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.

Tekkon 2

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

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

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

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

29 Replies to “Taiyo Matsumoto: Public Service Announcement”

  1. Matsumoto is a complete and utter genius. His work is so far above just about everything in comics today, he should truly be celebrated as the revolutionary figure that he is.

    Of course, as you said, he’s really not known at all, and hopefully, the new anime will change that. I got to see an aborted pilot that MTV put together a while back, and it was positively breathtaking (one of the earliest uses of combined digital and hand-drawn animation). I only hope the new version does the source material justice.

  2. My wife got a couple of back issues of Wizard’s pretty dumb anime magazine for free last week at the local comic shop, and there was 2-page spread on the Tekkon Concrete movie in one of them.

    “What Is THAT?” I asked over her shoulder.

    And then the very next day you answered my question! The world works in mysterious ways.

  3. “Black & White” is one of my favourite mangas, and I’m really happy about the anime coming out. Hopefully it will get a R2 release.

  4. This post is a great resource, Chris. Thanks so much for making it. Matsumoto and Black & White, along with Junji Ito’s work, is basically how I got into manga. I know Viz is bringing Uzumaki back into print, let’s hope Black & White is next.

  5. I had to complete my “No. 5” collection with 3-7 from amazon.fr (along with a french/english dictionary) and got volume 8 in Japanese from Kinokuniya in LA and convinced my brother-in-law to translate the entire thing for me. Matsumoto’s most recent book “Go Go Monster” is amazing also, and available from amazon.fr in french, or Kinokuniya in the original Japanese. His art books “100” and “101” are great too, and “101” has possibly the greatest short comic ever in it (it’s a sort of companion piece to “No. 5”, done as the end papers to the book). If anyone is moved to order the french books, in Europe his name is usually spelled “Taiyou Matsumoto”.

  6. Joshua- Yeah, I saw an extended trailer from the original CG/hand-drawn animation of B&W that was online, and it was really beautiful. If anything, I think this one looks even better… Awesome.

    Hugh- Confluence!

    Dirk- Thanks for the link.

    Spencer- If you liked the manga, then I think you’ll really like the live action. It’s shot really well, and the last couple of scenes are very powerful.

    Matthew- That is FUCKING AWESOME. I ammended the post to include that link.

    Peter- Actually, I kind of hope the DVD release is R0, but I sincerely doubt that will happen…

    Ian- You’re welcome! About the BLACK AND WHITE manga though, just scroll back 3 or 4 posts, Alvin Lu at Viz announced they’re bringing it back into print this fall…

    Kelly- Thanks for the link!

    Jeff- All excellent additional stuff. I’ve got 100 and 101 as well, and they’re really great. I probably should have mentioned the other romanji version of his name in the post. Off to fix that as well.

    Tom- Thanks for the link.

  7. i mother-effing love taiyo effing matsumoto.
    thanks for pimping him on your blog, Chris.

    do Viz a favor everyone, and buy all his books, or else no one else will (including, sadly, Vertical, since, well, Viz is publishing him exclusively…).

  8. I want confirmation of No.5 finally being translated. Viz really put the hurt on by discontinuing that series. I hope the interest in the B&W movie will urge them to finish what they started.

    Canm someone link me to those 100 and 101 books, I’d definitely order them.

  9. Taiyo Matsumoto for president! Still probably my favorite manga-ka, so of course I have to applaud your efforts to spread the good word. For those of your who read scanslations the first two volumes of Ping Pong and all three volumes of Hanaotoko are floating around online. Hanaotoko is right up there with B&W; I really don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much while reading something, manga, comic, whatever. Just a beautiful story. Ping Pong is quite good as well, and the live-action movie really captures Matsumoto’s unique energy.

  10. I just posted this on my blog, but the live action PING PONG film– truly, epically, awesomely great– opens today in NYC, for any NYC Matsumotomaniacs out there that haven’t seen it.

  11. See?? I wasn’t freaking out– the interview really is THAT awesome! It’s still awesome. “The brilliance of intense pitch-darkness rather like a negative film of the sun shoots our eyes” — oh my god, that is great. I also like how when Matsumoto mentions he wants to create a table tennis comic, the interviewer cites to OTHER table tennis comics!!!

  12. I stumbled across this page in a search for his books, thanks for writing up such a great article! I am sad to see how little of them are still in print in english – ARGH!

    (also to Jeff L thanks for the tip about the french amazon site – my french needs brushing up on but I shall possibly give them a go)

  13. The animated Black and White movie is called Tekkonkinkreet. Not concrete =)

    But yeah, Taiyo is amazing. I’m trying to find the first volume of No. 5, and so far I’ve seen it on ebay for 20 bucks (selling from the UK) and thats it. Any idea where I could buy it for a reasonable price?

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