Before I read the book, I had no idea who Yoshihiro Tatsumi is. He has been called "the grandfather of Japanese alternative comics" and he certainly deserves it.
The Push Man and Other Stories is a collection of short stories previously published in Japanese, now translated and reformatted for the western audience by Adrain Tomine.
In each story, Yoshihiro Tatsumi looks at a different facet of Japanese society. The main character is always a man filled with restrained angst, going about their daily jobs, ending with a solemn note. Every tale is filled with some form of sexuality — sex, abortion, prostitution, etc.
In the story "The Push Man", we're introduced to the pusher, whose job is to get commuters into packed trains by pushing them in. One day, he helped a lady whose clothes were torn from the pushing. They spent the night together and she invited him to her place the next day. The story ends with her sisters pushing each other away to get him. In "Telescope", a disabled guy committed suicide after being paid to watch someone else have sex. In "Test Tube", a sperm donor can't stop thinking about his recipient and eventually forced himself onto her. You can see that there are no happy endings here.
The storytelling is masterly. Every story is told in a darkly comic style, short dialogues and cleanly laid out panels. Even without text, the stories will be easy to understand. Yoshihiro Tatsumi has a way of dissecting his characters, providing a very raw look at their hard and unforgiving life.
The 16 stories are short. I like short if it means leaving the reader wanting more* at the end.
It's highly recommended but certainly not for everyone.
*Drawn & Quarterly, the publisher, has released more books from Yoshihiro Tatsumi since the publication of this book in 2005. You'll be able to find them in the "Frequently Bought Together" section on Amazon's page (link below).
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