Nejishiki by Yoshiharu Tsuge, translated by Ryan Holmberg / ISBN 9781770465060 / 250-page hardback (including a long essay by Holmberg), 6.45 x 8.65 inches, published in 2023 by Drawn & Quarterly
The most critically acclaimed comic of the Japanese counterculture
Nejishiki unveils the most iconic scenes from Yoshiharu Tsuge’s highly respected body of work alongside his most beloved stories. A cornerstone of Japan’s legendary 1960s counterculture that galvanized avant-garde manga and comics criticism, the title story follows an injured young man as he wanders through a village of strangers in search of emotional and physical release. Other stories in this collection follow a series of weary travelers who while away sultry nights and face menacing doppelgängers. Even banal activities like afternoon strolls uncover unsavory impulses. The emotionally and erotically charged imagery collected in this third volume remains as shocking and vivid today as it did upon its debut fifty years ago.
Tsuge’s stories push boundaries, abruptly crossing the threshold of conventional storytelling. Unassuming protagonists venture further into eerie symbolism against a shadowy, perceptibly dreamlike landscape easily mistaken for the real world. The angst that pervades postwar Japanese society threatens to devour his characters and their pastoral sensibilities as each protagonist’s wanderlust turns surreal.
Yoshiharu Tsuge was born in Tokyo in 1937. Influenced by the realistic and gritty rental manga of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, he began making his own comics. He was also recruited to assist Shigeru Mizuki during his explosion of popularity in the 1960s. In 1968, working for Garo magazine, Tsuge published the ground-breaking story “Nejishiki”, which established him as an influential manga-ka and a cultural touchstone in the changing Japanese art world. He is considered the originator and greatest practitioner of the “I-novel” method of comics-making. In 2005, Tsuge was nominated for the Best Album Award at the Angouleme Comics Festival and in 2017 he won the Japan Cartoonists Association Grand Award.