One of my favorite things lately is Japanese cartoonist Yoshiharu Tsuge.
Active from the 1960s-1980s, Tsuge has had a lasting influence on Japanese culture. Among other accomplishments, he helped pioneer manga’s “I-comics” genre, creating fiction out of his personal life, domestic strife and declining mental health included. Big in Japan for decades, Tsuge is finally getting an American roll-out.
The first of Tsuge’s works to be translated into English is his swan song, The Man Without Talent. It is a semi-autobiographical story of Sukezo Sukegawa, husband, father, sad sack cartoonist and wannabe entrepreneur who drifts from one flop venture to the next.
The Man Without Talent is hilarious, with gags about anatomy-resembling stones and unhygienic noodles that killed me dead. It is also a bit heartbreaking. I would call it cringe comedy with a heart of tarnished gold, in the vein of American cartoonists like Chris Ware or Daniel Clowes, right down to its depiction of a loner’s struggle to stay in when dropping out looks easy.
If you enjoy darkly funny, beautifully drawn graphic novels that make unexpected poetry out of the dull demands of just getting by, check out The Man Without Talent, written and illustrated by Yoshiharu Tsuge.