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

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

June 17,2011

Held on April 28th,2010.
Mr. Leiji Matsumoto, one of Japan's most famous manga artists, has visited Valhalla Game Studios to share some precious stories and given some great encouraging words.
Part 1 is here.
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.

Things Learned During Youth

Itagaki   I just noticed this, but everything done by Sensei, especially the "Battlefield manga" series, is about "the border of life and death". However, you notice that the protagonists never give up their sense of humor. Ever.
          Yes.
Itagaki   Arcadia of My Youth is a serious story too. But Tochiro's ancestor, when Harlock swaps fighters, says "Hey, you don't have your marking" on the vertical tail wing, as if everything is in the ordinary. Then Harlock also replies, "draw what you like".
Matsumoto   Yes.
Itagaki   So he draws a marking, and, sensei, was that "Beethoven and Tchaikovsky sharing an umbrella"?
Matsumoto   Yes, that's right.
Itagaki   (Laughs) And so he draws something like that. And Harlock says "I don't know, this might not be good" "How's this then?" "No, that won't do either", and they have this fun exchange like that. You have this little break here, and then the men go into a serious scene of their lives. So the sadness and the moving scenes really seep into your heart.
          It reaches the deeper part of your heart.
Itagaki   So it's sensei. All of the characters that appear are Matsumoto-sensei.
          I see.
Itagaki   I noticed this by speaking to you today.
Matsumoto   Yes. I'm such a typical bad kid, settles for nothing less than a total rampage.
Itagaki   Hmm, yes, that really is it.
Matsumoto   That and, I did Kendo and Judo. I was first place until about second year in high school. But I quit.
Itagaki   I also did Kendo until about 6th grade.
Matsumoto   When you're young, you suddenly grow taller. There's this instant when your height just shoots up. I was short, so when a Men (strike to the head) come at me square from the front, I get hit in the back of the head.
Itagaki   That really hurts.
Matsumoto   It's numbing, unbearable. So I do the Tsuki (thrust). I do the Tsuki and the opponent falls over. But then, they banned that move, yes?
Itagaki   It could get in under the protector. It was already banned in my generation.
Matsumoto   It's a dangerous move. So it got banned. In Judo, if a foot-sweep or something goes well you'll be okay, but if not you'll get tossed away.
Itagaki   Yes.
Matsumoto   Of course, that taught me how to break a fall. So when an escalator suddenly stopped at the station by accident, all those people fell. I rolled over too, but I was like, tumble tumble tumble, bam! And I was up and ready.
All   (Giant laughter)
Matsumoto   Then this staff person came, and would ask me "How are your hands? Your feet? Your back?" and I would say "I'm fine." Blank stare. It really helped that I was an aggressive child. I stood up like nothing happened. There was nothing for me to be surprised about, I fell off too many cliffs to care.
Itagaki   I guess it's not a logical thing, more like a bodily reaction.
Matsumoto   Yes. That's what I use to get under the belly of cargo ships in the Kanmon Straits.
Itagaki   The Kanmon Straits.
Matsumoto   I really wanted to eat fish. It was right after the war, so when I got back to Kyushu, there was nothing to eat.
Itagaki   Yes, I see.
Matsumoto   Potatoes and daikon radish rice. By the way, you say "daikon radish rice", but it's mostly, or actually 100% daikon. It's like, little specs of rice stuck on daikon. So I asked my sister, "Could you please, even if it's a bite, just cook rice on its own, and daikon separately. I promise to eat both properly." But she said no.
Itagaki   Hmm.
Matsumoto   No proteins, you see. So I caught my own fish. Back then, it was right after the war, so there were derelict cargo ships that were sunk in battle. It's like a reef in there. So I would swim there. But you'd have to get under the cargo ship's belly to do that.
Itagaki   Ah, now I see.
Matsumoto   So I would do that to about 2 ships, catch some fish, and come back. I once scared a teacher with this. In middle school, we went camping near the ocean one time, and the teacher would drag me out to the sea and dunk me into the water.
Itagaki   That's a terrible teacher.
Matsumoto   He was a math teacher. So I'd dive quickly, and take a spin around the teacher's feet, and swam to the shore as far as possible without taking a breath. For as long as my breath would hold.
Itagaki   Yes.
Matsumoto   Once I got part of the way there, I would pop my head out a little and check, and the teacher was all worried. So I sunk myself again and swam back to the coast, as far as my breath would take me, and then would finally stand up and take my face out of the water. The teacher saw me, and was like, "Ahhhhh".
          Must have been relieved to see that you were alive.
Matsumoto   So I got back at him.
All   (Laughs)
Matsumoto   You can't expect to achieve anything by dunking a kid into the water if the kid was the kind of child who would willfully go swimming under cargo ships.
Itagaki   (Laughs)
Matsumoto   Because water resistance is terrible for seawater. Diving 10m is really a big deal. But you have to dive 12 - 13 m. You can hold your breath to the bottom. And then you'd kick off of the bottom of the sea and come up. But you'd run out of breath in the middle, really. So you jump out like a seal, from the water.
Itagaki   Yes, yes, yes.
Matsumoto   I did those things from when I was in grade school, with a classmate who was the son of a fisherman. It was daunting at first.
Itagaki   Yes.
Matsumoto   Until then, our family had taken refuge in Shikoku, so we saw the end of the war in Hijikawa, where Ryoma Sakamoto left his han (country subdivision). So I only knew about swimming in rivers, and so the ocean was new to me.
Itagaki   I see.
Matsumoto   So I went back to Kyushu, and I jumped in the Kanmon Straits, and noticed that the buoyancy was completely different. You can keep your head out of the water just by keeping yourself at rest. But at first, I was scared, so I was hesitant, and then the fisherman's son jumped in and called out to me, "Hey Matsumoto! Get in here! Are you really a man?" Well when someone puts it that way there's no way you can hesitate.
Itagaki   Indeed (laughs)
Matsumoto   So I dove in, and the buoyancy was astounding. So then I'd go try to grab clams and other things from the bottom of the sea.
Itagaki   Yes.
Matsumoto   10m is really hard. First we went under a group of anchored ships. As part of the game, you had to place a mark on the screw.
Itagaki   For proof.
Matsumoto   So we'd go in and give it a good scratching, and the sailor looked at us from above, and said "We're not going to spin that thing yet so it's okay. but when I'll tell you we do, get away from the ship. OK?" He was nice like that.
Itagaki   That's very forgiving (Laughs).
Matsumoto   And when we went to the derelict cargo ships off the coast, you had to go under ships that were moving.
          Under moving ships!?
Matsumoto   This is very dangerous.
Itagaki   Of course it's dangerous. You'd get sucked in.
Matsumoto   You'd have to dive really deep. And there's also those Hacchoro things. Those are scary. If a Hacchoro scratches your belly you'd get cut.
          A Hacchoro, is that like an oar?
Matsumoto   Not exactly. It's one of those really long ones, on the back side...
Itagaki   It's the ones that the boatmen have.
Matsumoto   Yes, those. If one of those scratches your belly, it really slashes you up. So the fishermen would tell us to watch out. And we'd get out of the way when one of those came by. But we had to swim. We had to swim, catch lots of fish, and see our family look really happy when they ate it. That always made me happy.
Itagaki    I see.
Matsumoto   Back in the countryside, it was birds and things. But I got scolded really badly when I went after that swallow. "No swallows" I was told.
Itagaki   Yes.
Matsumoto   Sparrows were fine.
Itagaki   I see.
Matsumoto   Snakes, well, I killed snakes, but never felt like eating them.
Itagaki   You didn't like them?
Matsumoto   Snakes and eels feel the same when you grab their head, like this, underwater, sticking your hand in between rocks.
Itagaki   I would assume so.
Matsumoto   So I'd be "Yes! I got an eel!" and pull it out to see that it was actually a rat snake.
Itagaki   (Laughs)
Matsumoto   So I'd be like "Hey you!" and swing it around and slam it on the ground and kill it.
Itagaki   So I guess you weren't afraid of them, you just didn't like them (laughs).
Matsumoto   Yes, I don't know, whenever I see a snake I can't help it. One time, there's a snake that came slithering up to me. So I grabbed its tail and killed it, and dangled it home. My grandma looked at it, and said, "That's a yamakagashi (tiger keelback)." You know, a venomous snake. Very strong venom.
Itagaki   (Laughs)
Matsumoto   I didn't know it was venomous, so I was like "You dare stand up to me!" and snapped a nearby branch to beat it to death. I completely mauled the thing and then noticed it was poisonous.
Itagaki   I grew up in the mountains in the outskirts of Tokyo, so I saw yamakagashi passing by in the garden and mamushi as well...
Matsumoto   Mamushi, yes. The grey ones.
Itagaki   Yes. Mamushi too.
Matsumoto   When there's a mamushi on a fig tree it's so hard to tell. The colors are too similar. That's dangerous. Whenever I saw a mamushi I made sure to cut it in half.
Itagaki   Mamushi in half?
Matsumoto   It was chaos. I went up a chestnut tree, but the branch broke, and I'd fall into a pile of spiky chestnuts. I'd grab a persimmon and I'd fall with the branch. I fell onto a slope so I wasn't injured badly, though.
Itagaki   Persimmon trees are so easy to break.
Matsumoto   Yes. It would just pop right off.
Itagaki   Yes, pop right off.
Matsumoto   I also once ran around with a sickle in my hand. I cut my knee in about three spots, slice slice slice. It was real chaos when I was a kid. I guess kids now aren't allowed to do that.
Itagaki   Yes. Everything gets banned.

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