• 1
  • 2
talentless man/men    Standing on the bank of the river, a man urinates into the water. He empties his bladder, a smile on his lips. Beside him, in a shack made of reeds, a small child looks the other way. Careful! Don’t let the cover of this comic book fool you. When you open up Mun no Hito (talentless man) and get into the story, at some moment you’ll feel the tear of your heart breaking apart. Between 10 to 15 years ago, along with the usual type of topic, more intimate and realist stories started to become more common in the comics available here. They were called graphic novels, and to the surprise of many, they quickly found a niche in the market. They were published thanks mainly to their quality and originality. In Japan, however, this phenomenon started in the 80s, when some manga authors started developing and publishing personal stories. One of these is Yoshiharu Tsuge, the pioneer manga author who was never afraid to go against the grain.
Tsuge was born in 1937 and had to overcome two major obstacles: the abject poverty resulting from World War II and his extreme shyness. Drawing and writing comics was a way for him to overcome these difficulties and make some money at the same time. In the 60s and 70s, he published some very influential gekiga manga work infused with eroticism and surrealism, and he soon became one of the biggest names in avant-garde Japanese comics. In the 80s, the world of manga comics lost its freedom and became a massive business where shocking working conditions were imposed. Tsuge, who was also going through change in his personal life (he had married and had had a son), changed his style completely.
Tsuge beganto suffer a long period of depression and during that time he began to draw realist and autobiographical manga comics. Amongst them, the wonderful yet painful Mun no Hito (talentless man), which was first serialised in the magazine Garo. He dropped his very developed and highly detailed drawing style to use a cleaner and more basic manner with which to more openly and directly than ever before reflect on what Bernardo Atxaga would call “The Lone Man”. Going from one job to another, from one failure to another, the protagonist Sukezo Sukegawa’s choices (fixing old comics, selling rocks..) lead him into a ever more rapid downward spiral. We see Sukezo cross over from existentialism to nihilism as we progress through the story. His poisonous relationship with his wife as well as how he feels he is misunderstood and marginalised by society is unveiled before us. While this is some initial hope inspired by the innocence of his son and Sukezo’s love for him, it soon flickers out, like the light of a glow-worm.
In 1987, he published Ribetsu (Farewell), the story of a man who tries to commit suicide as a result of a love relationship break-up, and he hasn’t published anything since. We know that in 1999, his wife died of cancer and he went to live with his son in a house on the banks on the river Tama. They say that a 78-year-old man still waddles up to the bank of the Tama, pulls down his zip and urinates into the river, showering his talent onto the waters there.