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As Adrian Tomine explains in his
Introduction to The Push Man and Other Stories, these short stories in
comic form by Yoshihiro Tatsumi were originally published in 1969. Tatsumi started his work in the 1950s but he
requested that the project of republishing selections from his massive output
leave out his first decade or so.
Tomine states that the plan is to put out one book a year, each devoted
to a year of Tatsumi's art, and since Tatsumi is still making comics, this is a
The 16 stories here are consistent
in their style. Many are set in an
industrial Japanese city and feature a mostly-silent man who works in a
factory. For example, in the first
story, "Piranha," a factory worker comes home to his wife, and she
tells him she wants a million yen to start her own business. He reads in the
newspaper about an insurance payout when a bus rolls over, and the next morning
he thrusts his arm into his machine. He
gets a million yen as compensation for the "accident," and his wife
is happy. He now stays home while she
works, and entertains himself by buying some piranha fish. Soon she starts complaining about him
sitting around all day looking at his fish, and threatens to leave him. He becomes furious and grabs her arm,
forcing it in the fish tank. When he
lets go, it is covered in blood, and she leaves him. He kicks over the fish tank and goes searching for a new job at
another factory, this time one especially for the disabled.
All of the stories are dark in
tone, showing people hurting each other, failing to communicate, cheating,
selling themselves or having their hopes dashed. It is often sexual desire or the duplicity of women that cause
men to rush into disaster. In one
story, "Bedridden," this sense of the danger of sex is crystallized
into a never-seen creature who hides under the bedclothes. Her boyfriend describes her as his sex
slave, and says her sole purpose is to provide pleasure. But he ends up dead, and is replaced by
another man. The men's downfall stems
not only from women, but also from their own lust, aggression and stupidity, so
Tatsumi is an equal-opportunity misanthrope.
The drawing is powerful, sometimes
crude and occasionally stunning, especially when showing the city streets. It
is easy to see how Tatsumi's work influenced Tomine, both in the often blank
expressions of the people and the dark humor in the unfolding of events. It is wonderful that Tatsumi's work is now
available to a general Western readership, and Tomine has done a great job in
editing and designing this book to convert the Japanese format into Western
format. Highly recommended to comics
© 2005 Christian Perring. All
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is
Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island, and editor
of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on
philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.
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