by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Compared to the rather dark and brutal stories of Tatsumi's Abandon the Old in Tokyo, which I read recently, Fallen Words is an absolute delight. Tatsumi, the father of gekiga manga, a sub-genre analogous to alternative comics in North America, experimented with this book. Each story told here comes from the Japanese storytelling tradition of rakugo, which features moral fables that end with a punchline or joke. Tatsumi decided to fashion these classic stories in the gekiga style, and see where it took him.
These are old stories from mostly the Edo period, and as such are all set during that time. They play with themes of marital deception, and many of them involve prostitutes or the lengths people will go to to escape poverty.
The lightness of the stories is carried over into Tatsumi's storytelling and art, which feels a little looser than his earlier work. I didn't find it difficult at all to relate to these characters, despite their being from a distant time and culture, and that is a credit to the ease with which Tatsumi weaves his tales. Now, not being familiar with rakugo at all, I can't really assess how closely he stays to the source material, but that doesn't really matter. What does matter is that this is a fun read.