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Black Blizzard

I’ve just finished Black Blizzard by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. I read about this book in A Drifting Life, Tatsumi’s memoir, where he described the writing process as a burst of creativity lasting twenty days. I’m assuming Drawn & Quarterly, the publisher, published Black Blizzard after interest coming from readers of A Drifting Life, which was also published by them. The book’s a quick read (it took me just over an hour) and it’s pretty good, but it’s also apparent that Tatsumi wrote it when he was twenty-one years old.

It’s about a piano player who’s suspected of murder and handcuffed to another prisoner on a train through high mountains in a blizzard. When the train they’re on gets wrecked in an avalanche, the two men must rely on each other to survive in the snow. While taking refuge in a ranger’s cabin, the younger man tells the story of how he got arrested for a murder he doesn’t remember commiting due to being so drunk, and how he cared for a young girl with the circus and urged her to get out to study singing. At first, the older prisoner (who’s done prison time for three murders) doesn’t think anything of the pianist, but as they survive together he comes to a kind of understanding of the younger man, which leads to the twist ending.

I won’t spoil it, but I think things are a little too pat at the end of the story. All the loose ends are tied up in a way that I don’t think rings very true to life, but I suppose that’s the way a lot of noir stories end. At the end of the day, they’re about action and reaction; they’re really just melodrama. This story has a lot of good action, and I did pick up on the cinematic layout of the panels, which apparently was pretty rare at the time.

Black Blizzard has made me want to read more of Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s work in particular, and early manga in general, to compare this work to the others coming out in post-war Japan by Tatsumi’s contemporaries. It was an interesting time of economic growth and upheavel in the country, and I’ve noticed that art seems to be the most interesting coming from those periods of time.