Black blizzard (Kuroi Fubuki)
Story and art by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Originally published by Seirinkogeisha (1 volume, 1956)
Susumu Yamaji, a 24-year-old pianist, is arrested for murder and ends up handcuffed to a serial murderer on the train that will take them to prison. When an avalanche derails the train and the criminal takes the opportunity to escape, he drags a reluctant Susumu with him into the blizzard raging outside. This story documents their escape, and journey through the snowy mountains and their tragic pasts.
I was very excited to read this manga. After all, Tastumi’s ‘A Drifting Life’ is my favourite manga of all time (read my top ten manga list), and he holds a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, Black Blizzard does not share the same brilliance that his future work would, and left me dissatisfied. However, it’s still a impressive debut piece both in quality and innovation.
Black blizzard’s art style, much like most of Tatsumi works, possesses the ‘gekiga’ or alternative style of manga. In Tatsumi’s own words, which he discusses in ‘a drifting life’, his art is simple in order to focus more on effective storytelling. While this was the case in Black Blizzard, there were a few instances of brilliance within panels that I have not experienced in any other manga. Tatsumi is able to use cinematic techniques within this manga, with many instances where characters seemingly transcend their panels to create more engrossing scenes. These shots should seem familiar, because they’re still being used 50+ years after this manga’s publication in various mediums. While Tatsumi may have not created these angles, he was certainly a pioneer in their use. This mangaka is a great example of how art, while important in manga, does not have to be highly developed in order to produce enjoyment in the readers.
In spite of this strength, there are some weaknesses to its art. I enjoy the simplicity of Tastsumi’s art, but that is taken away when a more sketchy drawing style is used. I understand it was used to emphasise the dark and gritty story, but it detracted from the style the author intended to use. The sketching adds extra depth to the art when properly executed. However, Tatsumi does not use the style effectively, making the art seem unfinished as opposed to unpolished. Though, this may be a personal preference more than anything.
The story itself was quite linear, with no real tension built throughout it. Black Blizzard was a very short read, which probably influenced how much character development was able to occur. For a manga that wanted to create real suspense, it needed to be a bit longer in order for the audience to attach to characters, and for real stakes to be identified. Though, it did have a lot of potential. The cinematic angles used in the art just needed some substance within them to evoke all the emotions Tatsumi was after. The little twist at the end was exciting, and a little unexpected, something I didn’t see coming. While this may have been different at the time of publication, this review is ultimatley about my experience with this piece, as opposed to what others might think of it.
While I wouldn’t say this piece succeeded in creating a suspenseful experience for me, Black Blizzard should still be praised for what it tried to do. Tatsumi created all his manga with the intent of creating engrossing experiences for all ages. And maybe at time, he may have succeeded with Black Blizzard. Knowing this was written by a 21 year old debutante in the manga industry inspires me to work hard in the areas I’m passionate about. After all, we have to start somewhere. Though it may not hold up today, I have no doubt it lay the groundwork for many mystery-thriller manga of our current generation.
Art – 7
Story – 7
Writing – 7
Overall – 7
Image Sources: http://warren-peace.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/selected-panels-from-yoshihiro-tatsumis.html, http://forbiddenplanet.blog/2010/black-blizzard-tatsumis-hard-boiled-masterpiece/