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Disappearance Diary

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Disappearance Diary (Shissou Nikki)  by Hideo Azuma published by Fanfare / Ponent Mon

Disappearance Diary

© Hideo Azuma

The Bottom Line

Disappearance Diary is the mostly-true and mostly-humorous account of a burnt out, alcoholic manga artist who decides to run away from it all and become a homeless person. While it sounds like a grim subject, Azuma skips the self-pity and shares witty observations about life on the scummier side of the street.

He also provides a rare look at the life of a professional manga artist, and the lifestyles of people who live on the edges of Japanese society. Azuma tells his story with such self-deprecating wit, Disappearance Diary ends up being a funny, eye-opening memoir of an everyman in an extraordinary situation.

Pros

  • Witty, true-to-life observations of life from a homeless alcoholic manga artist's point of view
  • Simple, yet endearing artwork of an everyday man in an extraordinary situation
  • A rare look behind the scenes at the pressures that Japanese manga artists deal with
  • Provides a humorous, educational and sobering look at the effects of alcoholism

Cons

  • Lacks a few translation notes that would help explain some of the Japanese words / cultural quirks
  • Includes some cursing, sexual innuendo and a lot of alcohol abuse, so it's not for young kids
  • High cover price and subject matter limits its audience to older, less-budget conscious readers
  • Could use a better postscript, photo of Azuma-sensei to put this true-to-life story in perspective

Description

  • Original Title: Shissou Nikki (Japan)
  • Author & Artist: Hideo Azuma
  • Publishers:
  • ISBN: 978-84-96427-42-6
  • Cover Price: $22.99 US / £ 11.99 UK
  • Age Rating: Not rated, but suitable for OT – Older Teens, Age 16+ for alcohol abuse
    More about content ratings.
  • Manga Genres:
  • US Publication Date: October 2008
    Japan Publication Date: 2005
  • Book Description: 200 pages, black and white illustrations

Guide Review - Disappearance Diary

What would make a man to run away from his "normal" life to live, eat and sleep on the streets? In the case of manga artist Hideo Azuma, the pressure-cooker of deadlines, writers block, demanding editors drove him to drink in excess and to "disappear" at several times in his life. Disappearance Diary is Azuma's award-winning account of his experiences as a homeless person, as a gas company laborer and a hopeless alcoholic stuck in rehab.

You'd think that it'd be a grim, depressing account of life on the scummier side of the street. But Azuma has too much self-deprecating humor to wallow in self-pity. Instead, Disappearance Diary is filled with scenes of off-kilter slice-of-life comedy, as Azuma encounters a wacky array of lunatics, low-lifes and weirdos on the streets, at work and in rehab.

He also recounts his quirky, garbage gourmet recipes, kind of like the Martha Stewart of dumpster-diving. The sheer joy he gets out of every slice of moldy bread gave me a new appreciation for my leftovers.

But Disappearance Diary is not just about being homeless – Azuma also did stints as a laborer and eventually spent time in rehab. Whether he's doing backbreaking work or spending time in AA, Azuma takes us on an adventure, where we meet eccentric characters every step of the way.

Midway through the book, Azuma looks back on his career as a manga artist. As he grinds out page after page on a tight schedule, and tries to please demanding editors, we start to understand why being homeless must have seemed like a vacation to him.

While not dazzling, the art is simple and endearing. The translation could have explained a few odd Japanese words and cultural quirks more clearly. Nevertheless, Disappearance Diary is a fascinating, funny and humbling look at a life on society's fringes.

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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