Tadeo Tsuge’s Slum Wolf, a collection of stories from the sixties and seventies, translated by Ryan Holmberg, conjures a fantasy of post-war Japan that is as bleak as it is raw and energetic. With loose lines interspersed with careful details, Tsuge creates a world of forgotten ruins, populated with forgotten people, impoverished and marginalized. These stories don’t offer the hope for a better life waiting somewhere outside the world of the slums, yet moments of calm and deliverance are achieved in the connections between people, in the bonds that can form even under the harshest conditions, and offer a reprieve from poverty and trauma.

Ex-kamikaze pilot Keisei Sabu’s reckless brawling becomes the stuff of legend in the slum. His antics echo throughout the collection like a ghost, that of a man who never expected to find himself growing old. The disciplined soldier turned company man, Ryokichi Aogishi, finds that his past traumas and regrets keep a comfortable middle-class life just outside his reach. These characters—as well as the drunks, vagrants, and prostitutes that reside among them—are striking in their expressions, contorting in a way that defies realism, but instead achieves a naturalistic translation of emotion with a spontaneity of gesture. One can feel Tsuge’s desire to preserve a sketch of this moment in time, not with a moralizing or political aim, but simply to carve a space where post-war trauma can exist undisturbed.

New York Review Comics.

—Review by Rome Morgan