In a 50-year career, graphic artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi helped Japanese manga grow up, introducing dramatic, socially-aware subject matter intended for an adult readership. As an avid fan, Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo pays tribute with this unusual and intriguing Japanese-language animated feature, which threads a series of Tatsumi’s short fictions through a screen biography.
A sceptical counterpoint to the familiar narrative of Japan’s postwar regeneration, Tatsumi’s stories feature under-appreciated, sexually frustrated office and manual workers, sympathetic in outline yet seasoned with a zesty perversity that admirers of Shohei Imamura’s films will appreciate. Exploring subjects from post-Hiroshima guilt to a sinister simian alter ego, their thematic daring and imaginative fizz are served well by the detailed, author-approved visuals, yet the tension sags every time we return to the comparatively mundane real-life element – and the movie plateaus when it should build. The tense docudrama framing of Paul Schrader’s Mishima biopic, for instance, generated far more impact from its work-life blend. Still, if Khoo’s film doesn’t amount to more than its parts, more often than not those parts are vivid and arresting.
From Time Out London
Dir Eric Khoo, category III, 96 mins, opens on Aug 2