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Fallen Words [Paperback]

Yoshihiro Tatsumi , Adrian Tomine

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Book Description

March 14 2012
In Fallen Words, Yoshihiro Tatsumi takes up the oral tradition of rakugo and breathes new life into it by shifting the format from spoken word to manga. Each of the eight stories in the collection is lifted from the Edo-era Japanese storytelling form. As Tatsumi notes in the afterword, the world of rakugo, filled with mystery, emotion, revenge, hope, and, of course, love, overlaps perfectly with the world of Gekiga that he has spent the better part of his life developing.

These slice-of-life stories resonate with modern readers thanks to their comedic elements and familiarity with human idiosyncrasies. In one, a father finds his son too bookish and arranges for two workers to take the young man to a brothel on the pretext of visiting a new shrine. In another particularly beloved rakugo tale, a married man falls in love with a prostitute. When his wife finds out, she is enraged and sets a curse on the other woman. The prostitute responds by cursing the wife, and the two escalate in a spiral of voodoo doll cursing. Soon both are dead, but even death can't extinguish their jealousy.

Tatsumi's love of wordplay shines through in the telling of these whimsical stories, and yet he still offers timeless insight into human nature.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly (March 14 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1770460748
  • ISBN-13: 978-1770460744
  • Product Dimensions: 22.2 x 16.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #257,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Praise for A Drifting Life:

"One of Japan's most important visual artists." - The New York Times

"A Drifting Life is as involving and thorough as any prose memoir, while remaining as immediate and concise as the best comics. It is, honestly, one of the most significant works the medium has ever produced." - The Onion, The A.V. Club

About the Author

Born in 1935, Yoshihiro Tatsumi began writing and drawing comics for a sophisticated adult readership in a realistic style he called Gekiga. He has influenced generations of cartoonists and lives in Japan.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "The pleasures of rakugo emerge from this universal, mutable quality" Aug. 30 2012
By animate ~ - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"Fallen Words," or rakugo, as the Japanese call them, are stories handed down throughout the generations to be molded and kindled to the ways of contemporary life. This is Tatsumi at his nicest, as he notes in the afterword saying that most gekiga of the past eschewed humor. True, this has nothing of the grief of "Hell" or "Push Man" but those looking for something lighter will find this mostly enjoyable. The little boy in "New Years Festival," the moment of art transcending mimicry in "Escape of the Sparrows," the final scene with the Reaper in "The God of Death," and a man sharing a kiss with his ex-wife's spirit through a tobacco pipe in "Fiery Spirits" are all memorable. But where's the humor? Sadly, my fat white American body and small mind are not familiar with the "rakugo" of past, so something is sort of lost between cultures. Many of the stories are thirty page build ups to one punch line, and sometimes it works, but sometimes it sits like cold sake.

Listen, the dude is a legend in comix and even the worst story here is worth your time, but expect nothing of the tragic characters or moral ennui of the past gekiga works. D&Q rarely picks a flub, and this is no different. Recommended for the initiated.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stories to raise your spirits Nov. 22 2012
By Sam Quixote - Published on Amazon.com
Yoshihiro Tatsumi adopts "rakugo", in Japanese meaning "fallen words", a kind of comedic fable-storytelling that was an aural tradition for many centuries in Japan. In these eight collected stories, Tatsumi's masterful storytelling is shorn of its usual tragic veil seen in books like "Good-bye" and "Abandon the Old in Tokyo", instead taking a light-hearted stance tinged with physical comedy.

The stories are all brilliant, bar none: Tatsumi sets all of them in the Edo period so the reader is treated to traditional Japanese culture set in a romanticised past, free of the Western influence of later years. They have a flavour of whimsy and fantasy about them - one involves a drunken artist paying for his bed and board by drawing some sparrows onto a screen. Once sunlight falls upon them, the sparrows come to life! In a different story, a man whose wife and mistress die after cursing one another through a voodoo-type doll, is haunted by their ghosts depicted as fiery spirits; while in another story a penniless man meets the God of Death and hatches a scheme to make money from the Grim Reaper.

The book is set out like a Japanese book so the reader has to read from right to left instead of left to right, though of course the writing is in English. It adds to overall experience of reading Japanese literature.

The aspect of the stories that I think will jar the reader are the endings which are by turns anti-climactic, bizarre, and slapsticky, as if Tatsumi ran out of space and abruptly ended each story on a strange note. This is in fact part of the "rakugo" style of storytelling where each story has comedic elements with the ending providing a punchline to the tale. The stories of "rakugo" were meant to be performed so each story had to have physical comedy as a part of them with the story changing depending on who told it. Tatsumi ambitiously converts this stylistic storytelling into comics and, while the comedy might not translate so well for a 21st century Western audience (hell, even Japanese readers might find the comedy a bit lax), this is all part of the rakugo experience.

But this is a minor complaint as the stories are so brilliantly told that I didn't care about how it ended but how he got there. Tatsumi started writing comics in his teens and is now in his late 70s - the man understands comics so indelibly that reading him is an absolute joy. He understands how to set out a story and tell it perfectly with the right amount of panels - he is a true master of the art and reading "Fallen Words" reminded me once again how much I enjoy reading his comics, as well as reminding me why I love comics in the first place. It's an art form unlike any other and when it's done well, it's the best thing in the world.

While this isn't Tatsumi's best work - read "A Drifting Life" for that - for readers who want to sample his work without perhaps the darker tones of his more well-known books "The Push Man" and the two I mentioned at the start, "Fallen Words" is a fine place to begin. As a long-time fan of his work, I loved all eight strange tales of historical Japan and it's collection of con artists, geishas, ghosts, and artists with themes of death, life, fun, silliness, and love.

And now, I leave you in the capable hands of the next story...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Great Yoshihiro Tatsumi Sept. 15 2012
By Marco - Published on Amazon.com
I think if you like any of the other Tatsumi short story collections then you'll like this. It features many his trademark characters and themes: poverty, loneliness, hunger for more money and sex. I tend to dislike translated literature, but for some reason I like Tatsumi's stuff a lot. Maybe it's because most of the "language" is in the pictures. Keep releasing these collections, Drawn and Quarterly!
3.0 out of 5 stars A little too predictable ... Jan. 13 2014
By Echezona Udeze - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Tatsumi's A Drifting Life was brilliant ... astounding ... but the stories here fail to either entertain or enlighten me ... I believe he is talented but needs to try something maybe a bit different ...
5.0 out of 5 stars Stop Reading Crap Fixshun like Harry Potter or Fifty Shades of Grey (got to page 64 and quit) Dec 4 2013
By Jahana - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Level of graphic and literary artistry is top-notch. Drawn and Quarterly of Canada is doing a great service to humanity by making this and other books of this genre available to the wider international audience. I will be acquiring more books by this outfit.

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