The Condor Flies Not

Della’s Website Comics is a Japanese site that has reviews for practically every Leiji Matsumoto manga ever written, plus they’re all rated (from 2 to 5 stars; for some reason none of the works get just the 1 star).  Tale of a Time Gone by, a 2-volume collection of short stories (1978-9) garners 5 stars and the review simply reads:

THE GREATEST MASTERPIECE IN LEIJI’S ŒUVRE!

I will personally go so far as to say that it’s the best collection of Matsumoto short stories I’ve ever read.  You could make a selection of these tales, strip them of the images and release them as a general fiction book, and you’d get a solid piece of work.  The motif these stories share is the perennial confrontations between the past and the future, the native and the stranger and their intersection.

I want to introduce one such story in this collection, where the storytelling is wonderful and Leiji’s art just makes the whole soar to the skies.  It’s called The Condor Flies Not and it was originally penned in 1975.

The story takes place on the high seas.  An old Japanese man and his grandson are aboard a tattered ship waiting to die.  Suddenly they see an enormous condor alight on the mast.  It has a necklace.  The boy tries to shoot the condor for food but the bird stares at him and a flash of light knocks him down.  The old man takes out a book and reads a passage about a legendary condor with a golden necklace, an emissary of the holy queen, whose stare will make the victim a prisoner for all eternity.

The old man explains he received the book from a Christian missionary from Spain. [the word here is “Isupania”, which is what the Japanese called Spain before the modern era; nowadays they call it “Supein” in imitation of the English]

After 10 days the condor remains perched on the mast, and the old man finds a passage in his book that says that the condor will wait as long as it takes for “the seed that has vowed to avenge the blood” to arrive.  Then they notice a great number of corpses drifting beside the ship, with land [the South American coast] in the distance.

A beautiful woman, the sole survivor of the battle or massacre, drags herself onto the ship.  She has the same necklace as the condor.  She speaks in a foreign language, and the only intelligible  words are “Spain” and “Francisco Pizarro”.  The old man tells his kid to unclothe and warm the woman up.  The boy is shy but the man encourages him and the boy ends up doing much more than warming her up.

Now we get to listen to the woman’s thoughts: she calls  to Miyu, her guardian spirit, and says that the seed of her ancestors, who descended onto Machu Picchu on a golden bird with a tail of fire, will not be wiped off the face of Earth.  [Miyu is an important word in LaMetalian culture…]  Her seed with this lad will exterminate the Spanish race, which trod on the Inca Empire, the throne of the bird people.  And eventually she will return to the land of her ancestors across the sea of stars.

The last thought we hear from her is: I shall be Inca Queen until the moment I return to that green planet beyond the sky.

We get a shot at the end of the ship: the condor and the old man are a pile of bones, while the woman and the lad still look fresh and strong.  The caption gives us the historical background: The Inca Empire extended over a million square kilometers, but it was annihilated by Francisco Pizarro’s troops in 1532.  Since then the condor flies not.

THE END

This is more of a vignette than a story with a proper plot, but it’s great nonetheless.  There is a lyrical quality to the Queen’s thoughts and the narrator’s words, contrasting sharply with the Japanese men’s rough and clueless dialogue.  The attention to historical detail is impressive and the art is fantastic, I can’t remember a sexier Matsumoto character design than this Inca Queen (and that’s saying a lot!), though she herself reminds me of Brigitte Bardot more than anything.

For what it’s worth, there is an excellent candidate for this queen in Inca history.  Manco Inca’s queen, Cura Ocllo, was famous for her beauty and her courage.  There are a many stories surrounding her, but the important point is she refused to flee the Spanish out of spite for her husband (who had killed her relatives).  The Pizarros were elated to capture her (some say Gonzalo Pizarro lusted after her) and she was executed after suffering all sorts of abuse.  So this could be taken as a  “what if Cura Ocllo had escaped and Däniken’s theories were right all along” scenario!

[Thanks, iskra, for leading me here!!]

~ by Haloed Bane on November 3, 2010.

19 Responses to “The Condor Flies Not”

  1. Thanks for this one!

    It seems the Tale of a Time Gone By contains almost all Leiji’s favorite themes – dinosaurs, Wild West, WWII, insects, outer space, mechanization and what not! Very representative in that respect. I think I saw ship wreck stories at some other selection too, or maybe it was the Panic World.

    Any other good stories here?

    • The story just after Condor is very curious. A man shows up in the Wild West and he’s the cleanest, most proper gentleman in town. He claims he works for the railroad company, and he’s surveying towns to decide where to build stations.

      The townspeople are very eager to get a train station, so they follow his orders and clean up the town, get rid of the weapons, etc. All of a sudden a group of evildoers storms the town, and cause great havoc because all the guns are gone etc.

      So the surviving townsfolk kill the gentleman. And it turns out he was some sort of alien trying to study primitive mankind. The alien observers aboard the ship can’t understand what just happened. THE END.

      There’s another interesting story with a bridge and a Yattaran clone in it. I’ll try to write up a brief post tonight if I can!

  2. Where did you find scans for this?

    • A friend lent me this one. I haven’t actually seen scans around I don’t think…

      • Then it seems I’ll have to buy it from somewhere….

        Have you read 蜃気樓綺譚? It looks pretty cool.

        • Yes! I’ve searched high and low for that one without success. I’m curious about it because it’s got some connection with the Mahoroba (specifically, to the bar inside the Mahoroba)… I don’t think that manga is even in print anymore.

          • It seems you can buy it used on amazon.jp:http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/offer-listing/4091826210/ref=dp_olp_used?ie=UTF8&condition=used

            • And the prices are amazingly cheap, but I hate amazon.jp because they’ve made shipping abroad so freakin’ expensive.

              • >they’ve made shipping abroad so freakin’ expensive.
                Really? I had no idea.

                I found this today,but I’m not sure how it works and my computer is kind of fucked up atm.

                http://www.ebookjapan.jp/ebj/author.asp?authorid=19

                • Yup, I used to get stuff shipped from amazon jp before but now it’s too much.

                  ebookjapan i’ve used quite a few times. basically, you buy the right to read the manga on your computer screen. you cannot copy, print or manipulate anything (believe me, i tried!), but you can always access that manga through the site software. on top of this, the resolution quality of the manga is not even close to being perfect. That said, I’ve read several Leiji manga through ebookjapan, specially old stuff that’s difficult to get elsewhere like Miraizer Ban and Mystery Eve.

                  • >(believe me, i tried!)
                    That’s too bad.😦

                    If you don’t mind me taking more of your time,I have more questions.

                    1.Has Leiji ever done a manga where the girls tits weren’t censored by hair? I remember Gun Frontier using horrible darkness to cover stuff up. Made it hard to tell what was going on,lol.

                    2.Why do you think so few of his manga has been translated into english? I know Italy has some of his stuff translated(like 蜃気樓綺譚,but I can’t find much info on that release) There’s also not much of his stuff scanned.

                    3.I’ve noticed that one of the releases for the Queen Millennia has its cover in english(http://cdn.myanimelist.net/images/manga/2/61963l.jpg) Do you know anything about this?

                    -Thanks🙂

                    • 1. There are plenty of manga where Leiji draws women full nude. But he doesn’t draw in any anatomical details, it’s just a white canvas.

                      2. I know his stuff doesn’t get scanned a lot because it’s not so popular now. if scanning technology had been wide available in the 1960s and 1970s we’d have hordes of scanned stuff, because that’s when he was most popular.. As to why he doesn’t get translated more often (besides the fact his stuff is considered outdated and lacking in the blatant fanservice people today expect) I’d say that there’s a certain insularity to his views that drives would-be translators off. I say this because Osamu Tezuka for example, who’s even older than Leiji, keeps getting all his stuff translated, and he doesn’t have the fanservice either. But I think Tezuka’s works are easy for the international audience to enjoy as their own. Leiji is more inward and Japanese that way.

                      3. That’s the edition I read, actually🙂 It’s just the cover, there’s no English inside. I think it was done for it to look cool. I think I’ve seen it on other Leiji covers but I can’t remember right now which.

  3. That’s a shame:/. At least Emeraldas and Gun Frontier are being translated!

    • It is sad indeed.

      • Sorry for asking so many questions,but I keep finding more stuff.

        In an interview Leiji said one the Captain Harlock mangas was translated into english and officially put online. I cannot find any info on this.

        I also found an interesting adaption of Leonardo Da vinci titled ”
        天使の時空船” It looks really cool so I was thinking maybe you read it and could shed some light on it,thanks.

        • I enjoy answering Leiji questions, it’s no problem.
          I don’t know about any Harlock manga officially translated and put online.
          The Da Vinci manga I’ve heard of but never actually seen. I’d definitely like to see it!

          • You can buy it from E Book Japan. It seems some scans I’m finding for Leiji mangas are coming from them.

            While browsing their catalog I found a title called “ダイナソア・ゾーン 恐龍帯” It has dinosaurs and that makes it awesome. Have you read this one?

            • Oh, I didn’t realize the Da Vinci one was on ebookjapan. Maybe it was put there not so long ago.

              I haven’t read Dinosaur Zone either… Actually if you go to my About page you will not exactly what comics
              I’ve read. There’s a list there and it’s totally uptodate🙂

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