Home > Itagaki's > Special Cross-talk Interview with Mr. Leiji Matsumoto (Part 1 of 2)

Special Cross-talk Interview with Mr. Leiji Matsumoto (Part 1 of 2)

November 11,2010

Held on April 28th,2010.
Mr. Leiji Matsumoto, one of Japan's most famous manga artists whom our representative director and CTO Tomonobu Itagaki regards as his mentor, has visited Valhalla Game Studios to share some precious stories and give some great encouraging words. 
Leiji Matsumoto Profile

Leiji Matsumoto is a world-known author of Manga. Born in Fukuoka in 1938, he also teaches as a professor of the Takarazuka University, a visiting professor at the Kyoto Sangyo University, and a special professor at the Digital Hollywood University. He also takes on many important tasks, such as managing director of the Japan Cartoonists' Association, director of the Association of Copyright for Computer Software, honorary director of the Kakamigahara Aerospace Science Museum, honorary director of the Kure Maritime Museum (Yamato Museum), among others.
Amongst his works, "Otoko Oidon" won the 3rd Kodansha Publishing Culture Award, "Galaxy Express 999" and "Battlefield manga series" won the 23rd Shogakukan Manga Award. In 2001, his longtime contribution to the culture of Japan earned him the Medal With Purple Ribbon. In November 2010, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, 4th Class, Gold Rays with Rosette. He has earned many other awards as well.

Representative works: Galaxy Express 999, Space Battleship Yamato, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Otoko Oidon, Arcadia of My Youth, Gun Frontier, and many others.

The Watch that Traveled in Space

Matsumoto   That's an interesting watch you're wearing.
Itagaki Yes, it's a Breitling.
Matsumoto You know, I like airplanes very much.
Itagaki Yes, I am aware. This model was developed by Breitling with the Italian air force, and is called the Chronomat.
Matsumoto I see. Mine is a Seiko diver's watch. I traveled all over the world with it. India, Africa, the Amazon. The South Pacific, Nile and Amazon rivers, I swam in all of them. Then finally, Mr. Mamoru Mohri, the astronaut, took this watch to outer space. So this watch has traveled to outer space and returned. I've been using it for decades now.
Itagaki Is that so!
Matsumoto It's tough as nails, this watch. I once went into a hot spring bath in Atami and forgot to take the watch off. But it was fine.
Itagaki That's impressive, how it can survive a hot spring.
Matsumoto I poured lots of cold water on it right away.
Itagaki A natural reaction, yes.
Matsumoto I first thought maybe I'd piss on it.
All (Giant laughter)
Matsumoto But there were other guests, so I didn't, and I jumped into the place with the faucet. It's stubbornly water-proof, so no normal-temperature water ever gets in, but hot water can be a bit of a problem.
Itagaki I see.
Matsumoto The other one is the Breitling model with the rotating bezel, the one with the slide rule. I use that one as well.
Itagaki Mine also... (rotates bezel on watch)
Matsumoto Yours rotates too.
Itagaki Yes, it rotates.
Matsumoto And also, the Omega space watch. I was asked to design this one.
Itagaki Wow!
Matsumoto Ah, yes. The Omega "Moon to Mars", the one that Mr. Soichi Noguchi has. I designed this model. The one that Ms. Naoko Yamazaki took with her on her mission is the Maetel model, with an engraving of Maetel on the back side. I can't go to space myself, but my watches have.
Itagaki Hmmmmm.
Matsumoto I know, I want to fly out there.
Itagaki Yes, we all want to fly out there.

First Encounter

          I have been told that Itagaki-san has met Matsumoto-sensei before. I think it was in the restroom of a voice actor's recording studio? (Laughs)
Itagaki (Laughs) Yes, that's right. It was a long time ago, but I went to the studio to record voices for a game. I saw the posters of Maetel all over the studio walls, including the hallway and the waiting room, so I should have noticed it then, but I was young. I didn't notice what was going on, and just got right into the recording session.
          Is that so.
Itagaki Yes. Then, I went to the restroom during a break, and there I saw Matsumoto-sensei. I could only see the side of his face, but when the realization that "This is Matsumoto-sensei!" hit me, I totally lost my desire to void.
All (Laughs)
Itagaki So I waited for him to come out of the restroom, and he did, so I introduced myself and asked for a handshake. I told him that I was a huge fan of his, and have seen all of his works, and he said with a kind voice, "Well, I'm sorry I made you waste so much money". (Laughs)
          Itagaki-san, you have been making video games for quite some time now.
Matsumoto Video games.
Itagaki Yes, it's been 18 years now.
Matsumoto So have you been well accustomed to using computers or the keyboard from a young age?
Itagaki Yes. My father was an engineer at Toshiba, so we had a workstation in the house from when I was very young. Like the SORD computer...
Matsumoto Ah yes, one of those.
Itagaki Yes, that era. So I have been using a computer from those days. Right now, I'm making games in a company called Valhalla with Kanematsu.
          Before this interview, we told Matsumoto-sensei the name "Valhalla", and he said "This means 'Utopia' or 'Mahoroba'*1, yes?"
Itagaki Yes. It's where the gods gather.
Matsumoto May the fates protect us, right?
Itagaki Yes.
*1   Mahoroba is an ancient Japanese word meaning "a wonderful place" or "a comfortable place to live". A battleship in "Space Battleship Yamato", one of Matsumoto-sensei's works, is named "Mahoroba".

The Evolution of Computer Graphics

Itagaki Could you look at footages from games I made in the past?
Matsumoto Sure. Let me see.
Itagaki Thank you very much.
-- Setting up Video --
Itagaki This is the story of ninjas who live in the light and shadows. There are two ninja tribes, one who stands in the center stage, and one who supports the other from the shadows, with more focus on fighting. These two schools live in their own villages, separated by a mountain.
Matsumoto I see.
Itagaki So, the light-side ninjas are headed by a maternal line of leaders, and two daughters are born in this family. The elder daughter is taken to the world of light, and loved and nurtured. The younger one, however, is sent to the other, more aggressive village, as insurance to carry on the lineage should the worst happen. A backup for when the child in the light is killed, per se. This footage outlines their fate.
-- Watching Video --
Matsumoto (Pointing at the beginning of the film, where the camera flies low over a stormy ocean)
This is computer graphics, yes?
Itagaki Yes. It's the image of a torpedo attack scene.
Matsumoto I see.
-- (After watching video) --
Matsumoto It's almost like you don't need actors anymore.
All (Laughs)
Matsumoto The skin is all shiny here, but once you start adding wrinkles and things like that, you start to lose track of whether this is a picture or for real.
Itagaki And this technology is about 7 years old.
Matsumoto This is 7 years ago.
Itagaki Yes.
Matsumoto So it's already gone this far 7 years ago. No wonder no one can trust the news anymore.
Itagaki (Laughs)
Matsumoto Because you can do anything.
Itagaki That's true. This one is kind of wet, and we tried making something based on Japan in the past.
Matsumoto If this is 7 year old technology, I would like to use current technology to create a period piece film. You can make beautiful women that don't exist and powerful warriors too. Realistic-looking ones. And you don't have to build a backdrop set either.
          We'd love to see a period piece film by Matsumoto-sensei.
Itagaki In the past, for example, people would make a death mask to save a person's face.
Matsumoto Yes, yes.
Itagaki Now, if you go into a special space, you can get a 3D data right away.
Matsumoto Yes, that's right. And you can engage the data as you like. With voice too.
Itagaki Yes. You can capture the facial expressions too.
Matsumoto Blinks and everything. Actors are in a really tight spot now. I'm actually making a film right now, and we tried engaging the actor's voice in a test version.
Itagaki I see.
Matsumoto I read the lines in a flat voice, in time with the lip movements. Then what comes out is the actor's voice. Even if you run it through a voice spectrogram analyzer, it comes out as the actor's voice. So you'd feel ill at ease. You'd need a protector for such a device. Otherwise, you could be credited for saying something you didn't.
Itagaki Ah, I see. Indeed.
Matsumoto Things are advancing. 3D means "solid expression", but "3D animation" roughly equates to animation without a main line drawing*2. What I just saw is the pinnacle of 3D animation.
*2   In 2D animation, a line drawing is first drawn, which is then colored.

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