New Matsumoto Interview Translated (3 of 3)
[Actually, this is from March, so it’s hardly new, but I wanted to keep the same title I’ve been using. This is the last section of that Asahi Shimbun interview. My own comments are in brackets.]
Keep on drawing limitless space
Interviewer: Your hometown is strongly reflected in your own works, isn’t it?
LM: My greatest teacher in that regard was Murata-sensei at the Fukuoka Prefectural Kokura-Minami High School, who drove into me all of that ancient Japanese and Chinese-style literature. Strong-willed and slender Nobuko Nakahara, my conversations with classmates in elementary, junior high and high school, the Swiss art student who played the heroine of Marianne of my Youth (which I saw at the movie theater in Kokura) Marianne Hold… All of these encounters mixed inside of me, created stories and birthed a variety of characters.
[It might sound strange for Leiji to refer to Hold, a German actress, as a Swiss art student, but in fact after retiring from movies Hold did live in Switzerland and study painting!]
Interviewer: We feel the spirit of “overcoming failure” in all of your works…
LM: In my high school days I would work at drawing girl’s manga with a photo of Kaori Yachigusa and a paper with the words “Let the wind blow as it may / I do not fear it / I am a man from Kyushu” on either side of my student card, all tucked into my breast pocket. The magazine company would pay for my manuscripts, you know. However, just before graduation, the part-time job at Mainichi Shimbun which I was supposed to get suddenly disappeared due to a reshuffle of all the positions below general manager. This was a setback to my plan of working while going to university and trying to become a mangaka. I clenched my teeth.
[More information on the words Leiji kept with him, and how they turn up in Otoko Oidon, can be found <here>]
Then a magazine company invited me to “turn up as soon as possible”, and in Showa 31 (1956) I made the trip to Tokyo, though at the time my preference for fantasy stories and scifi was not really understood.
I finally achieved my goal with Otoko Oidon, the autobiographical work of my youth, but then the TV ratings for Space Battleship Yamato looked to be so sluggish that we were forced to end it at episode 26, almost like people discontinuing a product. I did the first 5 episodes of Galaxy Express 999 as a last-ditch effort, then left for Kenya because I seriously felt like dueling with a lion. There I saw the vastness of the starry sky. I learned how puny my 38-year old self was. The great nature before my eyes was there before I was born, and it would still be there after I died. What’s fame? What are ratings? The realization rushed like thunder into my heart.
Interviewer: You became more strongly aware of the environment?
LM: I had friends whose relatives were victims of the bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, so I purposefully made the 999, which Maetel and the protagonist Tetsuro ride on, to be a train that cares not for nuclear power and instead is driven by the unknown power of the universe. By the way, I wonder if the Japanese have truly matured and become affluent.
LM: 68 years after the end of the war, from the very day the war ended, and even now still, I’ve held on to the thought that the Japanese are, due to the circumstances of the surrender, an exiled people without a country.
[Or, a people of a ruined country. The meaning is that the country has for all intents and purposes ceased to be, and the people are left adrift.]
I openly teach humility toward living things and nature on this Earth. Mankind must cease drilling holes into this Earth. Therefore I think our only option is the development of space. The development of space is our only key to the future.
Just as mankind continues to pose questions to the universe, I myself cannot bring to a close all of the mysteries contained in my works. Rather, all of my works gradually become part of a single story. I’ll keep on drawing, going on a romp or two, so I can continue dreaming along with the children of tomorrow.
[Mr. Hiroshi Haketa was the interviewer.]