April 25, 2010
Yoshihiro Tatsumi – Drawn & Quarterly – 2010 – 1 volume
It took me a minute to realize that this was the same Black Blizzard that Tatsumi discussed in A Drifting Life, one of his first major book-length gekiga works, if I remember correctly. If not one of the first, then one of the more influential, and I remember him talking about how it apparently inspired a couple future famous mangaka.
It’s got dated art, and is very short, but I still very much enjoyed it. It feels like 50s noir fiction, and works well as a pulpy, dark read. The setup is classic, with two criminals handcuffed together escaping from a train accident into the mountains during a heavy blizzard. When they reach a cabin, one of the men is adamant about cutting off one of their hands so that they can both escape, but the other protests, saying he is a pianist and can’t stand to lose a hand. He then sits down and recounts the story of how he became a criminal, which involves a crooked circus, a cheery girl, and the drunken murder of a cruel ringmaster. The story of the two criminals plays out after the flashback is over, and the story has quite a twist to its ending.
There isn’t much to say about it. The story is a simple one, and follows several plot conventions you would expect from a 50s detective movie, which is unusual but very welcome in a manga. The art is simple in some senses (especially character designs and backgrounds), but it’s pretty dynamic, and I love the mood the simple hatching gives it.
I’m not sure how many people are going to be happy forking over $20 for this, but I loved it, and I think it’s an interesting look at some very early manga. This is among some of the earliest examples published in English, and I found it to be more enjoyable in a traditional sense than the sci-fi work of Tezuka. It’s also interesting to see after reading A Drifting Life, since it’s spoken of so highly there and I never thought I’d get the opportunity to see it. I love that Drawn & Quarterly gave it a chance, and I hope enough curious Tatsumi fans and fans of noir stories check it out.