Tatsumi (2011) by Eric Khoo

A unique window into the mind of a great artist.

Artists, rarely do any group inspire so many opinions and emotions. Some deride them as charlatans living in a fantasy world while some are in awe of their creative prowess. They come across as living Bohemian lives. Too often have movies been made to show them as mythical and misunderstood creatures. I felt disappointed with these movies since they celebrated the artist but never quite celebrated their art. There was an element of fetishism in it. "Tatsumi", released in 2011 and directed by Erich Khoo does not fall into this trap. It is based on the manga memoir, "A Drifting Life", by Japanese manga artist, Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Most of us are aware of what manga are.  They are comic books usually aimed at teenagers or younger. Gekiga is an alternative style of  manga which is aimed at adults. Yoshihiro Tatsumi is the Tao of gekiga.

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Since the movie is based on Tatsumi’s memoir, the protagonist, for most of the movie, is Tatsumi himself. The film opens with the funeral of Osamu Tezuka; an artist Tatsumi deeply admired from childhood. He goes on to talk about Tezuka’s influence, later in the movie. After the funeral scene, we are introduced to one of Tatsumi’s gekiga, called Hell. Here, we see a photographer become famous when he takes a photo of the outline of a mother and son on a wall in the city of Hiroshima. This outline was created after the explosion of the atom bomb. The photograph becomes a rallying cry against the use of nuclear weapons. To the photographer’s horror, he finds out that the son is still alive and the outline was that of his friend trying to kill the mother. He had previously hatched a plan to have his mother killed, so that he could sell the house and live a luxurious life. The son tries to blackmail the photographer, but ends up getting killed by him.

 The plot then shifts to a young Tatsumi talking about his childhood and his jealous older brother, Okichan. He starts drawing manga since the age of twelve, and builds his skill to a point where he gets interviewed by a reporter. The newspaper also introduces him to his idol, the famed manga artist, Osamu Tezuka. Soon, he starts earning enough to help his family. When he grows older, he starts working for a magazine and moves in with friends. In between, there are other manga shown, as we slowly come to know  how the precocious boy became one of the best manga artists.  These include "Beloved Monkey", "Just A Man", "Occupied" and "Goodbye", all of which were created by Tatsumi.

There are several points of interest in this movie. The first and most important one is that it offers a wonderful window into Japan’s progression from a war-ravaged country into an economic powerhouse. Barring "Beloved Monkey", each of the characters was a former member of the Japanese Army. It also shows the loss of innocence of a society which was drunk on nationalism. Manga, at the time, were aimed towards children. Tatsumi wanted to change this and portray reality. Something that adults could relate to. He wanted to show the rot inside Japanese society. Each of the characters in the manga shown in the movie feels isolated. They are sensitive creatures who have been reduced to doing whatever necessary to survive, due to tough circumstances. Yet, the spark to get out and do something, to live their life is still there. As an adult who has dreamed, this is so relatable. Gekiga shows life in its naked ugliness.

The film is a great introduction to gekiga as well. Tatsumi’s argument about wanting to show the reality, (and I am paraphrasing here) "why do we not show blood when samurais are fighting?" Having recently watched anime like "Berserk", I can understand where this influence stems from. While the scenes can be gory, overly sexualised, or uncomfortable in any way, it is the naked truth.

From a more technical perspective, “Tatsumi” is a brilliantly made animated movie. The animation style is the same as that of gekiga. So, the audience gets a good taste of the artwork to be expected should they choose to read one. Their intermittent appearance of Tatsumi, in between the memoirs,  keeps changing the pace. Given that each of the stories is different and have their own unique selling points, it is almost like watching a TV series. It also helps us get a peek inside the mind of an artist.

There are two scenes which made a distinct impression on me. The first is when Okichan, in a fit of jealousy, tears apart Tatsumi’s artwork and Tatsumi runs away and cries in a field. He does not wish to make manga again. As he lies there, he is surrounded by fireflies and finds renewed strength to move on. The scene is done excellently. The other scene occurs towards the end of the movie. Tatsumi is now an old man and in what appears to be a bookstore. He comes across characters from each of his works and they all nod or wave at him in recognition.

“Tatsumi” is a deeply personal work. Anyone who has spent hours working on a piece of art, honing their skill,  will surely relate to this movie. There is a touch of justice when we see an old Tatsumi creating art.
It hooks the audience in and takes them for a ride. It is not just a journey into who Yoshihiro Tatsumi is, but also into who we are. 



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Lee Sang-il,1,Rahul Jain,1,Railway Sleepers,1,Rainy Dog,1,Raja Mukhriz,1,Rajkumar Gupta,1,Ram,1,Ram Gopal Varma,1,Randy Mckenzie,4,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead,1,Rape Zombie: Lust of the Dead 2,1,Ravine of Goodbye,1,Re:Born,1,Real,1,Realism,1,Red Beard,1,Red Persimmons,1,Reipu zonbi: Lust of the dead 3,1,Resistance at Tule Lake,1,Respeto,2,Resurrection,1,Revenge: A love story,1,Review,6,Reviews,283,Reviews.,2,Reviews. Panos Kotzathanasis,1,Riri Riza,3,Ritwik Ghatak,2,River of Exploding Durians,2,River's Edge,2,Robin Weng,1,Roger Lee,2,Roman Porno,1,Ronja,1,Rouge,1,Roya Sadat,2,Running on Karma,1,Russia,1,RV: Resurrected Victims,1,Ryoo Seung-wan,1,Ryota Sakamaki,1,Ryuki,1,Ryutaro Ninomiya,2,S. Korea,71,S.Korea,2,Saayak Santra,9,Sabrina Baracetti,1,Sabu,3,Salaam Bombay,1,Samui Song,1,San Diego Asian Film Festival,13,San Diego Film Festival,1,Sanjay Leela Bhansali,2,Sanjeewa Pushpakumara,2,Sankha Ray,29,Sarita Khurana,1,Satan's Slaves,3,Satoru Hirohara,1,Satoshi Kon,3,Satya,1,Satyajit Ray,1,Say Yes,1,Sayandeep Bandyopadhyay,6,Scarlet Heart,1,Score,1,Seijun Suzuki,3,Sekigahara,1,Serga Mathang,1,Sexy S.W.A.T. Team,1,Sha Po Lang,1,Shake Rattle and Roll,1,Shakti Sounder Rajan,1,Shanjhey Kumar Perumal,1,Shanker Raman,1,Shaw Brothers,2,She Remembers He Forgets,2,She's the Boss,1,Shehjar,1,Shiboprosad Mukherjee,1,Shift,2,Shigeru Umebayashi,1,Shikhar Verma,11,Shikhar Verna,3,Shinichi Fukazawa,1,Shinji Somai,2,Shinji Sômai,1,Shinjuku Swan,1,shinjuku Swan II,1,Shinjuku Triad Society,1,Shinobi no Kuni,2,Shinsuke Ogawa,1,Shinsuke Sato,2,Shinya Tsukamoto,4,Shireen Seno,2,Shirley Abraham,1,Shock Wave,1,Shôhei Imamura,1,Shoot for the Contents,1,Shorts,4,Shotaro Kobayashi,1,Shu Qi,1,Shunji Iwai,2,Shutter,1,Shuttle Life,2,Shyam Ramsay,1,Siddiq Ahamed,1,Sidharth Bharathan,1,Signature,1,Silent Mist,1,Silver Spleen,2,Singapore,3,Singh Anand,1,Singing Chen,1,Sinophone,1,Sion Sono,10,Siti,1,Sixth Sense Hooker,1,Slavemen,1,Sleep Curse,1,Small Talk,2,Smriti Mundhra,1,Sogo Ishii,2,Solanin,1,Solitude,1,Solo,1,Someone To Talk To,1,Sompot Chidgasompongse,2,Song Hae-sung,1,Song Kang-ho,1,Song of the Week,22,Sopawan Boonnimitra,1,Sopon Sakdapisit,1,Soul,1,Soul Mate,1,SoulMate,2,South Korea,20,Sri Lanka,3,Srijit Mukherji,7,Stammering Ballad,1,Stanley Kwan,1,Stanley Tong,1,Steel Rain,1,Stephen Chow,1,Stephen Fung,2,Steve James,1,Still the Water,1,Stoneman Murders,1,Story in Taipei,1,Strange Circus,1,Studio Ghibli,1,StudioCanal,4,Subenja Pongkorn,2,Suffering of Ninko,2,Sugihara Survivors: Jewish and Japanese,1,Suicide Club,1,Suman Mukhopadhay,1,Summer Snow,1,Sun-ho Cho,1,Sunao Katabuchi,3,Sunday Beauty Queen,1,Sung-hong Kim,1,Sunk Into the Womb,1,Susumu Hirasawa,1,Sweating the Small Stuff,2,Tadashi Nagayama,1,Tae Guk Gi,1,Tag,1,Taiwan,26,Takaaki Hashiguchi,1,Takahide Hori,1,Takahiro Miko,1,Takahisa Zeze,1,Takao Nakano,1,Takaomi Ogata,4,Takashi Miike,10,Take Care of My Cat,1,Takeo Kikuchi,2,Takeshi Kaneshiro,1,Takeshi Kitano,1,Takuro Nakamura,2,Talop Wangchuk,1,Tamil,4,Tamura Senichi,1,Tang Seng Kiat,2,Tanit Jitnukul,1,Tanvir Ashraf,2,Taste of Rice Flower,2,Tatara Samurai,1,Tatsuhi Omori,1,Tatsumi,1,Tatsumi Kumashiro,1,Teddy Soeriaatmadja,1,Teenkahon,1,Teppei Nakamura,1,Tetsuo the Iron Man,1,Tetsuya Mariko,1,Tetsuya Nakashima,1,Thailand,21,Thanatos Drunk,1,That's It,1,The Adventurers,2,The Apology,1,The Bad,1,The Blue Redemption,1,The Boy and the Beast,3,The boy from Ipanema,1,The Brink,1,The Chase,1,The Cinema Travellers,1,The Crawler in the Attic,1,The Crazy Family,1,The Day After,1,The Detective,1,The Discloser,1,The Dollhouse,1,The elephant and the sea,2,The Executioner,1,The Eye's Dream,1,The Forest Whispers,1,The Forsaken Land,1,The Fortress,1,The Gangster's Daughter,1,The Girl Who Never Knew War,1,The Golden Fortress,1,The Good,1,The Great Buddha+,1,The Great Passage,1,The Hole,1,The Hungry Lion,1,The Inugami Family,1,The Iron Ministry,1,The Island That All Flow By,1,The Isthmus,1,The Kid from the Big Apple,1,The King of Pigs,1,The Last Executioner,1,The Last Painting,1,The Long Excuse,1,The Looming Storm,1,The Lowlife,1,The Magic Blade,1,The Man Without a Map,1,The Mayor,1,The Merciless,2,The Mermaid,1,The Muse,1,The Naked Island,1,The Name,1,The Net,1,The Night of the Earthquake,1,The Outlaws,1,The Prison,1,The Promise,1,The Raid,1,The Raid 2,1,The recipe,1,The Road Home,1,The Road to Mandalay,1,the Robber's Daughter,1,The Room,1,The Sacrament,1,The Salesman,1,The Seen and Unseen,1,The Sleep Curse,1,The Sower,2,The Story of the Disappearance of Maryam,1,The Strange Saga of Hiroshi the Freeloading Sex Machine,1,The Swindlers,1,The Table,1,The Third Murder,1,The Thousand Faces of Dunjia,1,The Tiger: An Old Hunter's Tale,1,The Tokyo Night Sky is Always the Densest Shade of Blue,1,The Tooth and the Nail,1,The Truth Beneath,1,The Vanished,1,The Villainess,3,The Violin Player,1,The Way We Are,1,The Weird,1,The Windmill Palm Grove,1,Theeran Adhigaaram Ondru,1,Third WIndow,1,This Is Not What I Expected,1,This Is Not What I Expected!,1,Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum,1,Three Sisters,1,Three Times,1,Tiffany Hsiung,1,Tik Tik Tik,1,Tôkaidô Yotsuya kaidan,1,Tokyo Ghoul,1,Tokyo Heaven,1,Tokyo Idols,1,Tokyo Vampire Hotel,1,Tolerance Film Festival,1,Tom Waller,2,Tony Leung,1,Tony Takitani,1,Torico,2,Toronto International Film Festival,1,Toshiaki Toyoda,2,Toshihisa Yokoshima,3,Toshimasha Kobayashi,1,Toshio Matsumoto,1,Toshiya Fujita,1,Town in a Lake,1,Traces of Sin,1,Trailers,80,Train to Busan,1,Tran Ham,1,Translated articles,1,Trapped,1,Travellers and Magicians,1,Treb Monteras II,2,Trinh T. Minh-Ha,3,Triple Threat,1,Tsai Ming-liang,2,Tulsi Ramsay,1,Twenty Two,1,Twilight Dinner,1,Twitch: You Are My Toy,1,Typhoon Club,1,Um Tae-hwa,1,Unbowed,1,Uncovered: Tales of the Naked Theater,1,V.I.P.,1,Vagabond,1,Vampire Cleanup Department,2,Vanishing Time A Boy Who Returned,1,Vannaphone Sitthirath,1,various,1,Varnyathil Aashanka,1,Verena Paravel,1,Vesoul International Film Festival,20,Vidya Balan,1,Vietnam,5,Vikramaditya Motwane,1,Vimukthi Jayasundara,1,Vinay Shukla,1,Vincent Kok,1,Violated Angels,1,Visitor Q,1,Vital,1,Vitaly Mansky,1,Vivien Qu,1,Voyage to Terengganu,1,Wai Ka-fai,1,Walk on Girl,1,Wang Bing,3,Wang Chao,2,Wang Lung-wei,1,Wang Ming-tai,1,Warriors of the Dawn,2,We Make Antiques,1,Weeds on Fire,1,Wei-Hao Cheng,1,Wellgo USA,2,West North West,2,What A Wonderful Family 2,1,What Time Is It There?,1,Whispering Corridors,1,Whispering Star,1,White Sun,1,Who Killed Cock Robin,1,Whore Angel,1,Wilson Yip,1,Wiman Rizkidarajat,1,Wine War,1,Winter Vacation,1,With Prisoners,1,Without Memory,1,Wol-Ha: Very Bad Moon Rising,1,Woman of the Lake,1,Won Shin-Yeon,1,Wong Chun,3,Wong Jing,2,Wong Kar-wai,2,Woo Ming Jin,1,Xaisongkham Induangchanthy,1,Xu Bing,1,Ya-che Yang,1,Yamato (California),4,Yan Pak Wing,2,Yang Chao,2,Yang Ik-june,1,Yang Jong-hyeon,1,Yang Woo-seok,1,Yao Tian,1,Yeon Sang-ho,2,Yes Madam,1,Yeti Obhijaan,2,Yin Liang,1,Yiu-wai Chu,1,Yoji Yamada,1,Yoo Ha,1,Yoon-chul chung,1,Yoonsuk Jung,1,Yosep Anggi Noen,1,Yoshihiro Hanno,1,Yoshihiro Nakamura,2,Yoshihiro Nishimura,3,Yoshimasa Jimbo,1,Yoshinari Nishikori,1,Yoshishige Yoshida,1,Yoshitaka Mori,1,Yoshiyuki Kishi,1,Yosuke Takeuchi,2,Yotsuya kaidan,1,You Losers!,1,Your Name,1,Youth,1,Yu Aoi,2,Yu Irie,1,Yu Sang-wook,1,Yuen Chor,1,Yuen Woo-ping,1,Yuji Shimomura,1,Yûji Tajiri,2,Yujiro Harumoto,2,Yuki Tanada,1,Yukihiko Tsutsumi,2,Yukuhiro Morigaki,2,Yusaku Matsumoto,2,Yutaka Ikejima,3,Yutaro Nakamura,1,Yuya Ishii,2,Zakka Films,2,Zhang Lu,1,Zhang Nan,1,Zhang Yimou,1,Zig Dulay,1,Zombiology: Enjoy Yourself Tonight,1,Zuairijah Mou,1,Zuri Rinpoche. Bhutan. Five Flavours,1,
Asian Film Vault: Tatsumi (2011) by Eric Khoo
Tatsumi (2011) by Eric Khoo
A unique window into the mind of a great artist.
Asian Film Vault
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