A Drifting Life

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A Drifting Life
A Drifting Life.jpg
English version of A Drifting Life published by Drawn and Quarterly in April 2009
(Gekiga Hyōryū)
Genre Drama, Historical, Psychological, Romance, Slice of life story
Written by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Published by Seirinkogeisha
English publisher
Demographic Seinen
Published November 20, 2008
Volumes 2
Anime film
Directed by Eric Khoo
Produced by Tan Fong Cheng
Phil Mitchell
Freddie Yeo
Eric Khoo
Written by Eric Khoo
Music by Christopher Khoo
Christine Sham
Studio Zhao Wei Films
Released May 17, 2011
Runtime 98 minutes
Portal icon Anime and Manga portal

A Drifting Life (劇画漂流 Gekiga Hyōryū?) is an autobiographical Japanese manga written and illustrated by Yoshihiro Tatsumi and chronicles his life from 1945 to 1960 when he began submitting and publishing manga.[1] It was released in Japan as two bound volumes on November 20, 2008.[2][3] It is licensed in North America by Drawn and Quarterly and was released as a wide-ban volume in April 2009.[4] The work has been adapted into an animated feature film, Tatsumi, directed by Eric Khoo and released in 2011.[5]


A Drifting Life has won the 13th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize in 2009.[6] It was nominated for three categories for the Eisner Award: Best Reality-Based Work, Best U.S. Edition of International Material - Asia and Best Lettering for comics creator Adrian Tomine.[7] It won two Eisner Awards in 2010: Best U.S. Edition of International Material - Asia category and Best Reality-Based Work of the year.[8] In a spate of About.com online user polls in 2009, it was voted 7th most recommended manga for grown, ups.[9] 11th most anticipated manga,[10] 6th best new seinen/josei manga,[11] 3rd best one-shot manga[12] and best new edition of classic manga.[13] Shaenon K. Garrity votes A Drifting Life as the 10th best defining manga.[14] It won an award at the 2012 Angoulême International Comics Festival.[15]

Anime News Network's Casey Brienza commends the manga for "a magnificent presentation, well told and wonderfully illustrated, of an important historical document" but criticises it for "the specialized subject matter may not appeal to readers who do not share similar, specialized interests".[16] New York Times's Dwight Garner commends Tatsumi's art saying "is more sophisticated, retaining the form’s strange sparkle even at gloomy moments; he definitely does write manga that isn’t quite manga. The genre can be a difficult one in which to portray aging. Mr. Tatsumi looks just about the same here at ages 10 and 25". he further comments "a book like A Drifting Life is fairly easy to pick apart on a drawing-by-drawing or line-by-line basis. Don’t make that mistake. Its pleasures are cumulative; the book has a rolling, rumbling grandeur. It’s as if someone had taken a Haruki Murakami novel and drawn, beautifully and comprehensively, in its margins".[17] Manga Worth Reading's Johanna Draper Carlson criticises the manga saying, "I was also sometimes uncertain as to the depth of the emotion the lead character was feeling. The obvious reactions were there — determination, for example, to finish a work for a publisher — but the more subtler feelings were missing".[18] Comics212's Christopher Butcher comments "At its heart A Drifting Life is a memoir, filled with a density of details to give it a setting and place that will be immediately familiar to Japanese readers of the last generation but that will largely evade North American ones. This is not a bad thing, if anything the unfamiliarity of the time and place of this story will add to the experience of the lead drifting through his life, tied only to the comic that I hope you’ll be holding in your hands".[19] Comic Book Resources's Chris Mautner commends the manga for its "basic bildungsroman qualities. At its heart, A Drifting Life is the simple story of a young man discovering his talent and by extension his place in the world. It’s told in as direct and plain a manner as possible, but still full of energy and passion".[20]

The art in A Drifting Life is slightly more varied than what I’ve seen from Tatsumi in the past, perhaps because everyone here is based on real people. While a lot of the secondary characters fall into Tatsumi’s trap of coming out of the same mold as one another, overall I was pleased to see how much stronger the art in A Drifting Life was in comparison to his short story collections. His characters are still wonderfully awkward and gawky, and Hiroshi and Okimasa in particular are wonderfully expressive; just looking at how Okimasa is drawn over the years is fascinating because he’s always clearly the same person even though Tatsumi is able to draw him looking both villainous and friendly in ways that transform his entire face. I also really have to give Tatsumi credit for how he draws Japan in the 1940s and 1950s; so much of the story comes to life in the way that he sketches the buildings and streets of Osaka and Tokyo. Between the drawings and the little details in the story about living in that time period (the scarcity of television, the dependence on telegrams rather than phone calls even in the late ’50s), one almost feels at times like this isn’t so much an autobiography but rather a guidebook for time-travelers heading to 1950s Japan.

—Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics[21]


  1. ^ "A Drifting LIfe". Drawn and Quarterly. 
  2. ^ "劇画漂流 (first)". Seirinkogeisha. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  3. ^ "劇画漂流 (second)". Seirinkogeisha. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  4. ^ "A Drifting Life". Drawn and Quarterly. Archived from the original on 6 October 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Frater, Patrick (2011-02-07). "Tatsumi finds match with Factory". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 9 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-02. 
  6. ^ "13th Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize Winners Announced (Updated)". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 13 November 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  7. ^ Aoki, Deb. "Manga Doubles Its Nominations in 2010 Eisner Comic Industry Awards". About.com. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  8. ^ "Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life Wins 2 Eisners". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 27 October 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  9. ^ Aoki, Deb. "Cool New Manga for Grown-up Graphic Novel Fans". About.com. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  10. ^ Aoki, Deb. "2009 Preview: 20 Hot New Manga". About.com. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  11. ^ Aoki, Deb. "2009 Readers Poll: Best New Seinen/Josei - Drama". About.com. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  12. ^ Aoki, Deb. "2009 Readers Poll: Best New One-Shot Manga". About.com. Archived from the original on 7 November 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  13. ^ Aoki, Deb. "2009 Best New Manga". About.com. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  14. ^ Garrity, Shaenon K.. "All the Comics in the World: Ten Defining Manga". 
  15. ^ Nicolas Penedo (2011-01-30). "Angoulême 2012 : le palmarès". Animeland.com (in French). Retrieved 2011-02-01. 
  16. ^ Brienza, Casey. "A Drifting Life GN". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 27 October 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  17. ^ Garner, Dwight (15 April 2009). "Manifesto of a Comic-Book Rebel". New York Times. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  18. ^ Carlson, Johanna Draper. "A Drifting Life - Recommended". Manga Worth Reading. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  19. ^ Butcher, Christopher. "A Drifting Life, By Yoshihiro Tatsumi". Comics212. Archived from the original on 14 December 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  20. ^ Mautner, Chris. "Robot reviews: A Drifting Life". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 
  21. ^ McElhatton, Greg. "A Drifting Life". Read About Comics. Archived from the original on 13 November 2010. Retrieved 8 November 2010. 

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