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 (æ¾æœ¬å¤§æ´‹) 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.
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
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.