Written by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Publisher Drawn and Quarterly
English publisher Drawn and Quarterly
Originally published 1 August 2006
Genre Slice of life
Illustrator Yoshihiro Tatsumi
|Magazine Weekly Shōnen Magazine
Similar Yoshihiro Tatsumi books, Other books
Abandon the old in tokyo review general yoshihiro tatsumi commentary
Abandon the Old in Tokyo is a collection of gekiga short stories by manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi. It collects eight stories by Tatsumi from 1970, which were serialized in various manga magazines including Weekly Shōnen Magazine and Garo, and was published by Drawn and Quarterly on August 1, 2006. The manga won the 2007 Harvey Award for Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material, sharing it with the first volume of Tove Jansson's Moomin. It was also nominated for the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Archival Collection/Project – Comic Books.
- Abandon the old in tokyo review general yoshihiro tatsumi commentary
According to Tatsumi, the stories "marked a breakthrough and rekindled [his] passion in gekiga". His approach was to use a "bleak story" gekiga style without the gags and humor in mainstream manga. However, due to his background drawing 4-panel and 1-panel humor manga, his works still used straight humor. Tatsumi wanted to depict postwar Japan, where he felt that the focus on economic growth was given precedence over the lifestyles of its people. Regarding his archetypical character, he used him to "[project his] anger about the discrimination and inequality rampant in our society". The idea for the story "Unpaid" came from a "trashy magazine" he had read.
The collection consists of stories by Tatsumi published around 1970. Tatsumi wrote "Abandon the Old in Tokyo" and "Beloved Monkey" for Weekly Shōnen Magazine, "The Hole", "Forked Road", and "Occupied" for the alternative manga magazine Garo, and "Unpaid" for a "cheap adult magazine". Drawn and Quarterly collected the stories, with Adrian Tomine as designer and editor, and published it on August 1, 2006. The stories "Beloved Monkey"—which director Eric Khoo felt was too similar to "Abandon the Old in Tokyo"—and "Occupied" were included as segments in the film adaptation of Tatsumi's A Drifting Life, Tatsumi.
Scholars have drawn parallels between the story "Abandon the Old in Tokyo" and the Ubasute folk tale about the elderly being left to die on a mountain. An essay in Mangatopia calls it a projection of "the modern problem of caring for aged parents" onto the Ubasute tale and notes the usage of "aspect-to-aspect transition" effects in the story, such as the one showing a garbage dump, which "emphasizes outrage and regret over the throw-away mentality of modern society". According to the author, these transitions provide visual variety for a story that would otherwise just be talking heads. In Aging and Loss, Jason Danely remarks that the story "presents the dull, drudging work of elder care as hopeless; whether in life or death, Kenichi's mother will continue to haunt"; also relating cases of abuse due to caregiver exhaustion, concluding that the story visualizes the "intently affective, visual, and visceral context of abandonment".
Tom Gill of the Hooded Utilitarian finds connections between various stories by Tatsumi: likening "Eel" to the story "Sewer" from The Push Man and Other Stories as well as Yoshiharu Tsuge's "Sanshôuo"—each dealing with abandonments in sewers—saying that fetuses are "casually discarded by a dehumanized society" and that "unborn babies, like old people in the title story of Abandon the Old in Tokyo, will be discarded if not needed". He views both the utterance of his daughter's name by the protagonist at the end of "The Washer" and the scream at a disco by the protagonist of "Sewer" as signals of "an emotional breaking-point". He also notes misanthropy by the protagonists, but a sympathy for animals such as the protagonist keeping a pet monkey in "Beloved Monkey" or the man having sex with a dog in "Unpaid". Gill concludes that the key themes of Tatsumi are:
Sexual humiliation, often accompanied by economic inadequacy, so that a woman cannot be satisfied either sexually or materially; lowly occupations that involve cleaning up the mess created by mainstream society (sewer worker / incinerator / window cleaner); and a visceral disgust about the biological processes of sex and reproduction that parallels a disgust about the inhumanity of modern urban mass society – often shading into downright misanthropy, with a corresponding sympathy for animals.
Joseph Luster of Otaku USA said that Tatsumi's art style and character designs reinforce the stories and that they linger in the reader's mind long after being read. Carlo Santos of Anime News Network found "greater depth and variety" than in The Push Man and Other Stories due to the larger amount of pages available, complimenting their simple layouts and executions, but disliked the endings as well as the repetitive character designs. Greg McElhatton of Read About Comics praised Tatsumi's characterization and found the stories to be memorable, but found fault in the same look of the characters. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called the stories "a bit more ambitious and sure-footed" than those in The Push Man and Other Stories. Daryl Surat of the Anime World Order podcast felt that the longer stories in the manga allowed for more development than Tatsumi's earlier stories. Ng Suat Tong of The Hooded Utilitarian was critical of Tatsumi—feeling that the stories marked his transition into a rigorous artist, but disliking his repetitive themes and characters, concluding: "These tales are neither close enough, true enough, sad enough nor vile enough to shock us from our modern stupor". In Manga: The Complete Guide, Jason Thompson did not find the collection as powerful as The Push Man and Other Stories, but remarked that "Tatsumi is a great storyteller and his pessimism is profound." Dan Polley of Manga Life noted a departure by Tatsumi from his previous stories in The Push Man and Other Stories and called the stories "Abandon the Old in Tokyo" and "Beloved Monkey" the "shining stars of the volume", concluding that his stories are timeless and have substance. Richard Rayner of the Los Angeles Times described the manga as "remarkable, amazing", adding that "the style is spare, elliptical and it's sometimes necessary to read two or three times to appreciate the full nightmarish power". Austin Ramzy of Time Magazine noted that the manga remains relevant, calling it "a revealing time capsule and a strangely moving portrait of survival in a land where everything is changing". Kirkus Reviews felt that the strong illustrations made the manga relatable and that it did not feel dated. Gordon Flagg of Booklist said that Tatsumi's "powerful drawing style depicts the characters with a starkness and simplicity that matches what is presented of their lives and conjures a convincing urban milieu through detailed backdrops".
The manga won the 2007 Harvey Award for Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material, sharing it with the first volume of Tove Jansson's Moomin. It was also nominated for the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Archival Collection/Project – Comic Books. Time listed the manga, along with Tatsumi's The Push Man and Other Stories, as second place in its Top 10 Comics of 2006.