New Matsumoto Interview Translated (2 of 3)
[Here’s the second part of the interview. I was originally going to make it only a two-parter, but I don’t have time to finish the whole thing just yet so it’s best if I just publish this now and then the end a little later. By the way, the section titles are not mine. They’re in the original.]
A Dignified Teacher’s Influence on Maetel
Interviewer: So Kokura in Kita-Kyushu was a starting point…
LM: I learned the basics of drawing, an attitude to life and a perspective on humanity. My father Tsuyoshi had been a major during the war but he had been purged [the officer class was purged after the war, but were rehabilitated and able to gain employment again rather quickly]. He set up a greengrocer’s on the road. “Won’t you become a pilot?”, he was asked, and I told him “I want you to fly too.” However, he said “I cannot justify it to my dead cohorts and subordinates. With what face would I dare to get back on an airplane today? I’m not flying.” He never gripped that yoke again. My heart was so struck by my father’s thoughts for those that had passed, that I wouldn’t even look at the chocolate offered by the occupation troops.
After the war, and keeping in mind that my family was a military family, someone told me once: “You guys didn’t go up in the world. You’ve fallen down in the world!” I said: “Shit, what did you say? I’ll show you!” and clenched my fists.
Interviewer: And then?
And then the Kokura period of my life began, as I entered Komemachi Primary School as a third grader (second semester). The classroom teacher was Ms. Tamae Masuya, a beautiful teacher with a slim figure. Whem Ms. Masuya learned I liked comics she told me: “Akira. If you want to draw comics in class it’s OK.” But when the important part of the class came along she’d tell me: “Akira, stop drawing your comic.”
She was dignified, hated improper things, and was very kind. I grew to like her a lot. Whenever I did something bad she would slap me and scold me with eyes full of tears, “Akira… We Japanese didn’t suffer through the war just so you could do such things!” That became 999 Maetel’s viewpoint and her “anti-gravity electronic ring” to fight against evil. [OK, I confess I’m confused a bit.]
The real clincher was the “classroom library” that Ms. Masuya set up for us in the back of the room. It included Osamu Tezuka’s long series “Dr. Mars” as well as Toshima Araki’s “Great Space Trip”. I read “Dr. Mars” several times, and I drew the “Martian Devil”, the “Giant Planet”, the “Detective King” and the “Dragon Tiger” over and over. Miyoko Kuroda, in my same class, bound my artwork, wrote the [student?] number in the front page and placed it along with the other books in the classroom library. Another classmate, Ueda, innkeeper’s son, saw me shivering in the middle of winter once and said “Put this on!”, putting his jacket on me.
In class, kids weren’t naughty and they didn’t bully each other. Everyone only thought of helping each other. They told me “Your pictures are so good!” and “This is funny!”. This gave me courage and hope, so everyday I let my pen run happily.
Filled with happiness, I got into the daily habit of yelling out “Harlock, Harlock” as I walked on the path next to the railway track. This “command” didn’t make any sense, but it was where the “keeping to one’s conviction even until one has been reduced to bones” that Captain Harlock holds to actually sprouted forth.
Interviewer: What was happening outside of school?
LM: We lived opposite the Western headquarters of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. There was an employee of Asahi’s who lived in the same run-down row house that we did, and he took me to the company with him. At the company, one of the men said: “So you’re drawing manga, huh,” and he gave me a zinc printing plate of Sazae-san. From that plate I learned the secrets of printing technology and how it expresses gradation. In later times, after I had become a pro, these techniques which my cohorts hadn’t picked up came to my aid. Afterwards I was told by someone associated with Asahi Shimbun that “That man [who gave you the plate] was Seicho Matsumoto!!”