The Comics Journal
Cartoonists -- Comic books strips etc., Japanese literature, Cartoonists -- Japan -- Biography, Graphic novels
Natsume Fusanosuke is Emeritus Professor of the Graduate Program of Cultural Studies in Corporeal and Visual Representation, Gakushūin University. Despite his recent retirement from Gakushūin in March, he is still very active in manga criticism and scholarship. Originally a manga artist himself in the 1980s, by the 1990s he began doing more writing about manga, although he often still employs his cartooning skills to assist in his analysis and explanation of his subjects, much like his American contemporary Scott McCloud. It is not a stretch to compare the latter’s Understanding Comics to Natsume's work in the classic How to Read Manga (Manga no yomikata, 1995; co-authored with Takekuma Kentarō and others) and his subsequent Why Is Manga So Interesting? Its Expression and Grammar (Manga wa naze omoshiroi no ka: sono hyōgen to bunpō), which aired originally as a NHK [Japanese public broadcasting] ten-week lecture mini-series. Like McCloud, Natsume pioneered techniques to see and analyze comics that are still in use today by scholars. Although Natsume’s publications are too numerous to list here, he is author and co-author of approximately twenty books on manga and manga scholarship, including monographs like Where Is Tezuka Osamu? (Tezuka Osamu wa doko ni iru, 1992), the first full-length study on the manga giant. After the 1990s, Natsume went on to revise his early approaches to manga study, analysis, and scholarship, as seen in his New Challenges for the Field of Manga (Mangagaku e no chosen, 2004). He also co-edited with Takeuchi Osamu a new reader for Manga Studies, Mangagaku nyūmon (2009). In addition to these achievements, in his career he has been a television host for NHK’s public television show on comics (Broadcast Satellite Manga Night Talks [BS Manga yawa]), and author of other books on Japanese culture, including Grandson of Sōseki (Sōseki no mago, 2003), which tells the story of his family and his connection to Japan’s great modern novelist Natsume Sōseki. In 1999, he was the recipient of the prestigious Tezuka Osamu Culture Award.
In the following essay on Taniguchi Jirō, whom Natsume considers one of Japan’s most important manga creators, Natsume re-envisions the artist in the context of recent manga history. Taniguchi passed away in 2017, but his work suggests a path towards a new kind of “adult reading” of manga, which is a theme of Natsume’s recent writing on how Japanese people read their comic books and how perhaps they should read them. As his essay title suggests, he feels the time is now to reconsider Taniguchi’s artistic achievement. In fact, a recent exhibition of Taniguchi’s art ran again in his home prefecture, Tottori, from last January through February. His work continues to be popular with Japanese, such as The Solitary Gourmet (Kodoku no gurume, 1994-96; 2008-2015), which was adapted into a popular television and web series. (English-speaking audiences need only to wait until next year for the translated edition from Fanfare/Ponent Mon.)
- Jon Holt & Teppei Fukuda, translators
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Fusanosuke, Natsume; Holt, Jon; and Fukuda, Teppei. (2021). Time to Re-Evaluate Taniguchi Jiro's Pace in Manga, The Comics Journal.