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~生まれた町で夢見てきた...~
"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
The Push Man and Other Stories by Tatsumi Yoshihiro 
29th-Apr-2008 11:59 pm
Hell
Tatsumi, Yoshihiro. The Push Man and Other Stories. Trans. Yuji Oniki. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2005.
          Summary: A collection of seventeen one-shots by Tatsumi Yoshihiro, all dating back to 1969. Lots of violence against women; lots of men who hate their jobs.
          Comments: People who wanna sound smart when talking about vintage gekiga usually spout off words and phrases like "alienation," "pulp noir," and "the dehumanizing effects of an industrial society." Heck, even I do it sometimes--when I don't actually mean what I say, that is. The ugly truth behind a comics movement that gets paraded around by the highbrow (male) comics literati here in the West is this: Originally, what gekiga were really about was a male backlash against women's much improved position in post-war Japanese society, where, with the stroke of a pen, women went from being less than human to being equal, voting citizens of a modern nation state. By the late 60s, expectations had risen, and women were getting jobs, getting divorces, getting lives of their own in unprecedented numbers. In the real world, men were forced to deal with the new normal.
          But in their fantasies? Oh, well...that was a different story entirely! This volume of Tatsumi's manga airs every unpleasant revenge fantasy imaginable. Story after story parades ruthless, sexually "liberated" women being murdered, mutilated, or otherwise subjected to as much creative humiliation as possible by men who just can't take being downtrodden anymore, dammit. The only guys who seem to have fulfilling sexual lives in these stories are the occasional "girly" man. The standpoint is truly repulsive.
          And the way it comes packaged in a lavish clothbound edition, complete with stated financial support from The Japan Foundation, only makes it more so. Because the standpoint isn't just a 40 year old anachronism; it's also being legitimized right in the here and now by a self-styled avant garde indie publisher. Despite an influx of female manga readers, there is still so much ugly anti-female bias in the American comic book industry, and it produces things like this crap, calling it gold. In Japan nowadays, gekiga-influenced seinen manga use codes of violence against women mainly as nostalgic aesthetic choices, not as reactionary social commentary. Take, for example, MPD-Psycho. Make no mistake, however; the socio-political conditions from which they emerged are still in full force, "worse" actually than before, and it gives us things like lolicon and moé. (Mature, adult women in the 21st century are too scary, period, so we get sexualized children instead.)
          Even irrespective of content, Drawn & Quarterly's production is a mess. At a time when VIZ Media sells unflipped volumes of Naruto by the boatload, The Push Man and Other Stories reads left to right. But it's not just flipped. Panels have been clipped out and reordered one at a time on each page, a labor-intensive process that noticeably interrupts the visual narrative flow of the manga. A skilled artist's sequential art is directional even within individual panels, with a logical progression, in the case of the Japanese, from right to left. Tatsumi, whatever his thematic shortcomings, knows sequential art, and Adrian Tomine's well-intentioned efforts have produced painfully jarring strips. I found myself unable to sink into the "flow" of this book as I normally would when reading with a manga, whether in its original format or flipped old-style. (Not, as it turns out, that I really wanted to.) Too bad self-defeating pointlessness doesn't mitigate offensiveness.
          Notes: hardcover, 1st American edition, 2nd printing
          Rating: 1/10 - The Emperor Has No Clothes. Extra point deducted for tone-deaf Westernization.
Comments 
1st-May-2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
Excellent. <3
2nd-May-2008 03:54 am (UTC)
"Lots of violence against women and men who hate their jobs."
This made me laugh. :P
2nd-May-2008 03:57 am (UTC)
Oh dear, that's ambiguous isn't it? >_< It's supposed to be "lots of violence against women" AND "lots of men who hate their jobs."

EDIT: Okay, fixed it.

Edited at 2008-05-02 03:33 pm (UTC)
2nd-May-2008 03:28 pm (UTC)
Whoa!
2nd-May-2008 03:34 pm (UTC)
Could you be a teensy bit more specific with your feedback? ^^;;;
2nd-May-2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
I haven't read Push Man, because it's been recommended by the same people who give me things like lofty and super boring lesbian manga because I "like shoujo" but would never even look at Narushima's Young Magician despite my prodding because it's not "artistic enough" (aka it's not pretentious, and THINGS ACTUALLY HAPPEN IN IT). But I know how Push Man has been received by top manga bloggers, so this is going to piss a lot of people off.

I trust your word more than almost anyone else's, though. You know how to pick out true sexism hidden in media, and you enjoy your share of arsty comics AND trashy BL, so I know you can separate true art from crappy pretension. So keep pissing people off! You're usually right.
2nd-May-2008 04:03 pm (UTC)
*laughs* Now that Comic Book Resources doesn't repost my reviews anymore, I don't have the kind of visibility that attracts all the haters. I'm back to my soapbox on a near-abandoned street corner. But do not pity me. I revel in being able to say what I *really* think without there being consequences that I hear about. ^_~
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