Interview: Taiyo Matsumoto
来自 ：Christopher Butcher
To celebrate the release of No. 5 by Taiyo Matsumoto for the iPad, (and the first-time ever release of the complete series in English), I asked comics retailer, Toronto Comic Arts Festival impresario and manga-fan extraordinaire Christopher Butcher to have a conversation (via email) with Matsumoto-sensei about No.5 and his career in manga. He kindly obliged, so to kick things off, here's Chris' intro to Matsumoto-sensei's work, and their discussion.
AN INTRODUCTION TO TAIYO MATSUMOTO
I first came across the work of Taiyo Matsumoto in PULP, VIZ Media's manga anthology magazine aimed at mature readers. A collection of gritty, sexy seinen manga titles (complete with newsstand distribution!), PULP introduced a lot of unique, surprising adult manga at a time when properties geared to kids and teens like Pokemon, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball ruled the roost.
Serialized in PULP a chapter at a time, Matsumoto's Black & White (Tekkon Kinkreet in the original Japanese) was unlike any manga I'd ever seen before. Loose, angular, aggressive, and unafraid to be downright ugly and brutal. I have to admit... I didn't like it very much at the time, as it was so far different than my other PULP favourites like Banana Fish and Strain. It wasn't until the first collected edition of Black & White was released in 1999 that I went back and gave the series another chance, and I'm so very glad I did.
While the brutality of Matsumoto's world was too shocking for me at first, interspersed with other, cleaner narratives — in its own collected edition it was perfect. The trade paperback of Black & White allowed me to be fully immersed in the dense, twisting world of Matsumoto's 'Treasure Town.' The darkness, scratchiness, the insanity leaping off the page became de rigeur— normal — and that allowed me to see deeper into the story, into the ideas that he had so expertly woven into the work. It was only when I could come to Taiyo Matsumoto's manga on its own merits, in its own context, that I fell in love with it, and it is a love that has stayed with me ever since.
While Taiyo Matsumoto's creations have always been favourites amongst hardcore manga fans, the Japanese public 'discovered' Matsumoto-sensei through a film adaptation of one of his most endearing works, Ping Pong, a 5-volume series that expands on the fraternal themes of Black & White/Tekkon Kinkreet. The film adaptation of Ping Pong was a massive hit in Japan, spurring huge displays of his manga in bookstores across the country.
Matsumoto again came into the national — and then international — consciousness with the animated film adaptation of Tekkon Kinkreet, which cleaned up on the festival circuit taking many top awards in Japan and internationally. Both films (as well as a third based on his Blue Spring short story collection) are available in North America now, and I highly recommend them.
(Note: Ping Pong is available on DVD from New People/VIZ Pictures. Tekkon Kinkreet is available on DVD from Sony Pictures).
But as great as the films are, it is Matsumoto's manga that most captivates me. VIZ Media has also released Blue Spring, a collection of short stories inspired by Matsumoto's youth, Go Go Monster, an original graphic novel of 400+ pages (a true rarity in Japan!) detailing a Shining-esque haunting of two young boys at an aging elementary school, and the sci-fi superhero thriller No.5 (Number Five). While I count Go Go Monster and Blue Spring amongst my favourite manga, it's No.5 that has made my soul ache since its original release in 2002.
Like all manga fans, I have always wanted what I couldn't have, and the 8-volume* epic serial No.5 was discontinued in English immediately following its second volume. For roughly 10 years, I have agonized over the series, not knowing what happened to the characters I had just begun to know, not knowing where the insane world-spanning series would take me, and knowing that it would never be completed in English (due to poor sales, alas). My only options to complete the series were to improve my terrible French language skills (the series has been completely translated into French by publisher Dargaud) or learn Japanese from scratch — neither were terribly likely options.
Today, however, No.5 is newly, completely, finally available in English.
In a unique move, a brand new No.5 stand-alone app has been released for the iPad, where you can download a bilingual edition of the complete series of No.5 in Japanese and English. I am very pleased to report that the app is great, and more importantly the work itself is everything I wanted it to be and so much more. No.5 is even more sprawling, even more epic, and so completely different to what I thought it would be when I started that I'm happier than I had imagined having finished it.
Finishing a great manga series is very often bittersweet, the joy of completion mixed with the regret of something you love ending, and with no more to come. I'm quite happy to say that it was an incredibly fitting conclusion, and I'm looking forward to reading it again. And again.
Having finished No.5 I was granted a very special opportunity — to interview No.5 creator Taiyo Matsumoto about the work, and to share that interview with all of you. As you might be able to tell from the above, I've had questions in my head for Taiyo Matsumoto for more than 10 years, and I have had such a deep appreciation for his work that the opportunity was a little daunting.
Moreover, the iPad app version of No.5 comes with an excellent, very informative interview between Matsumoto and Hideki Egami, Editor of IKKI Comics Magazine (the monthly magazine that serialized No.5) and I didn't want to step on their toes.
(Note: The interview between Matsumoto and Egami is available as a special bonus that is "unlocked" with the purchase of all four volumes of No.5.)
In the end, I'm quite happy with the interview and while I could talk to Matsumoto-sensei for hours about his work and career, the insight into his career and work was very valuable, and I appreciated it a great deal. I hope this interview and this short appreciation will entice you to read all of his works available in English — Tekkon Kinkreet, Blue Spring, Go Go Monster, and of course, the newly released No.5. He truly is one of the greatest manga auteurs working in the industry today, and while I might not have picked up on that on my first exposure to his work, I sincerely hope you won't make the same mistake.
- Christopher Butcher
*P.S.: While No.5 was originally serialized in monthly IKKI magazine and then collected into 8 volumes, recently the work was re-released in a 4-volume bind-up edition, and this is the version that is available in the iPad app.
INTROS AND QUESTIONS ABOUT NO.5
Christopher Butcher: Hello, my name is Christopher Butcher, I am the manager of The Beguiling, a comics specialty store, as well as the founder and director of a festival dedicated to comics and manga here in Canada. I am also a journalist writing in English about comics and manga. Thank you very much for the opportunity of this interview-I've been a very big fan of your work since the publication of Tekkon Kinkreet (Black & White) in English in 1998, and I have followed your career closely. It is an honour to be able to ask you these questions.
It's very exciting to see your work No. 5 completed in English. You created it over five years ago, but how do you feel, now that it's being made available to your English-speaking fans?
Taiyo Matsumoto: It will make me happy it will help to reach as many readers as possible.
Christopher Butcher: You chose a very unique, larger magazine-sized format for No. 5 when it was originally created (instead of the usual smaller tankobon-sized paperbacks). Why did you decide to present your story this way? How did your readers and editors react to this change of format?
Taiyo Matsumoto: It was because back then, I used be influenced by comics from overseas a lot. I don't remember getting much reactions (about the larger page format) from the readers or the editors though.
Christopher Butcher: In all of your work, (Tekkon Kinkreet, Go Go Monster!, Blue Spring, and the film adaptation of Ping Pong) it seems that a deep competitive fraternal relationship between two male characters drives the story forward. In No. 5 the story is very different, with a paternal relationship between Papa and his children driving all of the action. Can you talk about this change?
Taiyo Matsumoto: In my manga, I used to like creating a balance between ying and yang by bringing the two aspects closer. But it got redundant after a while so I decided to change it up.
Christopher Butcher: Also in your works, I've noticed that there are rarely female characters … but the actions that set the story of No. 5 into motion — and bring it to its conclusion — come from your central character, Matryoshka.
Taiyo Matsumoto: I wasn't very good at drawing a female character, but at that point I finally felt ready, so I decided to challenged myself to create a female character.
Christopher Butcher: I feel like in your works, the setting of the stories is incredibly powerful —The imposing and twisting city of Tekkon Kinkreet and the oppressive and graffiti-laden school of Blue Spring or the ominous school of Go Go Monster!, for example, these settings often become characters in the story themselves, interacting with other characters and determining the flow of the narrative — and speaking to the reader sometimes.
Taiyo Matsumoto: I do enjoy drawing the buildings and cities as if they are living objects. I think it makes a manga more vigorous.
Christopher Butcher: You have in the past mentioned being influenced by comics artists including Moebius, Enki Bilal, Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Shotaro Ishinomori (Cyborg 009), and Tsuchida Seiki. I felt that your work on No. 5 showed an influence from Moebius's Arzach, particularly the dreamlike desert sequences and characters riding through or flying over them.
Taiyo Matsumoto: Moebius is the creator who I respect the most in the entire world. I did not deliberately try to make the scene look like Arzach, but his influence must have shown in my work.
Christopher Butcher: With regards to No. 5, I feel there are three different philosophies that are in conflict: the idea of unfettered progress and control, espoused by Victor, the idea of absolute peace at any cost espoused by No.1, and the idea of conscientious objection raised by No.7. Do you think that No.1’s attempt at a Utopia would have ultimately been more harmful than human militarism?
Taiyo Matsumoto: I always wish that different philosophies could coexist together, because that may put an end to different conflicts in the world.
画风与技巧问题。ART AND TECHNIQUE QUESTIONS
Christopher Butcher: I have followed your art style since your debut, and your work has changed dramatically since then. Would you say it has been a natural progression, or do you actively change your art and storytelling style to reflect the type of story you are telling?
Taiyo Matsumoto: I always try to draw in style that I feel like it suits the world of that manga, and also something that looks cool.
Christopher Butcher: You are a favourite creator of many North American comic book creators, and they would be fascinated to know how you create your original art. Could you briefly describe your working set up and which tools you use to create your comics?
Taiyo Matsumoto: Ever since I started to draw manga, I’ve been using a type of pen called "PIGMA." (note: Pigma pens are available in US from Sakura of America) The pen nibs varies in line weight from 0.1mm to 3.0mm, and I change the thickness of the line depending on the panel. Also recently, I have been using thinned down ink to make the contrast instead of using screen tones.
Christopher Butcher: I was amazed when I learned that you completed Go Go Monster! entirely on your own, without serializing and without the use of assistants. It’s such a huge and detailed work! Do you prefer to work on your own, when possible?
Taiyo Matsumoto: For the last 15 years, I have been creating manga with my wife. We always talk about different things together, and come up with the art and writings.
Christopher Butcher: I’m fascinated by your use of different tools in comics creation. In No. 5 you use ink, pens, pencil, crayon, pastels, and paints. It makes for a very unique reading experience.
Taiyo Matsumoto: I really like the episode that I drew with just pencils. One day, I want to try to draw an entire manga with just pencils.
QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS CAREER AS A MANGA-KA
Taiyo Matsumoto: It’s because I can’t make multiple stories at a time.
Christopher Butcher: Are there any comics creators today whose work you actively enjoy? Are there any comics coming out now that you are excited about?
Taiyo Matsumoto: I’ve been rereading works by Jiro Taniguchi-sensei (The Walking Man), who I love and respect. It make me wish that I can also draw manga that grows with the age like he does.
Christopher Butcher: Your works have been adapted into live action films, animated films, plays, toys, figures, etc. Is there a particular work of yours that you would like to see adapted into another medium, such as television, or video games?
Taiyo Matsumoto: To be honest, I am not interested in it compare to when I was younger, though it is still exciting to meet some talented people in different industry.
Christopher Butcher: You seem to be interested in comics all over the world, and the idea of an international readership. I know you went to Paris early in your career — do you still travel? Do you do comics events in Japan or elsewhere in the world?
Taiyo Matsumoto: I went a comic event that I was invited to in Spain last years. It was awesome.
Christopher Butcher: Your last published art book was 101, in 1999. It’s been a very long time! Have you considered compiling another art book?
Taiyo Matsumoto: Recently, the editors, designers and I have been talking about publishing a new art book. But I’ve been very busy with my current serialization, so it might take a little while, but I will do my best to make it happen.
See a sneak peek of pages from the first chapters of Taiyo Matsumoto's sci-fi epic in this No. 5 manga preview gallery.
No. 5 is now available as a complete 4-volume series for the iPad, on sale at Apple's iTunes Store. From now through September 30, 2011, the first volume of No. 5 is available for $0.99, with Volumes 2-4 priced at $4.99 each. When you purchase all four volumes, bonus content is "unlocked," including an exclusive, in-depth interview between Matsumoto and IKKI Comics Editor-in-Chief Hideki Egami, and a wallpaper featuring "The Numbers" from No. 5.