Sunday, March 1, 2009

Things I Learned from Leiji Matsumoto

So, yes, I've been thinking a lot about Leiji Matsumoto lately, and the scope of his career. Writer, artist, comics-making-guy (mangaka, but I dislike borrowing other languages' terminology, and frankly, we should have an English word for this already, shouldn't we?) and national treasure according to the Japanese government. He's created westerns, science fiction, horror, romance, and more bildungsroman than I can count. His work has been adapted for television, film, prose and stage - not to mention thousands of examples of unlicensed fanart and tribute. And he's been including Harlock, in one form or another, as generations in the same family, avatars, icons, or just someone who adopted the identity, in most of these, since 1953.

He has designed buildings (that were actually built), a water bus (that's still in use), and has drawn the same woman wearing different hats for about thirty years longer than I've been on this planet without it getting stale.

Even if you haven't seen something directly of his own work, if you saw a Star Wars movie? Nine tenths of the machinery designs in the first three flicks look like they could have been lifted right off the page and built. One Piece's Eiichirō Oda, Toshio Okada, co-founder of Gainax, and the French house band Daft Punk, as well as Æon Flux creator Peter Chung, have acknowledged Matsumoto's influence.

And I have to admit, I owe him a lot, creatively, and just in terms of how his work has affected my life. I approach narrative, character, and communication with an audience differently because of Leiji Matsumoto. Which, is a long roundabout way of explaining why there now follows a list of simple things I learned from this man's works.


Food is necessary.

Everything is political.

If a flag doesn’t naturally wave in outerspace you make it wave.

You have to forgive people. If something was truly unforgivable, you’d have to kill the people responsible.

History is subjective.

People have to decide for themselves to be adults.

Even a Nazi can occasionally do the right thing.

We live myth. Every damn day.

A lot of people look like a lot of other people.

Part of growing up means changing your mind.

Death before dishonor sounds good, but it’s probably better to live in dishonor than be a complete genocidal asshat.

Inexplicably, injuries can often be inherited.

It’s important to have friends who are better looking and smarter than you are.

Every time you see someone, it may be the last.

Jealousy is pretty stupid; grief is probably necessary.

Continuity is for the desperate.

The only thing that can kill you, is you dying.

While thinking of someone you don’t like as less than human, it isn’t true. It’s always just people.

Free will means disobedience means anarchy. It does not mean you have to be a contrary, difficult, selfish jerk.

Laws can’t actually stop anyone from doing anything, they just promise you’ll be punished later.

Wherever you go, somebody knows somebody from where you came. So, behave yourself.

Always keep a jacket or poncho handy. This is more important than any jazz someone might tell you about a towel, because you can, in fact, towel yourself off with a jacket. It can be blanket or pillow, keep the weather off you, be used offensively, and make you look stylish. Plus, it has sleeves and pockets, and requires no bag to carry it in.

Autonomy is a matter of civility.

No law, no rule, has to be enforced.

Some things never go out of style.

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