Leiji Matsumoto and the Revival of Classic Manga - "It All Started There," Revival of Early Japanese Manga

img"Tank Tankrou" by Sakamoto Gajou, "The Adventure on Mars" by Ooki Noboru, " Space Strategy #1" by Leiji Matsumoto. Nowadays publishers are beginning to reprint these classic series from the early days of manga, which are becoming popular among adult manga fans.

Shogakukan Creative Co. completely reproduces a manga's format, the cover design, and original copies of frames on each page. Popular mangaka's forgotten debut titles and ancestors of the current Japanese manga are making a new impression among the fans.
The original copies of these reprints came from Leiji Matsumoto's own collection, here, Matsumoto talks about the fascination of manga in the early days.

In the "preservation room" of Matsumoto's house (located in Oizumi, Tokyo) sits a huge collection of manga that were published around the 1870's to the 1950's. Titles like "Korosuke the Bear" by Sampei Yoshimoto that was published pre-WW2, "Fikuchan" by Ruichi Yokoyama, and "Hokusai Manga" by Hokusai Katsusika (1760-1849), "Superman," "Walt Disney Comics & Stories," etc., Matsumoto smiled and said, "I don't know how many books are here, I have never counted my collection." His collection is on the scale of a small library.

"The days right after WW2, around me there was just famine and a mess. In those days, comic books only represented a world from dreams for the kids. They described an Utopia. My interest was stimulated by manga, maybe it was because of the differences that existed between the manga world and the real world."

Matsumoto began collecting manga when he was in elementary school. At first, his mother and big sister bought manga for him, after he became older, he bought manga by himself.

After he debuted as a manga artist in his high school days, Matsumoto spent his salary on manga. Matsumoto also collected the shoujo manga of his big sister, and manga from his friends, and he was influenced by many other manga that were created by Osamu Tezuka, Kikuo Tagawa, etc.

"However, I don't read manga exclusively; I also read books on science, historic novels, astronomy books, and many world-famous novels, they all serve as documents in when I create manga. For example, I was influenced by "A Travel in Cosmos" by Sunma Araki. All of these works have been preserved here."

To prevent the deterioration of his books, all bookshelves are covered by glass. The temperature and the air mixture are being adjusted regularly. No one except Matsumoto is allowed to enter the preservation room.

Shogakukan Creative Co. released "The Manga Museum" in 2004 based on Matsumoto's collection, this later lead to the project of reprinting old comic books. Today the revived manga from Matsumoto's collection are giving adult manga fans a new impression of manga.

Matsumoto said, "the characters of "漫画 (manga)" originally meant "pictures created with clear eyes.' I want to make a real manga museum someday."

The Progress of Digital Technology Made the Reprinting Possible

Hiroshi Kawamura, the spokesman of Shogakukan Creative, said, "this project aims to provide to readers titles that are currently hard to get a hold of." ‘The Train Trip' has also been reprinted, and it became more popular than we had originally expected."

The manga from the pre-WW2 era have historic value. "Tank Tankrou" (1935) is a science fiction that served as an ancestor of Doraemon and other Robot anime with its story of a robot that fights battles with a blade from its round body. "A Train Trip" (1941) made use of many manga techniques before even Osamu Tezuka. The titles published around the 50's are the "teenage works" of manga giants, such as Kazuo Umezu, Fujio Akatsuka, and Matsumoto himself, nowadays it's becoming hard to define who created them.

The reprinting of these early comic books requires a lot of time and effort, since it is necessary to get permission from the copyright holder, and an old custom of rewriting during the editing of a tankoubon; however, with progress in digital technologies such as scanning with a computer, it becomes possible for people to reprint without damaging the original books, which encouraged the reprinting project.

*Early manga collection page

Translated by T. Ohara