Japanese mangaka artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi's memoir A Drifting Life, the winner of two Eisner Awards in 2010, forms the basis for Singaporean film-maker Eric Khoo's animated take on his life story and gekiga style short stories. Gekiga was a term coined by Tatsumi to differentiate his adult oriented, hard hitting cartoon strips from the more youth friendly manga offerings that traditionally dominate the market. Animated in Indonesia and chosen as Singapore's entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at next year's Oscars, Tatsumi intersperses scenes from Tatsumi's life with five of his resolutely tough tales of life in Japan since WWII. The five tales – Hell, Beloved Monkey, Just a Man, Good-Bye and Occupation – drawn in Tatsumi's style, contain a startling mix of murder, alienation, incest, lust and tragedy and an obligatory sting in the tale for the individual protagonists.
Tatsumi's youth in Osaka and subsequent rise to prominence as one of Japan's foremost mangaka covers the initial post-war period through the to the resurgence of the country as both an economic and political force. The horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan's post-war rebuilding (both physical and mental) and changing social conditions and mores clearly influence the short stories and are reflected in Tatsumi's own family life, aspirations and inner struggles. Tatsumi's voice-over narration provides an aural guide to compliment the visual snapshots of the celebrated artist's life and the denouement sees the man himself, in the flesh, still hard at work in his studio at the grand old age of 76.This visually stunning, enlightening film is well worth catching up with whether you're familiar with the man and his work or not.