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Taiyō Matsumoto mangaka, friend

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Taiyō Matsumoto, mangaka, friend

by Michael Arias

The day I first met Taiyō Matsumoto ended with both of us outdoors, naked.

But wait, let’s rewind a bit...

In 1996 my roommate Hatchan, eager to school me in manga, lent me his three-volume set of Taiyō Matsumoto’s Tekkonkinkreet, lighting a flame that would burn within me for the next ten years—years during which I was seldom without a copy of Tekkon by my side. But the first time I came face-to-face with Taiyō Matsumoto himself I had no idea that I was also beginning an even longer journey, that of my friendship with this unique artist.

After a year or so of obsessively and, I’ll admit, ineffectually pursuing my dream of a Tekkonkinkreet movie, I finally managed to connect with a few like-minded fellows and, with my 15-second Tekkon animation demo as entrée, wangle an informal meeting with Taiyō. And so, in late 1997, my comrades and I first sat down with Taiyō sensei, at a round table in a Chinatown dim sum restaurant. But after an awkward start (our giddy praise, met by Taiyō’s humble protestations), the conversation fizzled. We were all starstruck, to be sure; and Taiyō also surprised us with his unassuming earnestness—honestly, he did not seem like a guy who could have single-handedly created Zero, Hanaotoko, Tekkonkinkreet, and Ping Pong, to name just the major long-form works already under his belt.

But, helped along by copious servings of dumplings and rounds of Shaoxing wine, the conversation did eventually pick up steam. And, as is so often the case when in interesting company, we never really got round to talking about what brought us together in the first place (presumably our nascent plans for a Tekkonkinkreet movie). But it didn’t matter. All of us, Taiyō included, got some new fire in the belly from that first dinner, and none ready to call it a night. So, once done with desert, it was only natural that we change venues and continue. But I was caught completely off guard by my friend Take’s suggestion that we relocate to a nearby 24-hour health spa. And, judging from his bemused expression, Taiyō was surprised too.

Fast-forward to me and Taiyō soaking in an wooden outdoor hot tub. Maybe it’s the American in me, but even now after more than 25 years living in Japan, I still find sharing the o-furo with others a novelty (though a supremely civilized and enjoyable custom). But, as I discovered, bathing with a new acquaintance is indeed a great way to break the ice, for it is impossible to hide behind formality when one is naked in a tub of 45°C water.

Taiyō and I are both only children, and about the same age, separated by just a few months. Our parents are writers and intellectuals. Taiyō is naturally laconic and shies away from crowds; I’m introverted and brood at parties. Perhaps then because of our backgrounds, similar leanings, or, more likely, because neither of us drank much at dinner, we ended up the only survivors of that long evening, my comrades having conked out around midnight. But my audience with Taiyō seemed too precious to spend unconscious; and perhaps he too felt some kismet in our meeting. So we stayed up together until morning, discussing Tekkon, talking about our lives, soaking in the bath, and, finally, Virtua Racing each other in a dark corner of the recreation room.

A long time has passed since that first encounter. Taiyō’s hair has gone grey, as has mine; he is now married, and I have married, divorced, and then settled down again. The periods during which Taiyō and I have seen each other regularly and frequently are interleaved with long stretches of more sporadic contact. But, though I have many acquaintances and colleagues, I have very few true friends in Japan—or anywhere—with whom I have stayed close for so long. I consider Taiyō one of my dearest friends.

And yet, paradoxically, he remains the one living artist who inspires me more than any other.

It’s only natural to seek the artist in his work, and truly tempting to see Taiyō’s characters less as inventions than as projections. While working on Tekkonkinkreet, I often heard echoes of Taiyō’s voice in the words of Black and White. And many years later, translating Sunny, I saw reflections of Taiyō in his drawings of Haruo and Sei. Sometimes I sense in Taiyō a lonesome darkness—a deep, impenetrable void; is it possible that he too grapples with his own Minotaur, as I so often do?

But though I try not to conflate the artist and his art, it seems I just can’t help myself. For me, Taiyō’s oeuvre exists on an elevated plane, alongside the creations of Fellini, Tarkovsky, Kurosawa, Camus, Rushdie, Otomo, Mozart, and Lennon; and, as such, it resists all rational analysis! Anything as good as Taiyō’s best work had to have come from beyond this world, indeed from another dimension; the creator of Sunny, GoGo Monster, and Tekkonkinkreet must be more than just an ordinary human...

And yet, here he is, at my front door.

May, 2017



和訳:池田 穣



1996年、ルームメイトだったはっちゃんは僕に漫画のことを教え込もうと熱心で、松本大洋 の『鉄コン筋クリート』3巻セットを貸してくれたのだが、お陰でそれからの10年の間(その10年間僕は『鉄コン』を手元から離す事はほぼ無かった)僕の中で燃え続ける炎が灯されたのだ。だけど、松本大洋本人と初めて直接会った時、この稀有な芸術家との友人関係という更に長い旅も始まるんだとは、僕は知る由も無かった。


しかし、次から次へと運ばれて来る点心と何杯かの紹興酒の助けも有って、 僕らの会話はようやく流れに乗り始めた。そして、面白いメンツの時は大体そうだが、集まる理由だったそもそもの本題(それは僕らの『鉄コン筋クリート』映画化の初期計画だった筈だが)に話が辿り着かなかったのだ。でも、それで構わなかった。大洋さんも含めて僕らは皆、この最初のディナーの時に鳩尾の辺りに火が点いて、まだ誰もお開きにしようとしなかった。というわけでデザートを食べ終えた僕らは、自然と二軒目に流れて飲み直す事になった。なのだが、友人のタケの24時間営業の健康ランドに場所を移そうと提案には、完全に虚をつかれた。そして、大洋さんも驚いたのだろう、訳の分からないといいう表情を浮かべていた。









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Manga Artist Book Vol. 4 Taiyō Matsumoto a 30-year retrospective of Taiyō's work