Black Blizzard by Yoshihiro Tatsumi is a manga masterpiece that can be perfectly enjoyed by people–like myself–who don’t necessarily enjoy manga. If you’re skeptical about reading manga, rest assured, there are no giant robots, emo heroes with long hair covering one eye, or ditzy, cloying damsels in distress to be found here. Instead, Black Blizzard is a graphic novel that will appeal to people who love film noir or minimalist art or creative storytelling in general.
The story is definitely far-fetched, but if you can suspend your disbelief, you’ll find that the strange and improbable twists make up a big part of the book’s charm. Black Blizzard begins with a man playing piano when a detective enters the room, at which point, the pianist immediately gives himself up and admits to commiting murder. A jump-cut later, the piano player is aboard a train bound for prison, handcuffed to another criminal. As fate would have it, the train derails, allowing the piano player and the mysterious man escape.
From then on, Black Blizzard is a potboiler in the best sense of the word. The suspense is laid on thick as the escaped convicts have to decide whose hand will have to be cut off: the piano player’s hand or the hand belonging to the man who turns out to be a card sharp. The piano player also recounts the events that led up to the murder, a story just as exciting as the narrative it’s framed within.
By the end, all the loose ends are tied up–almost too tidily. You’ll likely notice the story involves a number of stupendous coincidences that are beyond belief, but keep in mind, so do Shakespeare plays.
Visually, Black Blizzard is stunning in its simplicity. This is an early work by Yoshihiro Tatsumi; later, he would have a more refined technique, but in Black Blizzard, you can see him employing a loose and free style that is a huge departure from what most manga is today. You will also notice the debt Yoshihiro Tatsumi owes to Will Eisner. Most of the book is in black and white, apart from the intro which is in color.
While Black Blizzard may not do much for the Naruto or Bleach crowd, it’s bound to excite people who enjoy Osamu Tezuka, or films like Tokyo Drifter, Out of the Past, and Shoot The Piano Player.
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If you’re looking to read something else, check out my novel A Rapturous Occasion.
What is your opinion of the graphic novel Black Blizzard?