Thursday, April 17

Abandon the Old in Tokyo

Abandon the Old in Tokyo has eight stories: most of them about working class guys in postwar Japan. There's a factory worker, garbage collector, window washer. In the title story, a young man cooks and washes for his mother, who reminds him without fail that in her youth, she worked really hard to provide for him. There's a flashback that shows the boy accidentally stumbling into his mother and her "clients." And now, in her old age, she thinks she's worked too hard. But a young man can only take the stench of pee-soaked blankets for so long. The young woman she's dating is excited to visit and spend time with him in his apartment. Japan is known for having long life spans and for families taking care of their own elderly, but two decades after World War II, a young man decides to rent an apartment in the outskirts of the city and move his invalid mother there. He must choose: mother or his own woman? Is he doing the right thing? Will it be too late?

In the introduction, Adrian Tomine claims that Yoshihiro Tatsumi predated the naturalist style of recent (say since the '80s) North American comic book artists. I'm not really a big manga fan, but in reading this book, I'm more likely to agree with Tomine. Yoshihiro Tatsumi has more in common with Harvey Pekar or R. Crumb than most of the manga I've read. It has simple enough narratives which capture a day (or days) in the life of someone, and then fades away after an emotional moment. The moments are not big either. When the lonely manga artist was caught drawing graffitti in a public restroom, the look on his face reminded me of Julio Madiaga in the final scene in Maynila: Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag. It's desperation pushed against the walls. More Raymond Carver than Ranma or Fruits Basket.

I enjoyed reading the stories. Found this in the big Borders store. I finished it in one sitting, even with a headache. Also, I found out that this was the second in a series--the first being Push Man and Other Stories, which I'll be delighted to read someday. I wish we'd get these titles here in Manila.

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