The spell-binding film brings the viewer directly into the mangaka’s (comic artist) world and how he managed to create an entirely new genre of art form which was named gekiga.
Set in 1950’s post-war Japan, the animation tells five short stories which are interwoven cleverly into the fabric of the film.
Khoo explained that the labour of love took about 8 months to produce, on a budget of nearly US$800,000 and was true to the animation style of the 1950’s, without all the frills that come with modern day animation.
The Singapore filmmaker was a fan of Tatsumi and was inspired by his works as a teenager and was drawing comic strips as well.
He approached Tatsumi in 2008 and managed to convince him that he could adapt "A Drifting Life" into a film tribute after a three-hour long meeting.
And Khoo has certainly done Tatsumi proud. The film played to audiences in Cannes and is set to be shown in Japan from 15 Sep 2011.
Yet the theme of the movie is not for the faint-hearted. It is a dark and sobering portrayal of people going through their lives in Japan that was defeated in World War II and was colonized by the Americans.
There are uncomfortable passing references to the Yasukuni shrine, the same one that has triggered protests in neighbouring countries following visits from successive Japanese prime ministers.
Then there is the occasional realistic rendition of blood, red against a mostly black and white animation.
The film ties up nicely at the end, and the characters and their stories are intricately linked.
The showcase of the various stories from "A Drifting Life" might leave audiences reeling from the gritty mature themes, but it aptly interpretes the 1950’s style of manga. It is indeed a well-produced tribute to Tatsumi’s lifework.
More about the film here.
Read about Yoshihiro Tatsumi here.
By Desiree Pakiam