Before you criticize my pick here, I want to freely and proudly admit that this is a graphic novel. I have been a comic book fan for decades, and I still read an occasional graphic novel from the library. Not only do I grab the latest Spider-Man and Captain America (judge me if you want), I also read a serious book in this medium. I usually do not want to count them, but I felt that Abandon the Old in Tokyo is something different, and it was worthy of a comment.
First off, this is not a kid’s comic. There are no heroes or super villains, no altered people via radioactivity or mutants. Instead, these pages are filled with glimpses of common, desperate men in Tokyo. These eight short stories showcase how people can be so lonely and marginalized in an overpopulated city.
The title story is about Kenichi and the burden of caring for his ailing mother. It is the only story here with a true redemption. Kenichi first tries to hide her away which causes her suicide; he then accepts the responsibility and brings her to her final resting place.
“The Hole” tells the tale of a hiker who falls into a deep well, and he is held captive by a woman deformed by a mistake in her plastic surgery. The captor wants to punish men for their expectations of beauty by punishing this man. The story turns when the hiker’s wife finds him, yet has a similar punishment for him.
“Forked Road” shows how two boys go separate routes from innocence, and how they differ when they meet up again.
There are some real depraved scenes in this collection which we disturbing. I often think that reading prose of depravity is somewhat better than seeing pictures drawn of it. I cannot say I enjoyed reading this, but I wanted to get a small picture of Japanese gekiga, a term for “dramatic pictures” coined by Tatsumi himself to “describe the darker, more realistic style of cartooning.” These eight stories were indeed dark.