cover image The Swamp

The Swamp

Yoshiharu Tsuge, trans. from the Japanese by Ryan Holmberg. Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-77046-384-4

This exemplary collection from Tsuge (The Man Without Talent) gathers together his seminal works from Garo magazine in the 1960s. The 11 stories, linked by their melancholic humor, reflect the conditions of war and postwar poverty that Tsuge was subjected to as a child. The title story conveys an unsettling eroticism; a woman wrings the neck of a wounded duck and then invites the hunter who shot it to share her room for the night. There, she confesses that she keeps a snake who sometimes strangles her in the night, and the hunter follows suit. Its abrupt ending sets the norm for the collection, pieces that pioneered a more true-to-life style than Tsuge’s contemporaries. Other tales showcase down-on-their-luck samurai, poverty in both the Edo and then-modern periods, and the horrific fate of a convict handcuffed and abandoned on a mountain in a storm—this last one written by Tsuge’s younger brother, Tadao Tsuge. Tsuge’s artwork, with cartoonish figures and detailed backgrounds of lush natural landscapes and meticulous architecture, occasionally references the bandy-legged characters of Osamu Tezuka or the rounded visages of Shigeru Mizuki. An essay from Mitsuhiro Asakawa provides historical context. This fine start to a much-anticipated Tsuge retrospective series offers an elucidating glimpse into modern manga’s origins. [em](Apr.) [/em]