Home > Itagaki's > Special Cross-talk Interview with Mr. Leiji Matsumoto (Part 1 of 2) (2 / 4)

Special Cross-talk Interview with Mr. Leiji Matsumoto (Part 1 of 2) (2 / 4)

November 11,2010

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Precious Experiences at the Newspaper Company

          Itagaki-san, at what point did you begin following Matsumoto-sensei's works?
Itagaki From elementary school, all the way up. I used to use DiaBlocks to build Matsumoto-sensei's creations and fly them around like this, and break them like this (laughs)
          I see (laughs)
Itagaki So I think I was in second grade, or thereabouts.
Matsumoto   I was in first grade when I first began drawing manga. I guess it was 1944. The Showa 19. Oh, actually, I did some drawings back in Akashi city before that, so I guess 1943 was my first year. But first grade was the first time I put it together as a book, and that's 1944.
Itagaki Incredible.
Matsumoto The first time my work got printed was when I was 15.
Itagaki 9th grade, then?
Matsumoto Actually, 10th grade. I was born in that part of the school year.
          Would that be the award-winning debut work of...
Matsumoto That's right. "Adventures of the Honeybee", in Manga Shonen.
          If my memory is correct, your elder sister offered to buy you a book about outer space if you won a prize.
Matsumoto She promised to buy me a book called "Dai Uchu no Tabi" (Voyage in the Great Outer Space)
          Sensei, you were living right next to a newspaper company, yes?
Matsumoto The main office of the Western-Japan branch of Asahi Shimbun newspaper was just 100m away from my house. The Manichi Shimbun Western Head Office was also just three stops away by city tram. I visited the Asahi office often. That was where Mr. Seicho Matsumoto was.
Itagaki I see.
Matsumoto So I knew how printing works, as a system. I started working at the Mainichi office from when I was in high school. I paid for my own tuition. It was a public school, but you still had to pay the dues. Uniform, textbooks, everything, I paid by myself.
          That's impressive.
Itagaki Truly impressive.
Matsumoto It's because the newspaper company was so close by. Imagine having "The Manga University" right next to your house. (laughs)
Itagaki (Laughs)
Matsumoto I could see manuscripts, drafts by Mr. Sawatari, drafts by Mr. Mitsuteru Yokoyama, all laid out there in front of me, and I could see the entire plate making process.
Itagaki I see.
Matsumoto That's not a form of study that everyone has access to. Watching the manuscripts go into the rotary printing press and get printed, the whole process. And the Disney works. The Asahi Shogakusei Shimbun (newspaper for elementary school children) had manga in full color, about 12 panels per episode. They started with Snow White, and did Sleeping Beauty, and others, as manga.
Itagaki Hmm.
Matsumoto I went to the place where they were disposing of the rough prints. I asked them if I could buy them, and they said "Just take what you want". So I dove into the mountain of rough prints, and rummaged through the whole thing. The man in the truck told me "Don't get buried in there" (laughs). Basically, it was just garbage at that point, so they were willing to give it away for free.
Itagaki I see, I see.
Matsumoto Movies, too. There were 90 movie theaters in the city of Kita Kyushu. I think there were 30 or 32 in just Kokura city. So I watched movies from everywhere in the world. Of course, the new releases are introduced first in Tokyo, but out in the countryside, they pair up the movies. An older movie always gets packed in. Sometimes it would be something a little too adult (laughs).
Itagaki A pack-in deal, I see (laughs)
Matsumoto This was a big deal. Exiting the theater, I mean. I would look around to make sure the teacher isn't around, and scramble home hiding inside the crowd of people (laughs).
All (Laughs)
Matsumoto During the Korean War, the UN military was here, and so there were French and Soviet movies coming in. It was chaos. You had American soldiers stamping their feet in excitement, completely enjoying the Soviet movies. It was a strange era. American comics were all over the city. American soldiers would throw them away, and people would gather those and sell them for 10 yen a piece. I bought loads of them. These comic books are like treasures for Americans now. The other day, the first episode of Spider Man was put on auction. It's a 10-cent comic, but do you know how much it went for? It was like 100 million yen or something. So now I'm scrambling around the house looking for a copy.
All (Huge laughter)
          You never know.
Itagaki Oh I'm sure he has one.
Matsumoto Yes, so I was really blessed by a great environment for those kinds of visual things. For example, I would walk past the advertisement section in Asahi Shimbun, and Mr. Seicho Matsumoto would just walk up to me and say, "Hey, take this, it's yours now" and hand me a zinc plate of "Sazae-san"*1. That's still a precious treasure for me.
*1   Sazae-san is a Japanese comic strip created by Machiko Hasegawa and also a popular TV animation program with wide-ranging public support which has been broadcasted over 41 years in Japan.
Itagaki What exactly is a "Zinc plate"?
Matsumoto It's a plate used in the newspaper for printing.
Itagaki I see.
Matsumoto You use it to get the shape, and then press it against the paper. Then the paper gets dented. This is called paper casting.
Itagaki Huh.
Matsumoto Then, you pour lead or something into this paper mold, and create a curved stamp. You put this stamp into the rotary printing press from both sides, and give it a spin, and you get a newspaper.
Itagaki This is very educational.
Matsumoto Yes. The guy living next door worked for Asahi Newspaper, so I used to go to the newspaper company from when I was in elementary school to study the printing process to my heart's content. This is really a rare opportunity. Then the man in charge of the plate making said, "Hey, you draw manga. Bring it in, I'll make prints for you." So I did, and he printed it, and he showed me first hand, like "See, this line won't show up" and things like that. It was more than Manga University. I was on the job training, and I was still a kid.
Itagaki Incredible.
Matsumoto I got a lot of prints done. The color ones too. When I began my first regular series, I was new, so they would only let me do letterpress printing, right? Offset printing is too expensive. But letterpress can't do gradations of light and dark colors. But actually, you can. I knew about plate making and printing. I knew how to draw to make the gradations come out. So everyone would ask me "Hey, why does yours have gradation?"
Itagaki (Laughs)
Matsumoto So that's how I learned all of that. I never let anyone know my secret though.
Itagaki Listening to your story reminds me of the computer discussion we had earlier. When you learn about the ins and outs of machines from a young age, no matter what advanced functionality gets added on top later, you can see right away how it works.
Matsumoto That's right.
Itagaki Which allows you to really step in and make something "far out".
Matsumoto Yes. Us pen drawers, we're a generation that mainly uses the canvas, or drawing paper, yes?
Itagaki Yes.
Matsumoto From the point of view of our generation, it seems like the computer keyboard has too many keys.
Itagaki Yes, yes.
Matsumoto I always think this bleep-bleep could be a lot simpler. I sometimes completely ruin things by typing in the wrong value for a film. Why do we need a keyboard? Perhaps one day we can get a machine that would just reply by talking to it.
Itagaki Control through voice recognition is a technology that exists, but still has a long way to go.
Matsumoto A long way. Just started, I would say.

3D Motion Pictures

          Matsumoto-sensei, I have been told that you are currently working on a 3D motion picture?
Matsumoto Yep. A planetarium has a spherical dome for a full view of the entire celestial sphere*2, and though we can't go that far, we are trying to do a half-celestial sphere 3D motion picture.
Itagaki Wow, that's impressive.
*2   In the 2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan, at the government pavilion, the world's first 360-degree celestial sphere planetarium was presented.
In 2007, a 4-Dimensional Digital Universe dome theater was completed in the Mitaka campus of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.
Matsumoto You take a 3D video, and show it on a hemispherical screen. I think the screen angle was 190 degrees or 290 degrees, I forget, you know, like this far. (Using his hands to show the size of the hemisphere)
Itagaki Yes.
Matsumoto So when you watch it, you're surrounded by it. You don't need glasses to see this. You have to wear glasses to make the footage, but when you're actually viewing it, you don't need any, it's 3D without glasses. You just have to decide where to sit. There's a TV that can do that now too, right?
Itagaki Yes, there is.
Matsumoto So there are two types now, one with the glasses and one without the glasses. I think the one without glasses will start to hit the market cheaply soon. Because actually, it's not that impressive as a machine at all. All you need is the data, and a panel in front of the screen. A prototype has already been completed.
Itagaki Have you seen the without-glasses one already?
Matsumoto I thought it would be more heavy-armed. But then they came in and showed me, "Here it is", and it was so light. It's thinner than the transparent panel here.
Itagaki Hmm.
Matsumoto Every single Olympic sport will be exciting, because you'll see it all in 3D. Baseball, whatever. Then the problem is ... well besides the old footage, if you wanted to make new footage, you'd have to make it all 3D-compatible.
Itagaki The TV is important for my work as well, so I bought a TV with this new standard, called the "Blu-ray 3D".
Matsumoto In 3D.
Itagaki Yes. This one requires the glasses, but I noticed one thing as I was watching it.
Matsumoto Yes.
Itagaki If you're watching a movie alone, it's fine, but sometimes it could be troublesome if you wanted to watch with your family. If part of your family wants to see it in 3D, and part of the family would rather not wear the glasses, you can't all see the movie at once. If the 3D side wins, the rest of the family has to watch a blurred picture.
Matsumoto Yes. And also, there are some really sensitive people recently, and they might not want to wear glasses that other people wore, or something like that.
Itagaki That's right.
Matsumoto With what we're developing, the way you see things comes out a bit different depending on where you sit. The angle is different depending on where you sit. So, in reality, as far as it appears 3D even if it's rotated 360 degrees, you won't get seasick.
Itagaki Hmm.
Matsumoto You get sick because the movement detected by your eyes and the movement detected by your semicircular canal gets jumbled up unconsciously. So when that happens, you fix your head and body to one position, and just use your eyes. Then that sick feeling fades away really quickly. That's how you fix real seasickness too.
Itagaki Ah.
Matsumoto I rarely ever get seasick, but one time I gave myself too rough of a time. I felt just a little weird, so right away I sat down, looked out across the sea and fixed my line of sight to one point. I stood still for about 5 minutes, and it was gone. "Oh, it's the semicircular canal," I thought. I got sick because I went all rough and tumble and forgot that I was shaking myself. That caused an imbalance with the semicircular canal and made me feel sick.
Itagaki I see.
Matsumoto So, what you should do is just to lie down and sleep... in the worst case.
          Does it apply to a flying vehicle as well?
Matsumoto Yes, they're all the same, airplanes and all.
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