Red Snow

Susumu Katsumata, Author . Drawn & Quarterly $24.95 (246p) ISBN 978-1-897299-86-9

This collection of resonant short stories introduces English-language readers to the late Katsumata's distinctively poetic work, a second-wave participant in the gekiga —alternative manga—movement spearheaded by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Katsumata's frank tales of betrayal, conflict and vulnerability suggest comparisons to Tatsumi's own work. But where Tatsumi captures extreme forms of urban desperation, Katsumata narrates vignettes of rural Japanese life. Prostitution, alcoholism and other plot elements that might elsewhere be underscored are presented here as part of the texture of a difficult, traditionally defined existence. When characters fail to meet their religious and customary obligations, their lives are permeated by a magical realist culture of arboreal spirits, half-human water creatures and snow fairies. But these thematic elements are less a platform for fantasy than a material representation of the power ancient folktales retained even as mass-mediated popular music began to filter out into Japan's agrarian regions. The art preserves a sense of the comic, but rendered in a looser, calligraphic style to reflect organic images of the country. These blend seamlessly with visual flourishes that veer toward poetic abstraction. Katsumata's allusive tales sometimes climax unexpectedly with these visual grace notes, distinguishing imaginative, tonal portraits of a past, remembered world. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/12/2009
Release date: 11/01/2009
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