I am beyond delighted to announce the publication of Tsurita Kuniko’s The Sky is Blue with a Single Cloud from Drawn & Quarterly.
The first woman to draw comics for the legendary alt-manga magazine Garo, where she debuted in 1965, and the only to do so regularly until the late 70s, Tsurita is a groundbreaking if underappreciated figure in the history of Japanese comics. She may also very well be the earliest female cartoonist anywhere in the world who succeeded in producing comics—sometimes about women, sometimes about her personal life, but sometimes neither—without being hemmed in by the commercial demands or the gender-based conventions and stylistic strictures of mainstream publishing.
The Sky is Blue collects the best short stories from Tsurita’s remarkable career. While the works of her male peers in literary manga are widely reprinted, this formally ambitious and poetic female voice is like none other currently available to an English readership. A master of the comics form, expert pacing and compositions combined with bold characters are signature qualities of Tsurita's work. Early stories ‘Nonsense’ and ‘Anti’ provide an intimate perspective on the bohemian culture and political heat of late 60s and early 70s Tokyo. Her work gradually became darker and more surreal under the influence of modern French literature and her own prematurely failing health. As in the title work and ‘Max,’ the gender of many of Tsurita's strong and sensual protagonists is ambiguous, marking an early exploration of gender fluidity. Late stories like ‘Arctic Cold’ and ‘Flight’ show the artist experimenting with more conventional narrative modes, though with dystopian themes that extend the philosophical interests of her early work. An exciting and essential gekiga collection, Sky Is Blue is translated by me and includes an afterword cowritten by me and editor and historian Asakawa Mitsuhiro delineating Tsurita's importance and historical relevance.