hell,” a photographer finds postwar fame with a poignant shot he took of Hiroshima after the bomb dropped; “Beloved Monkey” sees a factory worker besotted by a bar girl and ignored by his pet monkey; “Just a Man” finds a salaryman nearing retirement, ignored by his shrewish wife and yearning for one last fling with a co-worker; “Occupied” follows a manga artist who, no longer able to sell his kiddie comics, is inspired by the vulgar artwork in a toilet stall; and “Goodbye” returns to the immediate postwar period, where a young woman survives the hard way by servicing American soldiers. Each of these stories packs a killer twist and is dank with angst. They’re alternative noir histories of Japan’s “economic miracle” following the war, highlighting the people who were thrown under the wheels.

Khoo intercuts these stories with Tatsumi’s own story, taken from his graphic-novel autobiography “A Drifting Life.” The result is clearly the best animation for adults to grace our screens since “Persepolis” in 2007.