Manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi has always enjoyed a certain level of fame in his home country, where he's known as the originator of gekiga, a hard-boiled style of manga from the 1960s-'70s. Overseas, however, it's only since 2009 that his reputation has risen meteorically, after an English-language translation of his massive autobiographical manga, "A Drifting Life," was published.

It's perfect timing for Singaporean director Eric Khoo to release his film "Tatsumi," which blends the mangaka's (comic-book artist) own coming-of-age story from "A Drifting Life" with a fistful of his most hard-punching Showa Era (1926-89) comics; stories of haunted war veterans, beaten-down salarymen and elusive bar girls, all animated in a style entirely faithful to the original works.

Yet Khoo is no johnny-come-lately to the work of Tatsumi. In Tokyo as a member of the competition jury at the recent Tokyo International Film Festival, Khoo found time to talk with The Japan Times about his lifelong love of Tatsumi's work.