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

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

November 11,2010

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Arcadia of My Youth

          Itagaki-san, you often express in public that you are a great fan of Matsumoto-sensei. Which of his works have you seen?
Itagaki Well I think I can say "all of them". I've seen every single one that has been turned into a motion picture, and the manga, like The Cockpit and the Battlefield*1 series...
*1   One of Matsumoto-sensei's most famous works. It is a collection of short-story manga that is mostly based on WWII which was published from the latter half of the 1970s. This series, and the later "The Cockpit" series and "HARD METAL" series are commonly referred to collectively as the "Battlefield Manga" series. They are currently published by Shogakukan.
Matsumoto   Yeah, I did a lot of those. "Stanley's Witch"*2, for example, with the laughing mountain, those kinds too. I write many different kinds.
*2   The name piece of the first volume of the Battlefield manga series.
Itagaki I've read all of them.
Matsumoto I'm an airplane fanatic. Airplanes, tanks, I guess I'm a mechanics fanatic. So I try to be relatively accurate with the material, not complete fiction.
Itagaki Yes, yes, yes.
Matsumoto I draw every lever accurate to the blueprint. Hanging the Ohka, for example, I showed the director a picture, and he thought it was fiction. But I actually have the schematics at home. How it's hung up, too, I draw it accurate. How to get on board, the controls.
Itagaki Yes.
Matsumoto I have lots. I have the blueprints of the Yamato at home too.
Itagaki Really!
Matsumoto So it's drawn extremely accurately.
Itagaki You mentioned the Ohka, so that must be the "Sonic Boom Squadron"*3. It's a very sad story. I saw that one countless times. And "Arcadia of My Youth". That's simply spectacular.
*3   The manga which is themed around the "Ohka" human bomb, developed by the Imperial Japanese Navy near the end of WWII. This story appears in volume 3 of the Battlefield manga series, and is also released as a straight-to-video animation as episode 2 of the "The Cockpit" OVA series.
Matsumoto Arcadia, that's actually Heiligenstadt*4.
*4   A rural city favored by Beethoven, located at the entrance to the "Forest of Vienna". It is set as the birthplace of Harlock and his ancestors.
Itagaki That's a moving story. The Revi C...
Matsumoto 12D.
Itagaki Revi C12D.
Matsumoto It's a story of Harlock's ancestors and children. But Tochiro, who goes up to space, is the child of Nobotta Oyama from "Otoko Oidon". So although "Otoko Oidon" appears like it was cut short, I actually asked to stop that series. It was the first time I have ever done that in my life. The story just expanded out of proportion, and I had no way of giving it a good end.
Itagaki Hmm.
Matsumoto With him suddenly leaving the room. Just leaving Tori-san*5.
*5   "Otoko Oidon" is a series that was published from 1971 to 1973. It is a touching story featuring Oidon (Nobotta Oyama). At the end of almost every story, there is a memorable scene, where Oidon expresses his true feelings to his pet bird, Tori-san, and expresses that he will never give up.
Itagaki Tori-san.
Matsumoto In Harlock's story, and the stories based in outer space, you see a character named "Tochiro Oyama". Well, they are Nobotta Oyama's descendants. So Otoko Oidon still continues.
Itagaki Ah.
Matsumoto That's how I like to connect the stories, from generation to generation.
Itagaki Umm... in "Arcadia of My Youth", the optical engineer who went from Japan to Germany, that's Tochiro's ancestor, right?
Matsumoto Yes. A developer of optical weapons and sights.
Itagaki He probably went from Nippon Kogaku, by submarine.
Matsumoto Yes. The Revi C12D, I bought it for about 110 thousand or 120 thousand yen in Shibuya. That's a lot of money for that time, so I thought I have to make up for it during the walk to the parking lot. So that story was completed by the time I got to the parking. (laughs).
Itagaki (Laughs) Wow, that's really, really impressive.
Matsumoto I have to make up for the expense, you know. If I just bought it and kept it there, it would just be for a hobby. That's not it. It has to be put to good use. Since I went through so much to get it.
Itagaki Yes, indeed.
Matsumoto And since I have the real thing in my hands, I can really draw it firmly. So I wrote the story of the Revi C12D.
Itagaki Is that so.
Matsumoto That is my treasure.
Itagaki It's a really moving story. Tochiro's ancestor, he does this and this, and wraps the steering rope around his body, and Harlock would open up the side panel and ask "Are you alright?", and well, the hand...
Matsumoto A string.
Itagaki Yes, yes, yes.
Matsumoto The rope that connects the yoke to the tail wing gets almost cut, so Tochiro's ancestor ties the rope to himself, and acts as the rope.
          So that's what happened.
Itagaki The war was about to end, and the ancestor, I think his name was Daiba in the manga*6, he traveled to Germany to get the latest optics technology. He meets the German fighter pilot Harlock there, and for a certain reason, Harlock lets Daiba get in his fighter, but there is only one seat. So he pulls off the outer plate of the back end of the fuselage and stuffs Daiba in there. "I'll take you along," he says.
*6   In the anime version, his name is Tochiro Oyama
Matsumoto Where he's saying "I'll take you to Switzerland".
Itagaki Yes. And then an air battle starts, and some bullets get shot into where Daiba was stuffed in, and Harlock is able to take out the enemies, but he feels the controls are a little strange...
Matsumoto Fluffy.
Itagaki Fluffy. So he finally arrives near the border of Switzerland and makes an emergency landing, and when Harlock removes the outer plates, he sees that Daiba had tied the wire to his hands and feet, and the hands and feet were almost torn off...
Matsumoto So Harlock says "I'll give you my eyes" and removes the sight from his plane and gives it Daiba. And then he says "Go quickly to Switzerland". Because it's a neutralized state.
Itagaki Since Daiba was in Germany to learn optics technology, Harlock gives his friend his most prized possession, the sight.
Matsumoto Right after that, Harlock is attacked by the Resistance and loses both eyes. That Harlock, I mean. But then, after the war, Daiba's son comes to the hospital near the lake at Heiligenstadt and returns the sight, saying "I have come to return your eyes." That's the story.
Itagaki Daiba, you must live. The border is right there. Go. But Harlock turns back, choosing to fight on in the war, saying "I still have things I have to do." But he's captured by the Resistance, and...
Matsumoto Blinded permanently.
Itagaki The Resistance members tell him, "We aren't going to kill you, but we can no longer allow you to see the world as we do," and take his eyes away. After that, Harlock never sees anyone, and...
Matsumoto Blind.
Itagaki Yes. And, after a long time, Harlock is old, and Daiba's son comes, and tells Harlock that his father had died. That his last words were to one day go to Germany and return the sight to Harlock.
Matsumoto And so he does.
          That's a very moving story... and the sight in question is the Revi C12D?
Itagaki It wasn't expressed in the story, but I think Harlock died right after that, probably. Harlock, now old, holds the sight in his arms, and says "Daiba, did my eyes serve you well? Are you living in a world worth living?" The man who has never shown tears in his life sheds tears in front of the son of his comrade - a very Matsumoto epilogue.
Matsumoto This is the story of the ancestors of Harlock and Tochiro meeting each other during WWII. Before that, there is a story called "Gun Frontier", a Western, where Harlock and Tochiro wander the wild west.

Triple jump

Itagaki Um... I'm also a big fan of "Knight of the Iron Dragon"*7.
*7   A story that appears on the second volume of the Battlefield manga series, depicting motorcycle soldiers fighting in the Philippines. This story was later turned into an anime as the third episode of "The Cockpit" (OVA).
Matsumoto Ah, that one.
Itagaki That Rikuo...
Matsumoto Yes, the Rikuo*8. Yes. My dad drove that one back home when I was a kid. I think he left the engine running. We were behind Akashi park, and I was 5 years old when I sent that one off as a runaway. I got on top and released the stand.
*8   A 1208cc motorcycle produced in Japan under the license of the American motorcycle company, Harley Davidson.
Itagaki Huh?
Matsumoto That one won't flip over or anything with the stand off, so it was just there. I think I undid the brakes. I ran it into the park and stopped, engine stall. I didn't run into anything.
Itagaki You were FIVE?
Matsumoto Five years old. A five-year-old kid got on a Rikuo.
All (Laughs)
Itagaki This is turning out to be quite an interview (laughs).
Matsumoto I know, it's absurd.
Itagaki The stories (laughs)
Matsumoto I was rowdy when I was a kid. I would get on top of the walls, the walls surrounding the company dormitory of Kawasaki Airplanes that was behind the Akashi park, and play swordfights. On the wall.
Itagaki I see.
Matsumoto At one point, I said "Tange Sazen!" and closed one eye. Then you lose your sense of depth, so I fell head-first. I hit my head and fell unconscious.
          Fell head over heels!?
Matsumoto My elder sister told me she could hear the impact from inside the house. My elder brother ran into the house, saying "He broke his head!" and there I lied spread-eagled on the ground.
Itagaki (Laughs)
Matsumoto I was a bad kid like that. I had to try everything. I don't know how many times I got into some serious trouble.
Itagaki Hmm.
Matsumoto I tried doing a triple jump on the staircase in Tokyo station. You know, where it's kind of wide. I tried to jump over it and ruptured my Achilles tendon.
          Why did you do a triple jump in Tokyo station?
Matsumoto I had to go to Kyushu for a job with the NHK, and I just ruptured it. But it didn't hurt. It just felt numb. I tried to get up and run, but I couldn't, and the leg would fall limp. I looked at it, and it was all soft and bendy. I swung it around and it would spin. So I thought, "Oh, this is ruptured", and a station worker came by, and asked me "What's wrong?" so I told him "I think I cut my Achilles tendon". Then he said, "That's obviously not true, seeing how you're smiling like that."
All (Giant laughter)
Matsumoto So I said, "Well, then take a look at this" and swung it around, and he was like "Oh that's bad".
Itagaki So you swung your foot around, like this (laughs)
Matsumoto Yep, showed them a good swing. An ambulance came, and they put me on a stretcher. That's pretty embarrassing, getting all the way through to the Marunouchi side on a stretcher in front of so many people.
Itagaki Yes.
Matsumoto There was this white cloth, so I said "Can I put this on my head?" and they said "Please keep your head out of the cloth at least. If you cover your face completely it would look like we are carrying a corpse. Sorry, but we can't agree."
All (Giant laughter)
Matsumoto So they carried me to a clinic in Ochanomizu. But it didn't hurt at all. There are two types of ruptures, one that hurts and one that doesn't. In my case I just felt numb. So the next thing for me was to see the reconnection in action. Everything's an experience. So they set up a coupled mirror so I could take a look.
Itagaki Wow.
Matsumoto The doctor said "Do you still want to climb mountains?" so I said "Yes", and he said "It'll make your wound look bigger" so I said "I don't mind". "It's a man's leg, I don't care how it looks". So he said "Okay, then I'll lock it together real good" and he tied it down firmly.
Itagaki Ah.
Matsumoto While I was in the hospital, I think the Shochiku Kageki Dan were playing 999 or something. So these pretty actresses would come visit me in their flamboyant stage dresses and everything. And you know, manga artists have this messy way of dressing as well. And the publisher guys are wearing suits and ties. Then I'd get newspaper journalists and police officers that I know too, so there was really a lot of different types of people coming to see me.
Itagaki Yes.
Matsumoto In the room across from mine, there was an American girl who was also hospitalized for a ruptured tendon. Apparently, she asked quietly "Is that a Mafioso in the other room?"
All (Laughs)
Matsumoto I said, "Tell her I'm a manga artist", and then, right away, she would slam the door open and be like, "Hi!"
All (Laughs)
Matsumoto Manga artist, cartoonist I guess, it's very, very different. The reaction. HI!
Itagaki Of course she would be surprised, she's just a little girl (laughs).
Matsumoto I guess it's not her fault, with all those weird visitors. "Mafioso?" that was funny. Really. (Laughs)
Itagaki And thanks to that solid surgery, you were able to climb the Machu Picchu, yes?
Matsumoto Yes, it was alright. I'm glad they tied it together.
Itagaki Indeed.
Matsumoto Some ladies ask to get it reconnected without leaving too big of a wound. You can make a little hole, and pull it out gently to connect it. Some people do that.
Itagaki Ah, I see.
Matsumoto But this method, it's more fragile. You have to tie it together firmly. So when I sit on my heels on the floor, it hurts just a little. My Achilles tendon is a little shorter. But of course, it doesn't affect me at all if I'm walking normally, no strange feelings. No matter how many kilometers, how many hundred kilometers I walk, I'm fine. I went up mountains and ran around in the jungles.
          Did you triple jump down the staircase?
Matsumoto I went up. The bell was already ringing, so I was in a hurry to catch the train. So I jumped over the wide part. Then I heard this sound, sort of like shaking an umbrella in reverse. That was the rupture.
Itagaki The foot you stepped off of?
Matsumoto I landed on my left foot and it just went limp. I tried to get up but I couldn't. It was all bendy. It didn't hurt at all, but I looked at my foot, swung it around a little, and it was wobbly, so I thought "Oh, I really did it this time".
Itagaki Ouch, I guess.
Matsumoto But it didn't hurt. It was a happy rupture. Apparently some people roll around the floor screaming in pain.
          That would seem more normal. You are a lucky man, sensei.
Matsumoto Yep. It was a happy cut.
All (Laughs)
Itagaki A happy cut. That's superb (Laughs)
Matsumoto It was just this numb sensation, and nothing else. Then the hospital called my house, saying I injured myself. My family asked "What did he do?" and they apparently they answered "I can't say right now".
Itagaki Yes.
Matsumoto So my family would naturally think it was something serious, like I fell off a platform or something. They heard an ambulance came to take me away.
          Must have been shocking.
Matsumoto And then they would see me all happy in the hospital. Boy, that was fun. I had a series of mirrors set up so I could see my surgery. I don't think many people have actually seen their Achilles tendon. They would pull it out and show me, "this is it, right here".
To be continued to the second half
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