Writer’s discussion, 2014

Books devoted to the creations of Leiji Matsumoto have been published regularly since the 1970s, and they’ve grown more frequent along with his expanding universe. This is especially true whenever he hits a milestone, such as the 60th anniversary of his career in 2014. That year, Gakken published a retrospective called 60th Anniversary, Leiji Matsumoto’s Zero Dimension Manga Museum. It was packed full of features that explored his many manga works, including this unique conversation between three veteran writers.

All worked with Matsumoto on different projects at different times, and two of them participated in the creation of the original Yamato series. Their discussion is presented here and offers deep historical perspectives available nowhere else.

Talking about the Kaleidoscopic World of Leiji Matsumoto

Seeing the world of Leiji Matsumoto, which he has been drawing for 60 years since his debut in 1954, is like looking through a kaleidoscope! We asked three people who are well-versed in Matsumoto’s manga and anime to tell us about this kaleidoscopic world!

Aritsune Toyota

Born in Gunma Prefecture on May 25, 1938. Sci-fi writer, translator and screenwriter. He won the Hayakawa SF contest as an honorable mention. Known for The Time gun plan, The Double-sided Lodge, and others.

Masaki Tsuji

Born on March 23, 1932 in Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture. After working as a producer for NHK, he became an animation writer, mystery writer, and travel essayist. He is the third president of the “Full-fledged Mystery Writers Club”.

Keisuke Fujikawa

Born in Tokyo, June 16, 1934. Broadcaster, screenwriter, and author. He is one of the supporters of Matsumoto anime.

TV anime scriptwriters born in the early years of anime

Toyota: Leiji Matsumoto is celebrating his 60th anniversary, so the three of us thought it would be nice to talk about our memories of him. I’ll start with my own.

Mr. Matsumoto and I were born in the same year, 1938. He was born early and I was born late. He is one year older than me in terms of school age. His was the last generation to enroll in the National School (*1). This year is also the 50th anniversary of Mushi Pro. (Mushi Productions, the studio founded by Osamu Tezuka, gave Mr. Toyota and many others their start, serving as an incubator for the entire anime industry.)

I’ve been around since the inception of TV anime, so first let me tell you something personal about myself. A friend of mine, Kazumasa Hirai (*3), who won a prize in the same SF contest I did (*2), wrote a manga called 8 Man for Shonen Magazine. It was drawn by Jiro Kuwata (*4). It became so popular that it was made into a TV anime of the same name.

L to R: Masaki Tsuji, Aritsune Toyota, and Keisuke Fujikawa
chatting as a triad.

Since TV is a big battle of ideas, the original story quickly ran out, so they needed someone who could write a script that was not part of the original work. Kazumasa Hirai, the author of the original story, asked me to write scripts for the anime, so that’s how I got my start. It may sound strange, but I was the first original anime scriptwriter in Japan. Mr. Tsuji is the second.

In fact, Shonen Magazine was looking for writers to audition for 8 Man. I was invited to apply, and I would have if it was a time travel story, but I’m not good at robot stories. I heard later from Mr. Matsumoto that there was an audition for manga artists as well. He applied, but he didn’t want to compete with other artists. In the end, he turned it down.

8 Man (*5) ran for about a year, and soon after that, I was asked by Osamu Tezuka to go to Mushi Pro to write scripts for Astro Boy (*6).

*1: National School = Primary educational institution of the wartime system. It was established by the National School Ordinance of 1941 and consisted of six years of primary education and two years of secondary education.

*2: SF contest = Hayakawa fantasy science fiction contest held for Hayakawa Shobo’s SF Magazine. It produced Sakyo Komatsu, Ryo Hanmura, Yasutaka Tsutsui, Taku Mimura, Kazumasa Hirai, Aritsune Toyota, and others.

*3: Kazumasa Hirai = Born in Yokosuka City, 1938. Science fiction and manga author. Worked with Jiro Kuwata, Shotaro Ishinomori, and Ryoichi Ikegami on manga.

*4: Jiro Kuwata = Born in Suita City, Osaka Prefecture, 1935. Manga artist. Major works include Gekkou Kamen (original story by Kawauchi Yasunori) and Mahoroshi Tantei.

*5: 8 Man = A popular robot anime. 56 episodes, aired on TBS from November 18, 1963 to December 31, 1964.

*6: Astro Boy [Tetsuwan Atom] = the first Japanese anime TV series. Premiered on Fuji TV January 1, 1963.

Tsuji: I still have a picture of us working side by side at Mushi Pro.

Toyota: Astro Boy was published in the monthly magazine Shonen (Kobunsha Publishing) for 14 years (as of 1963, when the TV anime started), but they used up all the original stories in just one year.

Tsuji: I tried to fit each story into one episode, regardless of its original length. There were times when the story ran too fast or was too talky. It would have lasted three years if we had kept it to one story per three episodes, but that would have really been a waste.

Toyota: At that time, there were people who could adapt, but no one who could write original scripts. At the time of 8 Man, the scriptwriters of TBS’s Seven Detectives (*7) didn’t take kindly to it. At that time, TV drama scriptwriters must have looked down on anime. If we didn’t write the script, the storyboard couldn’t be created, the drawings couldn’t be done, and the whole production of anime would stop. It was a situation where we had no choice but to do it.

However, Mr. Tezuka was a perfectionist. He liked my ideas and stories, but only if it felt like something he had created from beginning to end. I remember that I had to fix a lot of things. On the other hand, Tsuji didn’t make any changes. You just got right on with it, didn’t you?

Tsuji: Mostly. There were some that got through on the first try, and some that didn’t no matter how many times I tried. I think Tezuka-sensei didn’t say anything specific because he valued the writer.

Atom was a robot, but when I wrote one script I thought it was okay for him to dream, and Mr. Tezuka said, “Please make it a little stranger.”

I couldn’t figure out what he wanted me to do, so he ended up storyboarding it right in front of me, and said, “This is what I think.” He drew Atom dreaming of becoming a Tarzan. I made a completely different story about Atom dreaming of being in a western, and it passed.

The two people who created the first Japanese TV anime and the
first color TV anime! Masaki Tsuji (L) says that his first color
TV anime was
Jungle Emperor. Aritsune Toyota says the
first Japanese TV anime was
Astro Boy.

Fujikawa: Now that you mention it, you two entered the world of animation first, didn’t you? I started out in [live-action] drama, so when I started writing tokusatsu (live-action special effects) scripts, others were working on animation in one of the other rooms. I realized there was a world of anime.

Until then, speaking of manga, I had grown on Norakuro (*8) and Adventure Dan-kichi (*9). I had never heard of Leiji Matsumoto.

Yoshinobu Nishizaki (*10) came to me with Space Battleship Yamato because prior to that he wanted to do a tokusatsu series. I was attending a meeting for the tokusatsu drama Thunder Mask (*11) based on Mr. Tezuka’s manga in Shonen Sunday. I went to a coffee shop in Akasaka and someone I had never met was waiting for me. That person was Nishizaki-san.

He told me that he wanted to do a tokusatsu drama like Ultraman, and he wanted to use designs by a modeling designer from Tsuburaya Productions (*12). Then, Nishizaki-san asked me if I wanted to do an anime project and he brought Wansa-kun (*13) to me.

After that was over, we started talking about Yamato. As Mr. Toyota created various concepts for us, it became necessary to give them a concrete form. Eiichi Yamamoto of Mushi Pro suggested that if we wanted to depict mecha, we should use Leiji Matsumoto, so we invited him in. He showed up on a bicycle.

*7: Seven Detectives = There are 49 detectives in the Metropolitan Police Department’s Investigation Section, and they are divided into seven teams of seven detectives each. This was a detective drama that depicted the activities of these seven detectives.

*8: Norakuro = A manga about a stray dog named Kurokichi who joins the army and plays an active role. There is a museum to commemorate the author, Suwa Tagawa.

*9: Adventure Dan-kichi = A manga by Keizo Shimada, serialized in Shonen Club from June 1933 to July 1939.

*10: Yoshinobu Nishizaki = December 18, 1934 – November 7, 2010. Planned Triton of the Sea and Wansa-kun. His real name was Hirofumi Nishizaki.

*11: Thunder Mask = a manga by Osamu Tezuka, serialized in Shonen Sunday. It features silicon organisms.

*12: The project = Assault Human! A tokusatsu drama with a total of 13 episodes, aired October 7, 1972 to December 30, 1972. Produced by Toru Narita.

*13: Wansa-kun = Original work serialized in Tezuka magazine Leo. The TV anime aired from April 2, 1973 to September 24, 1973.

Tsuji and Toyota were both trained by Osamu Tezuka
in Mushi Pro’s literature club.

Space Battleship Yamato improved the social status of TV anime

Toyota: Mr. Tezuka’s expectations were extremely high. For example, if he liked a story but the ending wasn’t good enough, he would say, “How about this?” Some of them were just cobbled together, and he wrote a much better ending for them. But there were a few good ones, and they gradually moved my heart.

That was the great thing about Tezuka-sensei, he didn’t worry about whether people thought him a fool or not. It’s an ironclad rule of brainstorming that you can just throw out the unnecessary stuff later.

After I left Mushi Pro, I worked in the Manga Room at TBS, where I was in charge of setting up and writing scripts for several anime series. My novels started to sell well, and I moved away from anime for a while. That’s when Yoshinobu Nishizaki, who I went to high school with, asked me to do an anime like Heinlein’s Escape from Earth [the Japanese title for Methuselah’s Children] (*14). This was a killer project for a science-fiction writer, so I couldn’t resist.

*14: Heinlein = Robert A. Heinlein. Born July 1907. A leading figure in American science fiction. Known for Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land.

They wanted me to create the SF concepts, and Mr. Matsumoto was hired to create mecha and character concepts. That’s why, as I often say, there were many people involved in Yamato. I came up with the science-fiction wisdom, and Mr. Fujikawa made it into a story. Of course, Matsumoto-san’s power was essential.

In the first version I created, the story was about going to a nuclear star system in an Asteroid Ship, which was built by modifying an asteroid. But as we discussed it, we decided to change the destination from the inner part of the galaxy to the Large Magellanic Cloud by modifying the Battleship Yamato. The destination expanded from the inner galaxy to an outer galaxy. Also, “space kilometer” was a very good idea. It doesn’t have a definition. We don’t know how far it is in reality. That was a good point.

Tsuji: I used to work with Mr. Toyota in the literature department of Mushi Production, writing scripts for Astro Boy and Jungle Emperor [Kimba]. I didn’t get the chance to work on Yamato, but I did meet Mr. Nishizaki when he was working for Mushi Pro licensing on Triton of the Sea (*15).

There was a project with Mr. Matsumoto for Futabasha’s Manga Action, in which they asked me if I would be interested in doing a whole book of my original stories, freely adapted by different artists. I asked Mr. Matsumoto, Ms. Miyako Maki, and Mr. Kazuo Uemura to work on it. But I couldn’t ask Go Nagai (*16) because Shueisha wouldn’t give me the 0K.

At that time, almost everyone drew them according to the original story, but only Mr. Matsumoto’s and Mamoru Masaki’s adaptations turned out to be quite different.

I had been introduced to Mr. Matsumoto’s wife, Miyako Maki, on other occasions. But I don’t think that happened with Matsumoto-san. However, at the Nichigeki Voice Acting Festival, I had the opportunity to bring him up on stage twice as an auctioneer. He is a shy person, and I guess he is not good at such things. But as a director, I didn’t care about that.

*15: Triton of the Sea = A TV anime adaptation of Blue Triton, a newspaper comic series by Osamu Tezuka. (Read all about it here.)

*16: Go Nagai = an exclusive member of Shueisha’s Shonen Jump magazine. At the time, Masaki Tsuji was a member of the Go Nagai fan club.

When Keisuke Fujikawa starts telling behind-the-scenes stories
Space Battleship Yamato, they come out non-stop.

Fujikawa: In my case, I often met with Matsumoto-san outside of writing. For example, I would get phone calls from him. He would call me at midnight because of various ongoing problems. Then we would talk until it was light outside. In other words, I am a listener.

Toyota: I got calls from him, too. I actually had something to say, but Mr. Matsumoto says everything. I’d get frustrated when all I could do was listen to him.

Fujikawa: There were a lot of things that happened, but I think Yamato‘s biggest achievement was that it raised the social status of TV anime – which was previously considered a children’s game – to something that adults could watch.

Toyota: That’s what we were aiming for with 8 Man, isn’t it?

Fujikawa: It’s true that Nishizaki-san had a tremendous enthusiasm for creating something new. That’s what led to the big hit of the [1977] film version of Yamato. There was even a suggestion to share the profits with the people who were involved in the production. The TV version didn’t get the ratings it deserved. It was re-edited into a theatrical movie and Nishizaki went around selling it everywhere. He was able to make it a big hit. I guess I have to admit that Nishizaki-san did a great job.

For a while after he moved to Tokyo, Mr. Matsumoto had a hard time drawing the works he wanted. Perhaps because of this, we agreed that we wanted to prioritize young people.

Toyota: I agree with the idea of giving back to the younger generation. If we can’t do it, I’m sure there are plenty of other people who can. Even if you don’t like Mr. Matsumoto’s work, you can’t dismiss it. The world of Leiji Matsumoto can only be drawn by Leiji Matsumoto himself. There are many people who don’t understand that.

It’s not right that money doesn’t go to the people who are working hard in the field, and not just in the anime field. However, in the beginning, we didn’t have a good reputation at Nagoya TV. I answered all the letters that came from fans. At that time, Mr. Nishizaki was also a novice. The world that Mr. Matsumoto and the whole staff created is Yamato, but if Nishizaki hadn’t made the decision to create it, I think the trend of TV anime would have been different.

So, as Fujikawa-san said, we created a genre. I was asked by Mr. Nishizaki to go with him to Kansai TV to explain the project, but the TV station’s producer was so dumb that he asked, “Will there be any giant robots?”

If it were my job, I would have fallen on my ass, but Mr. Nishizaki bowed to me. It takes a lot of work to bring a show to life. I think it’s great that he took the initiative and made the project happen. He taught me that there is no way to do something new unless you try it first.

Fujikawa: Another time I’m thinking of is when Nishizaki-san and I clashed. I announced that I was quitting. Then he kicked all the staff out of the room and put his hands out and practically begged. He didn’t have to go that far, but when I said, “I understand,” he called the staff back into the room. He sat down in his chair with an attitude as if to say, “How do you like it, I persuaded Fujikawa!”

Toyota: He was very good at that. He was a people pleaser.

Aritsune Toyota says that he was the first
to novelize a TV anime.

TV anime novelizations born from the “Yamato phenomenon”

Toyota: As a result of the “Yamato phenomenon,” there have been a lot of novelizations of TV anime. I think my original Yamato draft became the first one. It was novelized by Arashi Ishizu, who was the head of the literary section at Mushi Pro, and it was published by Asahi Sonorama.

Fujikawa: I did not write a Yamato novel. Yamato was aired after the popularity of Mazinger Z (*17), and I participated because I wanted to make a work that would appeal to a more mature audience, rather than something for children.

*17: Mazinger Z = TV anime adaptation of Go Nagai’s serialization in Weekly Shonen Jump, aired on Fuji TV from December 3, 1972 to September 1, 1974. Popularized the giant robot driven by a pilot.

I was told sarcastically by other anime production companies that if I didn’t go with them, I would lose a lot of work. But I was determined to do something different. However, in order to maintain momentum, I think we should have returned the profits to the young people who worked hard at the end.

Tsuji: I wrote a novelization for Galaxy Express 999. I wanted to bring it along today, but I couldn’t find it. When I think of Mr. Matsumoto, I’m reminded of Kenji Miyazawa (*18) since there is also a sci-fi or space epic aspect to his work. I guess a creator has many aspects.

*18: Kenji Miyazawa = 1896-1933. Born in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture. Poet and writer of children’s stories. The Night on the Galactic Railroad was adapted into a manga by Leiji Matsumoto. Many of Miyazawa’s works have been adapted into anime, including The Biography of Gusuko Budori and Gauche the Cellist.

For Mr. Matsumoto, there is the part of him that dreams incessantly. On the other hand, there are so-called “caring works” such as the Four Tatami Mat series (stories of people scraping by in tiny Japanese apartments). It’s like he’s cooking something on a very large scale. I think that Galaxy Express is a good example of this duality. That’s why I like it so much.

Masaki Tsuji says he likes the conductor
Galaxy Express 999.

But unfortunately, I don’t really like Matsumoto’s females, like Maetel in 999. I’m more interested in the male characters, the conductor who only keeps an eye on things. I think such a character is amazing. So I tried to face 999 in a straightforward manner, but I thought it was too fantastical, so I wrote [my novelization] in a somewhat cynical way. I had the impression that 999 was very Matsumoto-like in many ways.

When I had a meeting with the person in charge at Shonen-Gahou-sha, I suggested that Yamato and 999 should intersect in space. However, the face of Producer Nishizaki came to mind, so I decided against it. By the way, even then, I don’t remember meeting with Mr. Matsumoto at the time.

Fujikawa: I told Mr. Matsumoto directly that I liked 999 better than Yamato. I think his kind feelings and romanticism really came out. Because of this, I was very excited to write scripts for 999.

Toyota: Since both of you mentioned that you like 999, I’d like to say something too. I think I like Yamato more, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like 999. I watch TV anime as a viewer, and I read manga as a reader. What I can say is that 999 is basically a science-fiction-like idea, but it is depicted as fantasy. I’m a science-fiction writer, so in that sense I prefer Yamato.

However, there are many aspects to Matsumoto’s world, such as the Battlefield Manga series, The Cockpit series, and various other series. 999 is one of them. It gives a very unique impression. When it comes to Captain Harlock, it’s all about action. It’s an homage to Kenji Miyazawa. In that sense, it is a work that established a new era.

Speaking of which, female characters drawn by Matsumoto are always unique. She is a beautiful woman with very large, moist eyes. In my time travel-themed novels, I once used a beautiful, Matsumoto-style woman. She appeared in a future world where kangaroos have evolved like humans. No matter who reads it, recognition of the beautiful woman in Mr. Matsumoto’s manga is universal.

Keisuke Fujikawa says he never got to sleep on
a proper futon. A burning desire to challenge
himself was his bed.

The most common example of Mr. Matsumoto’s unique and distinctive characters is Dr. Sado from Yamato. However, there are no unique characters among the women. Regardless, there are many anime fans who like Matsumoto-style beauties, Maetel and others.

Fujikawa: Now I remember something from the time of Yamato Fever [1977/78]. Producer Nishizaki once did a late-night live radio drama broadcast. We had a meeting from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. the night before and were told to write the script. It was a four-hour drama, so I got stuck in a hotel and started writing.

Come 2 a.m., I couldn’t help but feel sleepy. But if the script wasn’t ready, the event would fail. I was desperate to get it done. The person in charge of Japan Broadcasting seemed to have a high opinion of me, but didn’t think I’d be able to do it. They were surprised when I came in to drop it off at 8 o’clock.

However, there was another incident. Just as we were about to start the read-through that evening, there was a commotion because Leiji Matsumoto hadn’t shown up. He was supposed to appear on the live broadcast that night, right? I knew there would be a mess, so I hurriedly ran to the bathroom. When I came out, Producer Nishizaki was waiting for me. He asked me to go with him, and we drove across the city at night. It was about an hour before the broadcast, and we went to Matsumoto’s house. I asked him to come out because the broadcast was about to start.

For some reason, producers always ask me to go with them whenever something happens. Even when I was writing the script for Queen Millennia, I went to the Matsumoto residence at the request of the producers. At that time, too, it was difficult to get the original story out of him, and I had to ask him to write it as soon as possible. If I hadn’t gone over there with the producer, Mr. Matsumoto wouldn’t have responded. So I often had to visit him at his residence.

This happened several times, and I sometimes wondered if we were connected not only professionally but also emotionally. Mr. Matsumoto is the same age as my younger brother. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I felt closer to him. He can be very mischievous, can’t he? Sometimes he gets out of control. I feel like I’m looking at my younger brother in that way.

When the Yamato TV series started, we had meetings until almost 8pm. The main staff would get together for discussions, and sometimes Matsumoto-san would show up. However, the next day, the printer would arrive at 9:00 a.m., so we had to finish the script for them to pick up. I hardly had time to sleep. I had to do it over and over every day. If I didn’t have a burning desire to challenge myself, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

“Such good memories” The prizewinning line associated with Mr. Matsumoto

Tsuji: By the way, I’d like to ask you both if New Battleship Takachiho was ever a topic of conversation among those who were working on Yamato back then. It is an adventure novel by Chinzaku Hirata (1904~1936), who was popular among boys for his fictional war stories in Shonen Club before the war.

In the novel, a Japanese Arctic expedition ship, Hokuto Maru, and the new battleship Takachiho, go to explore the secret border of the North Pole, where a large amount of resources are said to be hidden. When this Japanese expedition team goes to the North Pole, they find the cruiser Unebi, which was said to have been lost in the waters of Indonesia. In fact, it had gone on an expedition to the North Pole. There, the boy hero’s grandfather is on ice.

The Japanese fleet defeats the fleets of country A and country B, and so on. Japan conquers the world, but then there is the character of Madden, who is the commander of the North Sea Fleet of Country A. He sits aboard the battleship Lion, and is a formidable opponent on par with Dessler in Yamato. This commander has a chivalrous spirit, or rather, he never forgets to respect his opponent even in the midst of battle. He is very similar to Dessler in this respect.

There is such a thing as “coincidence” in a story.
Aritsune Toyota talks about an episode in
which Osamu Tezuka got upset with him.

If the North Pole was the destination instead of Iscandar, it would be quite a letdown…

Toyota: I’ve heard of the story, but I’ve never read it, and I never heard it talked about in meetings. Mr. Matsumoto talked separately about the setting and characters, but I don’t think there was any mention of it at all.

Tsuji: It’s just a coincidence, isn’t it?

Toyota: Coincidences do happen. I wrote the a story that was similar to an episode of Outer Limits (*19) in Astro Boy and was criticized for it by Tezuka-sensei. It was a story called The Arena by Fredric Brown (*20).

*19: Outer Limits = American mystery drama similar to the popular Twilight Zone. It was once broadcast in Japan under the title Ultra Zone.

*20: Fredric Brown = 1906-1972. His works include What Mad Universe.

There are two opposing forces, and if they go to full-scale war, they will fall together. An intelligent overlord-type life form sends one representative from each side to fight in a duel. It was originally written a long time ago, so I thought I’d use it as a basis for a twist on the story. It’s sort of public domain.

So I came up with the idea of having a pair of robots and humans from Earth and a hostile planet battle it out. The Earth side has Atom, of course, and his human partner is a nondescript guy. Atom encourages the helpless man to fight. There was a similar story in Outer Limits. In that one, it’s a male-female pair, and the woman is fighting alongside the nondescript guy while encouraging him. I hadn’t seen Outer Limits when I wrote the script. At the time, I was wondering how they came up with the same idea.

Tsuji: When you try to twist, you end up twisting in a similar direction, I guess.

Toyota: If the underlying foundation is the same, there is certainly a possibility of twisting in the same way. We all think the same thing. I think it’s important to rewrite the original story.

Fujikawa: This may be true for spoken lines as well. Mr. Matsumoto remembered a line from a movie he saw once, and he skillfully put it into his own words in the Yamato manga. In the last scene of Yamato, Captain Okita mumbles, “Such good memories.” I put it in the TV script, aiming for a line that Matsumoto-san would use in the manga. When I heard that he liked it, I thought, “Yes!” Because it was proof that I had assimilated with him. It’s a prizewinner.

Keisuke Fujikawa says he wrote the “prizewinning line.”

Tsuji: It’s the same with Sazae-san, which I was writing. There are still many people who think that Machiko Hasegawa, the original author, created everything, even the TV anime.

Toyota: I remember that someone wrote that the Yamato theme song sung by Isao Sasaki was like a belligerent military song. That was really awful and disrespectful to Horishi Miyagawa, who composed it. If you’ve ever played an instrument for a while, you know that Mr. Miyagawa’s song has three flats in C minor, and you need seven or eight chords to play it. If it were an ordinary military song, like Synchronized Cherry Blossoms, it would have three minor chords. It’s much more advanced musically, with modulations along the way. You only expose your ignorance if you accuse it of being a military song.

Tsuji: I wonder if it was a condemnation of the appearance of the huge battleship Yamato, the pride of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

I’ve also been hanged for the appearance of the Yamato in Cyborg 009. The battleship Yamato appears when Nagato, a battleship that was sunk at Bikini Atoll, is on her way to San Francisco to finish off the grudge. But there is no mention of the name “Yamato” in the film, just “Japan’s pride and joy” with music in the background.

At that time, I guess I was still under the influence of Mitsuru Yoshida’s The Last Days of the Battleship Yamato. It may have been that I felt it was disrespectful for Yamato to appear in anime, even in the science-fiction Cyborg 009. I was also told to reflect on how a lot of people are killed in anime, so I actually had a look at the anime that was criticized. It was an episode called Ghost of the Pacific (watch it subtitled on Youtube here). Near the end of the episode, there is an inscription on a cenotaph [monument] overlooking the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima: “Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil.” I didn’t say anything anti-war there, and no one said a word.

Toyota: It is true that there is a tendency in Japan not to accept fiction easily. They take it too seriously.

Reborn: The new space-themed story we can expect from Leiji Matsumoto

Fujikawa: I’ve written a lot of commentaries on Matsumoto’s manga collections, including Otoko Oidon from Kodansha and Gun Frontier from Akita Shoten. When I reread these works, I thought that Otoko Oidon might be connected to Galaxy Express 999. The romanticism in both is the same. This was the origin of the romanticism in 999.

Tsuji: Mr. Matsumoto must have come to Tokyo on a steam train like the 999<. I think Galaxy Express contains his feelings from that time.

Fujikawa: I mentioned earlier that my line became Mr. Matsumoto’s words. However, I wrote it with the idea that Mr. Matsumoto would think that way, so there was no such deviation. I think it is important to imagine what Mr. Matsumoto might be thinking when he writes.

Masaki Tsuji mentions New Battleship Takachiho
by Shinsaku Hirata. He says that Madden, the
commander of the A fleet, resembles Dessler.

Toyota: Mr. Matsumoto is very particular about his dialogue, so it’s important that your sensibilities match. It’s not surprising that Mr. Matsumoto says that manga artists need to have a writing style. It’s only natural, isn’t it? Mr. Matsumoto, Tezuka and other cartoonists had to be good at writing. Many manga artists are good at writing.

Tsuji: To fit a line into such a narrow space, you have to be good at sentence structure. I think you can learn how to compose sentences well. This is something I couldn’t learn, even though I tried.

Fujikawa: Dialogue in manga is extremely condensed. In anime, the lines are spoken by real actors. The same goes for narration written on parchment. I think Matsumoto has his own way of expressing things. I just acknowledge that and try to bring out some color in a line.

Tsuji: A Matsumoto story includes narration. You can’t mess with that.

Toyota: The war comics he drew have not been made into films. I wonder if we are still in an age where war stories can be done in anime.

Footnote: In 1993, The Cockpit became the first anime based on Matsumoto’s war story manga.

Tsuji: No, it’s already passing away. After all, we live in an age where girls ride tanks. I was surprised to read in a book about Girls & Panzer that I was the one who wrote the first war anime. It was only because I needed to write an “anti-war” theme, though.

Now, Kadokawa’s Kantai Collection (*21) is amazing. Whether it’s the battleship Kirishima or not, the warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy have been transformed into female bodies. I’ve said that if there was such a thing as a “Battleship Road” (*22), then the “Battleship Road” will become a compulsory subject in girls’ schools. In the past, Satoshi Kuramoto’s Zero-Sen Hayato (*23) was made into a TV anime. If you are going to do this, you need to be prepared to get burned on the Internet.

*21: Kantai Collection = An online game of the “moe” type in which players raise “ship girls” (who personify former Imperial Navy ships) into an invincible fleet.

*22: Battleship Road = a variant of “Tank Road.” In the TV anime Girls & Panzer, tank combat has become a pastime for women, like flower arrangement and tea ceremony. This term expands “Tank Road” to naval ships.

*23: Zero-Sen Hayato = TV anime adaptation of Tsuji Naoki’s war story manga. At the time, up-and-coming screenwriter Kuramoto Tsuyoshi was in charge of the script. Produced by P-pro.

Even Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises is being called a revival of militarism. I think the main character in that anime is an origami airplane. Anyone who sees it will understand that it depicts the joy of flying. I think it would be better if anime was made with such things in mind. If warships and fighter planes are shown, it is immediately considered militaristic. You can’t make a story about that.

Toyota: I’ve been told Yamato is militaristic, but the theme of working together to save the Earth was something that had never been done before. However, It’s just fiction…

Tsuji: I hope you enjoy fiction. Japanese people still stink of poverty. It’s no good.

Toyota: I think Matsumoto’s Battlefield manga has the potential to become an anime if he focuses on mecha.

Fujikawa: Mr. Matsumoto has reached the pinnacle of SF manga and anime. I would like to see him go back to his roots again next. Not the world of Otoko Oidon, but I’d like to see him draw the world at the time when he wanted to get out there and experience it. I think stories about mecha have reached their peak. I’d like to see him continue to draw very everyday stories.

Tsuji: I agree with you. That’s exactly what Lucky Star asnd K-On! did. I think Matsumoto’s manga drawing skills are good enough to make such a change. I like the Four Tatami Mat series and Otoko Oidon. It would be difficult to do that with the production values of 999, but I think it can be done within the current direction of anime.

Toyota: Young people today may not understand what Japan was like when it was poor. I first encountered Matsumoto manga with Otoko Oidon. After that, I read some war stories. I’d like to see him draw more in that direction. Also, 999 and Harlock are space stories, fantasy stories, action stories, and fleet stories. He used them in different ways. I would like to see a new work based on this space theme. I believe that would have infinite possibilities…

Tsuji: Mr. Matsumoto is active in a very wide range of genres. He is a person who can do extreme things. Here’s a theme that no one has ever done before…

From now on, Mr. Matsumoto, as well as the readers of manga and anime, will be getting older and older. I would like to see him create a kind of manga culture dedicated to Japan as a country of the elderly.

Fujikawa: Thanks to the success of Yamato, all the space stories came to me, and space became boring. My hope is that he will draw works that make the universe fresh and new. To that end, I hope he takes care of his health. I hope he will always be a mischevious boy.

Recorded on October 2, 2013, in the main conference room of the Gakken bldg.

Novels pictured: Space Battleship Yamato by Arashi Ishizu, based on an original draft
by Aritsune Toyota (Asahi Sonorama).
Mermaid Warrior by Aritsune Toyota (Kadokawa Shoten),

Aritsune Toyota talks about the beauty of Leiji Matsumoto

In a commentary written for the Akita Bunko reprint of Matsumoto’s Yamato manga, Aritsune Toyota wrote, “I’ve begun to think that the ultimate form of beauty is the appeal of unbalance.”

“I realized that this was also the case with Matsumoto’s manga,” he said. “I began to think that the beauty of form in Chinese calligraphy is the charm of unbalance. The Chinese calligrapher Lord Yan Zhenqing wrote, ‘regular script and semi-cursive script are randomly mixed,’ and it is the same with the characters in Matsumoto’s manga.”

In Yamato, Starsha and Sasha have a flesh-and-blood charm. Susumu Kodai and Dessler are also realistic, attractive characters. On the other hand, the supporting characters such as Dr. Sado are so-called “zukkoke” [silly] in design, which accentuates their unbalance.

It goes without saying that one of the selling points of Yamato is the mecha. The drama that unfolds there is a man’s world in itself, and if it were depicted only with realistic characters and mecha, it would be flavorless. What saves it is the beautiful woman and the supporting cast.

Aritsune Toyota wrote, “At first glance, the work appears to be unbalanced, but this completes its beautiful form.”

Aritsune Toyota was the first to novelize the Yamato phenomenon when he received an offer from publisher Asahi Sonorama, which was eager to publish books on TV anime and tokusatsu. The novel was written by Arashi Ishizu based on Aritsune Toyota’s story draft. (And can be read in its entirety here.)

Photo caption: Masaki Tsuji shows Leiji Matsumoto’s adaptation of his original story The Age of Great Life, published in Manga Action.

Masaki Tsuji’s Galaxy Express 999 Novels

Masaki Tsuji participated in this “triad discussion” with Aritsune Toyota (who he worked with in Mushi Pro’s TV anime department) and Keisuke Fujikawa (with whom he struggled in the early days of TV anime). He showed off Leiji Matsumoto’s manga adaptation of his original work, The Age of Great Life.

“The editor-in-chief of Manga Action told me, ‘I’ll give you a whole book, and you can choose any manga artist you want’.”

All the stories were written by Masaki Tsuji, but only Mamoru Masaki and Leiji Matsumoto, who were his friends during his time at Mushi Pro, took the stories to new places.

“I liked how Mr. Matsumoto listed the names of all these patent attorneys on a door. It didn’t even have to be shown, it was probably done because it was a magazine for young people.”

Masaki Tsuji’s work is not limited to manga. He has also written scripts for TV dramas and anime and adapted many works into novels. The work shown here is a novella for the TV anime Galaxy Express based on Matsumoto’s original story, published in two parts in 1979. Tsuji envisioned an encounter between Captain Harlock and the 999 in outer space, but he was not able to fulfill his intention. There is only a poster depicting Harlock as a wanted man on the streets of Megalopolis.

Photo caption: Keisuke Fujikawa, who has worked with Leiji Matsumoto for almost 40 years, talks about Matsumoto manga.

Screenwriter Keisuke Fujikawa understands the appeal of Matsumoto manga

In his commentary for Gun Frontier Volume 1 from Akita Bunko, Fujikawa wrote, “Leiji Matsumoto is a manga artist who represents a time when men were interesting.”

Fujikawa has worked as a scriptwriter for Galaxy Express 999, Queen Millennia, The Legend of Marine Snow, and many other TV and film anime. He has brilliantly analyzed Matsumoto’s manga world. To understand this world, it is important to talk about his works, but also to feel his true face. This is the kind of “commentary” that Keisuke Fujikawa, who values his interaction with Matsumoto, can provide.

Fujikawa is convinced that the appeal of Matsumoto’s manga is its romanticism, which he successfully transferred to the world of TV anime.

The scripts shown here are from Episodes 16 and 22 of Galaxy Express, titled City of Fireflies and Pirate Ship Queen Emeraldas. Both scripts were borrowed from Fujikawa’s archive and bear an official seal.

In terms of space themes in TV anime, where science-fiction and action were commonplace, Galaxy Express glorified the history of TV anime by boldly introducing fantasy. This was due to Keisuke Fujikawa, who knows the Matsumoto manga well. It’s an important factor for TV anime, which is often based on manga.

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