Push Man Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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Mania Grade: B+

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Other
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • ISBN: 1-896597-85-8
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Left to Right

Push Man Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     September 26, 2006
Release Date: September 01, 2005

Push Man Vol.#01
© Other

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Tatsumi Yoshihiro
Translated by:Yuji Oniki
Adapted by:

What They Say
Over four decades ago, Yoshihiro Tatsumi expanded the horizons of comics story-telling by using the visual language of manga to tell gritty, literary short stories about the private lives of everyday people. He has been called "the grandfather of Japanese alternative comics" and has influenced generations of cartoonists, but until now, the majority of his work has remained unavailable outside of Japan. The first in a chronological, multi-volume series, The Push Man and Other Stories is an eye-opening introduction to the provocative and profound comics of a modern master.

The Review
Outside of the story-telling the strongest point is easily the packaging. Now I know that flipped manga is not acceptable and if this was Ponent Mon or Viz or Dark Horse, I would be ranting about this. However, for D&Q to even pick up a manga title and then to publish it in a stunning hardcover, I could not help but fall in love. The cover says it all. Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama or Nagoya can look like that under the train tracks. It looks Dirty, dark and oh so silent even with the trains running over head. There is something that says drunken lonely nights with a cover like that.

Inside the printing is flawless. The thick paper shows off Tatsumi's inking and panel drops perfectly. This was a time when he was doing much of the work on his own; sometimes cranking out a handful of pages a day. So, I was glad to see that D&Q really took the time to get the alignment and print down right. This title has a little bit on the mangaka as well for an extra.

When I was first introduced to Tatsumi's art I had this strange feeling that his style was very familiar. I was not sure if it was because the mangaka was around for so long or if it was just based on how these designs worked well in the context of gekiga manga. But after I did a bit of research on his history and I found out that he grew up on Tezuka manga (and was a contemporary and friend of his for a while) I quickly realized where that feeling came from. There is a simplicity to both of their designs. But where Tezuka made sure that his leads were very cartoonish, even in his most serious titles, Tatsumi left the caricature for his supporting cast. His leads are as simple; almost always void of detail. They have expressive faces that do not change much but really allow the reader to see into their eyes for emotion. His leads are the everyday man. They were occasionally Tatsumi himself. And they almost always wear the clothes of the working man - jump suits, blue collar shirts and shelve guards.

Tatsumi's stories are generally pretty short but that did not mean that his layout was not impressive. One thing I noticed was that because these stories were socially conscious, Tatsumi always made sure to pay attention to how the scenes played part in every story. The perspective is generally not from the view of the characters. Instead we get an omnipresent look at this depressing cold world. And even though there are often many people around in Tatsumi's stories, somehow he makes it seem so lonely and quiet. (Maybe the lack of dialogue has something to do with that.)

The translation is excellent. Dialogue is at a premium here. There can be pages where only a couple words are said. FX are rare also. So what is translated really maintains the poetic nature of Tatsumi's original writings. There is a lot of metaphor there and it comes out well.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers) Coming out of the war, Japan under the occupation struggled. People had a hard time making ends meet. Eventually though with development the country began to embark on a path of tremendous growth. Major cities in the west began to develop on the backs a strong working class. While white collar business developed in the downtown areas of Tokyo and Osaka, the rest of the population, the majority of the population was building, constructing and growing the products that were making Japan richer.

Developed on the back of those mainly from the outskirts of big cities, big city saw hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of the working class go through each day. These people were pushed into train and subway cars on their way to work. They hung out in bar districts on the way back. Their lives were what created the wealth that some people saw, but many of these people saw little of the residuals. They had to make do in other ways. Some recycled and they lived off of the remains of others. Others made do looking for excitement in the shadows. And there were many others that just lived in sin altogether. They saw no hope even when prosperity seemed to be everywhere. It was just everywhere else.

The people in the Push Man are people who are lost. They have been lost in the shuffle of a developing nation. Most of them never had opportunities, they were stuck in lives they never choose but they had to live. And because of such, they decided to make their decision on the little things. These little things might seem grand to the reader; more often than not shocking. But in the life of a person who cleans sewers for a living this is nothing. For someone who pushes people into trains or provides body fluids for labs, what they do is anything but significant. What is meaningful might not ever go noticed. Amazing how their lives parallel the socio-economic climate.

Political and social issues have long played critical role in manga storytelling. Satire and parody can be traced back to the pre-WWII times. And while comedy and fantastic adventure titles from that era are more often remembered, there was always a market for mature writing and art.

Tatsumi Yoshihiro grew up among the large working class of Osaka in the post WWII era. It was a time of great development and growth for that already large port city in the southwest. Like major Japanese cities, Osaka was devastated by the war. Bombing destroyed much of the cultural and industrial centers of this city reshaping it into the dense center of industry and commerce it has become now. But as we see in Push Man, it was the quiet work of the labor class that built that city and built modern Japan.

Osaka is considered the center business in Japan. Osaka is also the home of comedy and gastronomy... oh and Bunraku. But its greatness comes from the untold stories.

Tatsumi's Pushman is much like that. Set in the 60's these short stories present the working man's life during a time of tremendous growth and frustration in Japan. Many of these stories show how empty the lives of the working class could have been. Men go to work. They silently push paper, work in factories or toll on our docks or in our sewers. They often go homes to simple lives often wishing for a new life with attainable dreams and hope. They might be married or even have children, but even then some found little passion even in their sex life. Any other life would do - that of a woman, one as a criminal or one all alone. The lack of hope being a faceless person in the crowd while others make money and grow powerful off your back carries this book.

Sexual frustration, crime and mid-life crisis are common themes in these tales. But one can also say that work, alcohol and an unforgiving social class system are just as much causes as major players here as well. That is possibly why Tatsumi called his style of storytelling gekiga. In his comic, he tells the harsh cold sides of day-to-day Japan. Stories that are usually kept under wraps, as they are present a negative almost deviant part of a very personal part of Japanese culture.

Drawn & Quarterly has truly impressed me by their translation and presentation. What really impressed me was the respect they gave this title. Titles like this might often be too much of a risk to take. Is there an audience for older titles? What about titles for mature audiences? What about titles without action, adventure, fantasy or sci-fi elements? Maybe a title like that will not hit the top 10's like many shonen titles, but they felt there is an audience that could appreciate a different perspective. Tatsumi's storytelling has influenced so many artists all over the world and providing readers a chance to experience his unique work (open the world of gekiga manga) should definitely be commended. I just cannot wait for more.


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