Photo/Illutration Yoshiharu Tsuge (Photo taken by Madoka Shibazaki and provided by Kodansha Ltd.)

The first two volumes of a new complete collection of Yoshiharu Tsuge’s works were published in April, but the legendary manga artist acknowledged that some readers may feel unsatisfied.

“Fans may get disappointed since the complete works do not feature any new pieces,” Tsuge, 82, said with a laugh during a telephone interview with The Asahi Shimbun.

Long retired, Tsuge is best known for “Nejishiki” (Screw style) published in 1968, which is renowned as an “artwork in the form of manga.”

The latest collection of his works, published by Kodansha Ltd., comes in an unprecedented 22 volumes with 7,000 pages in total.


After graduating from elementary school, Tsuge worked at a metal plating factory and other places.

He made his debut as a manga artist in 1954 and created entertainment manga for rental books.

From the late 1960s to 1970s, he published a string of outstanding works, such as “Numa” (The swamp), “Risan-ikka” (The Ri family) and “Akai Hana” (Deep red flower), in the monthly Garo manga magazine.

Tsuge created a unique world where realism with an air of dreariness underlies a mixture of fantasy and lyricism.

After “Betsuri” (Separation) was published in 1987, he retired from creating manga, but his works remain so popular that they have been constantly published as collections, translated into other languages or made into films.

“I’m grateful for such works because, frankly speaking, I can make money,” Tsuge said.

He has been living with his son since his wife, Maki, died in 1999. The interview was conducted in late May, when the government was asking people to refrain from going out to contain the spread of novel coronavirus infections.

Asked about his life during these times, he said: “I don’t know much about the coronavirus since I’m not an expert. And once you start worrying about it, you can never stop. So, my life hasn’t changed. I’m a so-called homemaker. I’m doing my daily shopping at a nearby shop after this interview.”

The 16th volume of the complete works published in April features Tsuge’s popular masterpieces, such as “Nejishiki” and “Gensenkan Shujin” (The master of Gensenkan inn). The other volume published, the first, covers his three early works of rental manga, including “Hakumen Yasha” (White-masked demon), his first manga published in book form in 1955.

After making his debut with short works, such as four-frame comic strips, Tsuge drew the 128-page “Hakumen Yasha” in two months the following year.

Unlike his works in the 16th volume, the illustrations in “Hakumen Yasha” are roundish and cute.

It is a wonderful, entertainment period drama that begins with a scene of an uproar over criminals being captured.

Tsuge was just a teenager when he created the manga, but the story is surprisingly well-organized.

Kodansha plans to publish two volumes of the complete works each month until the last ones due in February 2021. The volumes will cover Tsuge’s manga works in order of publication date as well as his essays, accounts of his trips, sketches and even travel photos taken as materials for his works.

His rental book works, such as “Jonin Genin” (Upper and lower ninja) and “Ninja Zetsumei” (Death of ninja), had been available only in the form of reprinted copies of the printed versions. But the latest collection also carries those works vividly restored from roughly 1,200 pages of their original drawings that have been recently discovered.

Kodansha Comic Create Co. planned and edited the complete works. The company picked Tsuge as the next manga artist featured in its big complete works series project after Osamu Tezuka and Shigeru Mizuki.

“Tsuge’s way of life and his very existence are considered legendary, so we decided to promote him (rather than his works) in our planning and advertising,” said Yoichi Kudo, a Kodansha Comic Create official in charge of Tsuge’s complete works.

“Chofu Jyunrei--Nowhere Man--” (Pilgrim to Chofu), a special photo book that readers can receive if they buy all the volumes of Tsuge’s complete works, offers a case in point. Photos of the full-color, 24-page book were taken specifically for that occasion and show Tsuge’s trip around Tokyo’s Chofu district, which inspired him to create his works, in October.

“Tsuge is also known as a camera collector,” Kudo said. “In fact, he likes not just taking pictures but also being the subject of photos. He sometimes gave us instructions on where and from which angle we should take pictures of him.”


In February, Tsuge received an honorary award at the Angouleme International Comics Festival in France, the biggest manga festival in Europe, and the audience gave him a standing ovation.

Asked about the award, he gave a vague answer with his usual, unique sense of humor.

“Was I delighted with the award? I don’t know what to say,” Tsuge said. “I’m 82 years old now, so I leave anything that happens to me as it is. It’s like answering one question at a time. It’s embarrassing to say, but I sometimes become senile because of my age.”