In this first English translation by the revered Japanese manga artist, Sukezo Sukegawa abandons his talent as a cartoonist in favor of a series of get-rich-quick schemes that never seem to work, frustrating his wife and son as the family lives in poverty and Sukezo sinks further into despair.
An American audience, subject to an economy hollowed out by a recession and the rise of the gig economy, will find much to relate to here ... [much] distinguishes Tsuge’s artistry that make it resonate on a deeper level than simply being relatable, and marks the work of someone incredibly talented ... In The Man Without Talent, the backgrounds remain drawn with a high level of detail, even as the protagonist is not cute at all, and actually fairly repulsive ... By rendering the outside world in such textured shadowy detail, Tsuge is able to capture the overwhelming quality of reality that is such a crucial aspect of the helpless loser experience ... While modernity in America has its discontents, what enters into the book at the end is the idea of a haiku’s focus on the passage of time, and perhaps it is coming from a culture of Buddhism that enables the book to so skillfully meditate on the basic impossibility of simply existing.
Driven in equal parts by sincerity and irony, in a style both spare and lush, the book centers on a revaluation of the crafts, and knowledges, that attend trades and practices one could call deliberately out of step, slow, inefficient, old-fashioned ... Lest this book seem too downcast, it should be said Tsuge is often very funny ... While The Man Without Talent is by turns mysterious, philosophical and slapstick, it is also tender, capturing the moment-to-moment shift in emotions of a frustrated man who nevertheless loves his child. In a book about valuing the left behind, Tsuge shows us what is never actually at risk of being forsaken.
Readers have an easy choice here: to read this resonating six-chapter collection as an entertaining, albeit sobering, manga about the middle-aged life of a seeming slacker, or approach it as a prominent, pivotal example of 20th-century graphic literary history ... Drawn in stark black-and-white panels, Tsuge's frank narrative portrays an artist-in-decline, an anti-Bildungsroman that offers effective storytelling, enduring characters, poignant reflection and, most notably, gratifying art. Audiences who shut the book after the final panels would certainly leave Sukezō in his solipsistic reverie with satisfying closure ... translator Holmberg's [biographical] essay...is an illuminating enhancement—biographically, historically, literally.