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Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s style, somewhere between cartoon and realism, is simple but strong, his pacing is perfect and his layouts are so well planned that on a visual level, the actual act of moving through the pages is effortless. Yet Abandon isn’t an easy read, as the stories themselves are incredibly jarring.

Abandon is a collection of tragedies. Despite Abandon’s short length I had to put it down and take a break between stories. The way Tatsumi depicts the gritty realities of 1960s working class Tokyo is unforgiving. Images of death, limbs being severed and a questionable scene between a man and a dog often left me uneasy.

Tatsumi relies on symbolism in a way that seems more reminiscent of Shakespeare’s King Lear than any graphic novel I’ve read. Like Lear, Abandon’s stories are disturbing and dig deep with a sophisticated, dark irony.

Tatsumi is the grandfather of alternative manga in Japan. He began making sequential art in a style he called “Gekia” in the late 60s and early 70s, he’s had a profound influence on Japanese artists and is now being introduced to the North American audience. Those into the craft should have a look at Abandon both for its historical relevance and to witness the way Tatsumi’s stories are told–it’s impressive. Tatsumi accomplishes more in a 25-page piece than most artists do in 10 times that amount. But when it comes to subject matter, this book certainly won’t be palatable for everybody. (S. Malik)

by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, $24.95, 200 pgs, Drawn and Quarterly, PO Box 48056, Montreal, QC, drawnandquarterly.com

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