cover image Red Flowers

Red Flowers

Yoshiharu Tsuge, trans. from the Japanese by Ryan Holmberg. Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 (284p) ISBN 978-1-77046-434-6

This quirky collection of alternative manga from Tsuge (The Swamp), a founder of the avant-garde manga movement in the 1960s, shows off his cartooning chops through humorous and autobiographical tales. From the thought process of a salamander in a drainpipe to travelogues chronicling Tsuge’s stays at the shabbiest inns in rural Japan, these shorts delve into a range of subjects, characters, themes, and emotions. Tsuge experiments with highly rendered backgrounds and cartoony characters (he draws himself rather like a muppet), taking inspiration from his colleague Shigeru Mizuki’s trademark style. “Red Flowers” depicts a girl experiencing menstrual cramps with nuance and empathy, while in “The Ondol Shack,” Tsuge jokes about rowdy teens disrupting his stay at a Korean-style hot spring in Hachimantai. Throughout, he plays with story structure, ending many tales on ambiguous images. This became a trademark for the artist; “The Lee Family” in particular cuts off so abruptly that fellow manga creators “spontaneously drew their own parodic sequels,” as Mitsuhiro Asakawa and Ryan Holmberg describe in a scholarly afterword. Part of a Tsuge retrospective series, the volume will be a must-read for collectors. And despite the creator’s weighty reputation, this proves accessible and fun for manga newcomers as well. (Sept.)