Category Archives: Taiyo Matsumoto

Mature Manga: I missed this as I was in Japan

Black and White Movie - Tekkon Concrete

From Dirk Deppey at Journalista:

[Commentary] Christopher Butcher declares that scanlations are wrong and even the mildest of snark is unacceptable in a Comics Journal blog. Duly chastised, I also learned something else: Recommending Fanfare/Ponent Mon releases earns you fewer critic’s-choice points than, of all things, Taiyo Matsumoto’s flashy but shallow Tekkon Kinkreet.

Dirk pretty-much missed the point, as he is wont to do anytime anyone takes the argument to him. I like his writing and he seems like an affable enough guy, but he certainly does like to pout when when anyone calls him on anything. So for the record: Scanlations are not wrong; scanlations are the wrong suggestion for a journalist looking to recommend mature manga on a newspaper’s website. As for the critic’s-choice points? Completely besides the point, again, as it isn’t about which work is more indy or arty than which, but what’s going to open up the market for similar work; The one just solicited prior to release, or the one thats a few years old with the print runs set?

“Don’t get me wrong. Matsumoto’s comic isn’t by any means a bad read — as crime-themed fight comics go, it’s an enjoyable little bit of fluff — but if you’re going to hold a book up as an adult’s alternative to Naruto, shouldn’t it be something other than a mildly more mature version of same? You don’t even need to leave Matsumoto’s own back catalog to find worthier books for grown-ups; his Blue Spring is a dark and absorbing look at teenage restlessness that satisfies in ways Tekkon Kinkreet simply can’t match. Hell, even the out-of-print No. 5, while no titan of depth or complexity itself, at least offers a wildly inventive, surreal formalism that fairly leaps off the page, somewhat elevating the two-volume series above standard genre fare. Of the three Taiyo Matsumoto works to be translated for English-reading audiences so far, Tekkon Kinkreet is actually the weakest of the lot. I hate to break it to Butcher, but I strongly suspect that Guardian readers aren’t any more likely to consider this book an interesting alternative to prose literature than they will Naruto or Hot Gimmick.”

Blue Spring sold terribly, and the two volumes of No.5 are considered by Viz to be their worst-selling books of all time. I own and love them both, but when we’re having a discussion about reaching the broader audience with work that’s more mature, and opening up the market to more of that material, holding up two books considered as sales failures by their publisher isn’t the way to go. Especially because both of those books probably sold better than the majority of Fanfare’s output. What Tekkon has going for it is a massive mainstream media push thanks to a DVD release by the creator of The Animatrix, which sold a lot of fucking DVDs. While I love Tekkon and think its of high quality and recommend the hell out of it, I also recognize that there are other works that are more literary and of higher aspirations; I’m not an idiot. But I also think that getting behind books that do have the capacity for mainstream success, making the category more profitable (or profitable at all) is more important than bemoaning our lot or sending readers out to the grey market.

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Having a Beguiling employee berating me for spotlighting “low-print run books with poor bookstore distro” over comics like Tekkon Kinkreet is the single most perplexing and dispiriting way to start a week that I can imagine at the moment. By this logic, Thunderbolts is a better introduction to the possibilities offered by Western comics than It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken, the latter of which cannot be found at either of the two chain bookstores closest to me — and you now know what that means.

I hope Dirk is well and truly recovered from being perplexed and dispirited, mostly because it was of his own doing. His example above is the best example of a straw-man argument I can come up with today, a few steps further afield than simple apples and oranges. If someone were doing a fall preview and I decided to push the new Thunderbolts collection instead of Shortcomings, that might be one thing, but the situation that went down was more akin to Dirk pushing those great, more-or-less out of print books that Zack Sally published (Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man by Porcillino, and his own Recidivist) and some random shit on scans_daily… instead of the Ware-edited “Best American Comics 2007”. The latter suggestion at least has a chance to sell, and a lot to recommend it, even though there might be better books coming out… the former two suggestions are entirely irrelevant.

(Besides that point, anyone who thinks that Tekkon Kinkreet is on an even keel with Ellis’ Thunderbolts simply hasn’t read one of the two books, or either of them. Not even Ellis would make this claim.)

Finally — and I realize that it might not occur to a brick-and-mortar retailer to think of it — the books published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon are in fact available online through such outlets as Waterstone’s and Amazon.co.uk. To get you started, here are the listings for Kan Takahama and Jiro Taniguchi. For that matter, I’m sure Forbidden Planet International would be glad to sell you a book or two through their website. Welcome to the 21st century.

Hahaha… Yeah, of course. Welcome to the 21st century, us brick and mortar retailers might not be able to figure out that Fanfare/Ponent Mon’s books are available online. Whatever, I’m glad the books are available to people who want them, but those print-runs are already set, and my friend Stephen at Fanfare has made it quite clear that the endeavour is a labour of love for him, likely to continue virtually regardless of sales (though he was quite happy at JAPAN and MARIKO PARADE needing to go back for new printings, recently). When it comes to publishers with deep pockets being willing to license and publish work for grown-ups, sales are king and it makes a lot more sense to push the books that are coming out… or books that are legally available at the very least, than to not.
Tekkon Concrete
Anyway, I’m glad that, at the very least, I “perplexed and dispirited” Dirk enough to actually do the work and send people over to Forbidden Planet to buy some good books… I suppose sending them to The Beguiling’s Book Store would have weakened his argument that The Beguiling (or the online-since-he-was-12 representative of said brick-and-mortar retailer) had no idea about online book sales. Ah well.

I’ll keep making noise about good books that you should be buying, and even picking my battles. Wish me luck.
– Christopher

Sidetracked 2: Jeff Yang on TEKKON KINKREET

Black and White Movie - Tekkon Concrete

Tekkon Kinkreet All In One EditionOver at SFGate.com (the online home of the San Francisco Chronicle), columnist Jeff Yang compares and contrasts the new graphic novel collection of Taiyo Matsumoto’s TEKKON KINKREET with… a Disney Cruise Lines vacation. It’s the first major press I’ve seen for the graphic novel, and while I’m tempted just to circulate a link for every single review or mention of the book, I probably won’t be doing that (I am still in Japan after all). I did want to point this column out because it’s great though, getting to one of the essential themes of the book and really laying it out in a smart, accessible way (and it’s incredibly positive too…). Apparently the book actually shipped to comic stores today (yesterday?) so I hope you’ve all already picked up your copy and are working your way through it… I also hope that after this column, the fine retailers in San Francisco feel as though they’d ordered enough copies :).

Go check out the article and lemmie know whatcha think.

– Christopher

ANNOUNCE: TEKKON KINKREET: BLACK & WHITE ALL IN ONE EDITION

Tekkon Kinkreet All In One Edition

The good folks at Viz have provided me with the details of their forthcoming release of TEKKON KINKREET: BLACK & WHITE ALL IN ONE EDITION, the all new edition of Taiyo Matsumoto’s fantastic manga. Previously released in English under the Pulp banner as BLACK & WHITE, the three-volume series was a little-seen gem from one of Japan’s most talented and innovative manga-ka. Now, in conjunction with the forthcoming animated adaptation of the story from Sony Pictures, Viz are re-releasing the entire series in one mammoth volume, in a format that even surpasses the Japanese edition of this book.

The book will be a softcover with dustjacket, similar in to Viz’s release of Matsumoto’s (unfinished) series NO.5. The above image is the front cover of the dustjacket featuring one of the series’ young protagonists, Black. The back cover (which I can’t show you, sorry!) will feature the other protagonist, White. Purists may note that this image is not the same as the Japanese cover for this edition, but fret not! Underneath the dust-jacket, the physical book will have a close approximation of the Japanese cover, shown here.

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What else is in store for this edition, that will make it an absolutely essential purchase, even for people who bought it the first time? Here are the official stats on the collection:

Official title: TEKKONKINKREET: Black & White
Price: $29.95
Release date: September
Official Movie Site: http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/tekkonkinkreet/index.html
Size: 7 1/8″ x 10 1/8″, the same size as the recent re-release of Nausicaa
Orientation: Western Style, L-to-R

Bonus Material:
– Poster Insert, Measuring 7 1/8″ x 20 1/4″, in full colour
– Approximately 12 full colour manga pages. In colour for the first time in North America, and even the Japanese All-in-One edition did not feature these pages in colour!
– Foreword Q&A with TEKKON KINKREET movie director Michael Arias and screenwriter Anthony Weintraub.

This is just-about the best presentation of this material that I can think of, and the material itself is among my favourite manga ever (if not my favourite stuff). I’ve posted about Matsumoto and BLACK & WHITE before, and this September you’re going to to get your opportunity to pick it up for yourself and find out what all the fuss is about. Make sure you do!

The TEKKON KINKREET: ALL IN ONE EDITION is in Previews NOW! (the Booster Gold Cover, not the Black Canary Wedding Cover). Reserve a copy with your local comic book store owner before this Tuesday when their orders are due! Unless you shop at The Beguiling, because we’re ordering like 150 of these.

– Christopher
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ATTENTION NEW YORK: PING PONG OPENS TODAY

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Thanks to the heads-up from Matt Fraction in the comments section, we now know that PING PONG the 2002 film adaptation of the Taiyo Matsumoto manga we talked about yesterday opens in New York City. Edit: It might only be playing tonight?

The New York Times reviewed the film and mentioned where it’s playing, and they seemed to really like it. Maybe you will too?

Most interesting? It’s being released by “Viz Pictures”, which strongly implies a DVD release from Viz, and if that does well, who knows? EDIT: Who knew? Apparently, Viz Pictures has a website? Check it out at http://www.viz-pictures.com/ and see the info for more screenings, in Chicago and Seattle.

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– Christopher

Taiyo Matsumoto: Public Service Announcement

Tekkon Concrete

So it occurs to me that my enthusiasm for Taiyo Matsumoto a few days back may have been met with blank, questioning stares from much of my audience. I realise I haven’t been going on quite as incessantly about Matsumoto-sama as of late, and what with the recent upswing in visitors, well… context! So, here’s some background.

Background: Taiyo Matsumoto (松本大洋) is a popular manga creator in Japan. Matsumoto started as a manga creator later in life and was originally interested in professionally pursuing sports, and specifically soccer. He spent time in Europe in his early 20s where he picked up artistic influences from graphic novel creators like Moebius, Enki Bilal, and Prado. He’s cousins with manga creator Santa Inoue, the creator of Tokyo Tribes. Nearly all of his work is published in Japan by Shogakukan, one of the parent companies of North American publisher Viz Media LLC. It is unlikely that his work will appear in North America from any other publisher besides Viz.

English Works: Taiyo Matsumoto’s work generally falls into the category of “Seinen” or “Young Men’s” manga, meaning older than the Shonen manga that totally dominates the sales charts in North America. Besides that, it’s pretty ‘artsy’ for Seinen manga, thanks largely to it’s European influences, and you add it all together and it historically hasn’t sold very well at all in North America…

Matsumoto’s first work published in North America is Black & White, which debuted in the first issue of Viz’s monthly manga magazine Pulp, a magazine dedicated to showcasing manga for an “Adult” audience. Features two homeless street urchens who beat the tar out of people while their city crumbles around them. Black and White was collected, complete, in three trade paperback editions, all of which are thoroughly out of print. You can read reviews of Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3.

Matsumoto’s next English-language work is No. 5 (“Number Five”), released straight to graphic novel by Viz in a size closer to standard-format North American comics (mirroring the Japanese collections, it should be noted). It shows deep influences by European creators in its globe-spanning science fiction story setting, but is probably the most relentlessly creative work I’ve seen from him in any language. Only 2 volumes of the 8 volume series were released in English, and they’re both out of print too, making this series incredibly frustrating to read and/or collect, despite how excellent it is. You can read reviews of Volume 1 and Volume 2.

The most recent English-language collection of Matsumoto’s work is Blue Spring, a collection of short stories about the author’s teenage years. It’s an intense collection of work, with narratives that range from traditional to very experimental. It’s mostly very early work, but it’s really very cool and luckily still in print! Here’s a review of the book.

Last year, a short story by Matsumoto entitled “Kankichi” appeared in the anthology Japan: As Viewed by 17 Creators, published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon. It’s a short folktale and very different from most of his recent work, so far as I can tell. The book is great anyway though, and worth owning. Read Jog’s review.

Adaptations of Matsumoto’s Work: Despite being fairly commercially unpopular here, Matsumoto’s work really broke through to mainstream Japanese society thanks to a film adaptation of his manga Ping Pong (not to be confused with the raunchy comedy manga/anime Ping Pong Club). It’s sort of like the Frank Miller effect, actually, where a popular adaptation funnels a huge audience into the many existing works of that creator… Couldn’t happen to a better guy. There are several adaptations of Matsumoto’s manga available in other media.

Blue Spring (Aoi Haru): Based on two of the short stories from the Blue Spring collection, the 2001 film of the same name is dark and fucked up and doesn’t end on a happy note. As their high-school society crumbles around them, a gang of teenagers start to push at the limits of their despair. I really liked it, but I wouldn’t recommend it as an introduction to Matsumoto’s work… Apparently, this got a domestic U.S. release! Review.

Ping Pong: Based on the five-volume manga series, this 2002 film explores the changing nature of friendship and heroism. It asks the question whether it’s better to love something and try your hardest, or to be the best and not care? Utterly remarkable and wonderful film, the best movie I’ve ever seen about sports and competition, and utterly accessible to people who are afraid of Japanese film. This movie did get an official U.K. release but nothing in North America. Worse still, the manga that this film is based on are fucking awesome, but not available in North America. There are scans floating around if you look hard enough. Review.

Tekkon Concrete: A 2006 animated adaptation of the series Black and White. A malevolent outside force is remaking the city in its own twisted image, and only two ultra-violent homeless boys can stop it. Pure spirit, pure strength, beautifully animated! A U.S. DVD release is planned for the fall, and the film should be hitting a bunch of digital film festivals around North America this year.

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Resources: Here’s a bunch of stuff about Matsumoto I was able to dig up on the internet:

Background:
Taiyo Matsumoto profile at Lambiek: http://lambiek.net/artists/m/matsumoto_t.htm
Taiyo Matsumoto profile/bibliography: http://users.skynet.be/mangaguide/au1128.html
There was a great interview with Matsumoto online at one point, but it looks like it’s gone forever. :-/. In this thread you can see Abhay Khosla and a few other creators freaking out over how good it was, which is better than nothing: http://www.comicscommunity.com/boards/pop/?frames=n;read=24575&expand=1

EDIT: Yeah! Thanks to commenter Matthew for finding this: http://web.archive.org/web/20040803161149/http://www.inter-g7.or.jp/g2/manga/HTML/GHTML/MATIN.html

Manga:
Shogakukan’s Taiyo Matsumoto Mini-site (J): http://www.shogakukan.co.jp/taiyo/
Taiyo Matsumoto Manga available in Japanese: http://www.s-book.com/plsql/com2_writer?isbn=4091882013
Taiyo Matsumoto Japanese Manga at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/3aerp5
Taiyo Matsumoto Manga available in French: http://tinyurl.com/284wqc

Movies:
Taiyo Matsumoto at IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1137219/
Tekkon Concrete Movie Homepage: http://www.tekkon.net/index.html

Hope you enjoyed this brief overview of one of my favourite manga-ka. Rush out and pick up Tekkon Concrete (Black and White) when the new all-in-one manga version is released this fall.

– Christopher

Taiyo Matsumoto’s BLACK AND WHITE to return…

Black and White Movie - Tekkon Concrete

From an interview with Viz EiC Alvin Lu in today’s Publisher’s Weekly Comics Week:

“We’re looking to continue in other areas as well, like the Viz Signature line [a new line for older and more adventurous manga readers]. We’re looking to continue pushing that, and we’re looking to acquire titles this year and next. We’ve got Uzumaki and Gyo by Junji Ito and we’re excited about that. We’ve also got a new title this fall—a repackaging of Black and White [by Taiyo Matsumoto]. That’s the old title. The new title is Tekkon Concrete, which is [also] the title of the anime that will be coming out. That’s being released by Sony. It’s making the festival circuit now and will be released on DVD by fall.” – Alvin Lu.

Yes.

Alvin told me about this at New York and I (quite surprisingly) kept my big mouth shut about it. But yeah, a new edition of Matsumoto’s Black and White this fall and, if what we talked about is correct, it’ll be a single-edition, and probably in the “Phoenix” size rather than the standard-format manga size. Which is goddamned awesome. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it.

– Christopher
[Image from the Tekkon Concrete Japanese Movie Website.]