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Book Recommendation: A Drifting Life

June 22, 2011

At age ten, during his fourth grade summer vacation in 1945, young Hiroshi Katsumi in Osaka is aware that the end of the war has been announced.  The book goes on through a massive 834 pages telling of life in occupied Japan, how Hiroshi and his brother started drawing manga and sent them in to publishers to win prizes and money.  This grows into a profession for Hiroshi who draws and writes, edits and deals with publishers through 1960, befriends Osamu Tezuka [Astroboy creator] and tells of the lives and exploits of other manga artists around him.  The book weaves together history, popular culture and the personal lives of the people around Hiroshi.  

Hiroshi goes from being a reader and enthusiastic fan as a child, to becoming published at an early age to becoming a professional embedded in the changing world of printed entertainment.  Manga, and the different experimental names it was called, was not just a career for Hiroshi.  The manga books were his refuge when he was young and he cared very much about the artistry and evolution of the medium.

The only catch is that Hiroshi Katsumi is actually the author of the work, Yoshihiro Tatsumi. A Drifting Life is actually an autobiography with some names and details changed to protect the identities of some of the people portrayed.  Ironically, one thing that Hiroshi struggles with throughout the book is finding the time and story concepts to create longer book length manga works; magazines and story collections by multiple artists were his main source of income during the course of the story.  Yoshihito Tatsumi found a point in his life to make up for the longer works he aspired to but had not completed in his younger years with this expressive volume. 

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