By Yoshiharu Tsuge. Published by Drawn & Quarterly.
Hardcover, 284 pages, B&W, 2021 (originally published 1967-68)
The influential cartoonist hits his stride as he celebrates the charms and oddities of rural postwar culture
Yoshiharu Tsuge leaves early genre trappings behind, taking a light, humorous approach in these stories based on his own travels. Red Flowers ranges from deep character studies to personal reflections to ensemble comedies set in the hotels and bathhouses of rural Japan. There are irascible old men, drunken gangsters, reflective psychiatric-hospital escapees, and mysterious dogs. Tsuge’s stories are mischievous and tender even as they explore complex relationships and heartache. It’s a world of extreme poverty, tradition, secret fishing holes, and top-dollar koi farming.
The title story highlights the nuance and empathy that made Tsuge’s work stand out from that of his peers. A nameless traveler comes across a young girl running an inn. While showing the traveler where the best fishing hole is, a bratty schoolmate reveals the girl must run the business because her alcoholic father is incapable. At the story’s end, the traveler witnesses an unusual act of kindness from the boy as the girl suffers her first menstrual cramps — and a simple travelogue takes on unexpected depth.
Red Flowers affirms why Tsuge went on to become one of the most important cartoonists in Japan. These vital comics inspired a wealth of fictionalized memoir from his peers and a desire within the postwar generation to document and understand the diversity of their country’s culture.
Translated by Ryan Holmberg.
"Quirky... a must-read for collectors [that] proves accessible and fun for manga newcomers as well."
"I highly recommend this volume and I eagerly await the next."—Newcity
"A dozen compelling, mostly peripatetic, stories by the inventor of literary manga."—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
"It’s easy to declare that this series, and Tsuge’s work, is fantastic."—Manga Bookshelf
"Reading Red Flowers gives a feeling of following Tsuge on his travels, an early example that comics can evoke as much as any form of literature."—BlogCritics
"[Red Flowers is] a strong contender for the best book you could read this year, and it doesn’t really matter which year you happen to pick it up."—SOLRAD
"These stories are interesting and unusual, and it’s great to see them given the opportunity for a new audience, and a chance for manga fans to learn more about the history of manga and what has paved the way for what we have today."—Otaku USA
"Those with an interest in early literary manga, or an academic interest in manga as a literary form, will want to pick this up."—Anime News Network
"Red Flowers is evidence that Tsuge remains one of the world’s great cartoonists."—The Toronto Star
“Fascinating… one of Japan’s most celebrated and reclusive artists.”—The Guardian
“A revered creator of gegika manga [who works] in a style both spare and lush."—New York Times Book Review
“Exemplary... an elucidating glimpse into modern manga’s origins.”—Publishers Weekly Starred Review