cover image Cigarette Girl

Cigarette Girl

Masahiko Matsumoto, trans. from the Japanese by Spencer Fancutt and Atsuko Saisho. IDW/Top Shelf, $24.99 (264p) ISBN 978-1-60309-382-8

Like Yoshihiro Tatsumi, the late Matsumoto is a master of gekiga (realistic, literary manga) whose work captures the quiet little realities of daily life. An often underappreciated artist, Matsumoto had a gift for showing how people—in their awkward, apprehensive, and delightfully absurd ways—relate to one another. Drawing in a simple, cartoony style that bears a startling resemblance to a more humane Family Guy, Matsumoto is well-represented in this short story anthology edited by Sean Michael Wilson. He tells stories without complicated dialogue, often getting everything out of a panel through something as simple as emotive, onomatopoeic sound effects. Whether it’s Ichihashi-San’s drunken efforts at an amorous rendezvous with Ume-Chan in “Slither,” or the protagonist’s utter infatuation with a young woman who sells cigarettes in the title story, much of the emotional resonance comes from silence and images. At its best, Matsumoto evokes a touching verisimilitude in the quiet rattle of a window shutter or in two characters walking silently together at the close of day. (June)