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Tatsumi's Abandon the Old in Tokyo: A Short Analysis
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Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s impressive graphic novel, Abandon the Old in Tokyo , is comprised of short narratives, which deliver societal messages with a Marxist tone. This novel focuses on alienation as society changes and grows. Tatsumi successfully illustrates the consequences of living a passive life. His main character in most of the stories is a plain man; he hardly speaks. Through this character, the author attempts to show the reader how passive living will not help to better one’s circumstance.
Within the chapter, “The Washer,” Tatsumi shows us the world through the eyes of a window washer. Through the glass, he sees his daughter with a man. He is outraged, yet he does not speak. His coworker says, “You were the one who taught us how the world behind these windows is different. How some stains just can’t be washed off” (74). The images within this story are highly sexual and cause the reader to break social barriers. As the main character washes his daughter’s body in the shower, she is provocatively drawn. She leaves and there is a panel showing a cityscape. We are shown many window panes, which allude to the many different possible events which are happening in those places. The use of the city as a setting for most of these stories attempts to provoke a feeling of alienation.
Tatsumi draws the scenery and cityscapes with heavy detail. The characters in the novel are drawn with less detail to emphasize the feeling of alienation; in some panels, it is difficult to find the main character because there may be a crowd of people and they all look similar (112). In stories like “The Hole,” Tatsumi uses heavy detail on the background imagery to make the plot seem more realistic. Many of his stories contain magical realism and this is emphasized by the artistic detail.
At the end of “The Hole,” a woman who is rejected and living in the woods flushes the main character down a hole. Her previous attempts to please men by getting reconstruction surgery caused this woman’s appearance to suffer. This is why she no longer trusts men. Tatsumi begins the vignette from the man’s point of view—naturally, we label him as the victim. Both the sickened woman in the woods and his wife reject him because they do not trust him. Tatsumi attempts to show us that inequalities work both ways. If we do not begin to allow for change, it will not happen. Instead, we will be fooled into working around it and never obtaining full happiness.