I’m a cartoonist all my life.
Takao Yaguchi, a master of the manga world who had said so before his death, died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 81 on November 20 last year. Mr. Yaguchi was born in a poor farmhouse in a village deep in snow in Yokote City, Akita Prefecture in 1964.
From his youth, he admired Osamu Tezuka and wrote a series of manga for his junior high school class newspaper. After graduating from high school, he worked at a bank in the prefecture, and at the age of 24, he married a bookstore owner and became a father of two children, but he could not give up his childhood dream. Influenced by Sanpei Shirato, he drew manga while working as a bank clerk, and made his debut as a manga artist at the age of 30 in the manga magazine Garo.
At the age of 30, he made his debut as a manga artist in the manga magazine “Garo. In “Sanpei Tsurikichi,” which he drew for another 20 years and sold a total of 50 million copies, he created a sensation with a story that seemed to predict the rediscovery of the Kunimasu, a freshwater fish thought to be extinct.
Three people who knew Mr. Yaguchi before his death, as a father and as a cartoonist ……, talk about his true face.
A Father Who Loves to Drink and Care for His Children
Kaoru, the second daughter who has taken over the activities of Yaguchi Productions from her father, recalls her childhood memories.
When I was four years old, the serialization of “Tsuri Kichi Sanpei” started. My father was already a cartoonist by the time I remember. In those days, he was always very busy. He would stay in his studio, about a 10-minute walk from our house, and work all night to finish his manuscripts. In the midst of all this, my sister, who was three years older than me, was very protective of me. He always came to our sports meets and cultural festivals.
His image as a father was the exact opposite of a traditional stubborn father.
My sister and I didn’t do well in school, but he never once got angry with us. My father grew up in a poor farming village deep in the mountains, and he was the first person in his village to enter high school. He was the first person in his village to enter a high school. He couldn’t go to college himself, so he was very happy when I decided to go to a junior college. He didn’t say anything to me about our career path.
My mother and I were good friends, but sometimes we had petty fights. When we were watching TV, my mother didn’t know the answer to a quiz show, and she argued with my father, saying, “Why can’t you understand this? He was just like Sanpei and his childhood friend Julippe in Sanpei the Fisherman.
He doted on his wife and daughters, and they loved him very much. He also had friends in the neighborhood, his favorite sushi restaurant, the gym he went to, and many other places, and he was loved by many people. He loved to drink, and invited many writers and editors to his home in Meguro, Tokyo, where he drank with them every night.
He loved to drink, and invited many writers and editors to his home in Meguro, Tokyo, where he drank alcohol every night. “Many people would give me alcohol because they heard that my father liked it,” he said. He was especially fond of shochu. We didn’t drink much, but we had a shelf full of sake bottles at home, and we used to drink in front of it.
One year has passed since his passing. It has been a year since he passed away, and even though he could not gather with many people to remember him, there were moments when he felt his father’s greatness once again.
Immediately after my father passed away, I received a letter from a photographer. He was so moved by my father’s cartoons that he graduated from high school and went to Canada to become a nature photographer. When I saw that person coming to our house and placing his hands on my father’s altar, I realized that he had influenced the lives of many more people than I had imagined. Even now that my father has passed away, I feel that his presence is still there, even though I cannot see him.
The face of a writer shown to her editor
Yoshikazu Komatsu, the editor in charge of the serialized essay “Manga Banzai” for Akita Kaigai Shimpo, who had known Mr. Yaguchi for 10 years, said, “He was a kind and friendly father at home, but his editors saw the stoic attitude of a manga master.
It was in the last years of his life that I strongly felt his manga artist spirit. His eldest daughter passed away in 2012, and he himself was diagnosed with prostate cancer, so he put down his pen in disappointment. However, in his spare time, he would open his sketchbook and draw the characters of his works with a magic pen. At his favorite sushi restaurant, he would even draw on the chopstick bags.
Even the materials I borrowed for the interview were covered with pieces of paper with his drawings on them. When I saw how powerful his drawings were, I said to him, “You can still do it,” but he said, “This is not good enough. But he said, “This is not good enough.” Because of his strong love for manga, I felt that he was determined not to produce works that were the product of compromise. I think his aesthetic was that he didn’t want to release something that was inferior to the work of his heyday.
Although he had a strong love for manga and its aesthetics, his wife Katsumi was indispensable in helping him reach this point.
When he was a child, it was said that ‘reading manga makes you stupid. At the time, he was a bank employee with two daughters, and it must have been a great decision for him to leave his job and become a manga artist at the age of 30. While everyone around him was against it, Katsumi was the only one who said, “If you can do it, go for it. However, I won’t forgive you if you leave us three in the street. It was a test of his resolve. Katsumi’s father had told her, “If a wife doesn’t support her husband in what he wants to do, who will? I think it was Katsumi’s words that made you determined to become a professional.
Efforts to preserve original works in his later years
In Yokote City, Akita Prefecture, Ms. Yaguchi’s hometown, there is the Yokote City Masuda Manga Museum, which has a collection of more than 430,000 original artworks by Mr. Yaguchi and other artists such as Mr. Takao Saito, author of “Golgo 13” and Ms. Akiko Higashimura, author of “Tokyo Tarareba Musume. This facility was built in 1995 as part of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Masuda Town, and there was initially talk of turning it into a memorial hall for Ms. Yaguchi. However, Mr. Yaguchi refused to name the museum after himself, saying, “Rather than making it a personal memorial, the best way for children who want to become cartoonists to learn is to show their original drawings. He dreamed of improving the status of manga as a whole, not just drawing his works.
Takashi Oishi, director of the Masuda Museum of Manga in Yokote City, who knew Mr. Yaguchi in his later years, describes the situation at that time as follows.
He used to lament the fact that Ukiyo-e had been leaked from Japan to overseas, and he said, ‘We must not let the original paintings become a second Ukiyo-e. He was also worried about the future of his own original paintings in his old age. He told me, who was only an employee of the town office at the time, ‘I will leave my works to Mr. Oishi and go to the next world.’ That was the beginning of our preservation activities.
Mr. Yaguchi was a meticulous person and kept over 42,000 of his original paintings in an orderly fashion. Mr. Oishi and others decided to develop conservation activities based on these.
However, in May of 2008, Mr. Yaguchi fell ill.
He called me and apologized, saying, ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Oishi. He said he was sorry that he couldn’t do it anymore, even though we had agreed to work together to collect the original pictures. I told him, “Sir, don’t say that, let’s work together. I’m sure he already knew that.
The project to preserve the original pictures has just begun. I believe that it should be continued for the next 50 to 100 years. I am determined to preserve as many of the original paintings as possible for the next generation, and to create an environment for this purpose. That is my teacher’s dying wish.
Mr. Yaguchi’s works will continue to be loved in the future, as he gave up his stable position as an office worker, which he had acquired from a poor family, to become a popular manga artist and bring joy to many people.
From the December 3, 2021 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Yokote City Masuda Manga Museum, Yaguchi Production