Giving free rein to his creative imagination, Issey Ogata joins us to appreciate a selection of artwork by people with disabilities and invite viewers into the unique worlds of his stories. As he sets his wild imagination free to “fire” the artistic can(n)on, he breaks down barriers to show us that we can take a freer approach to art appreciation.
This article is a translated version, which was originally published in Japanese language on 27 February, 2020.
Reading time:3 minutes
(Date updated)19 January, 2021
(About this story)
Fish gathering around a sacred flame. Running people. While they may look peaceful at first glance, these are the “Earth Defense Corps,” charged with an important mission.
Matsumoto was born in 1991 and lives in Kumamoto Prefecture. He fashions richly detailed worlds through a proliferation of tiny, unusually shaped pieces, built up one by one. Drawn in a bright variety of colored pencils, his meticulous illustrations are unique in his reshaping of remembered objects (whether seen in photographs or firsthand) into his own original images. Giving shape to his unique perceptions rather than following in anyone else’s footsteps seems to be a source of joy for Matsumoto. He draws in a studio set apart from the main building of his home. Sitting in a chair facing his table, he draws calmly for four to five hours every day. Before him are 5 different containers, housing his collection of around 300 colored pencils and 100 water-based pens, and a sheet of approximately B4 drawing paper. Sitting with his legs tucked beneath him, his tall frame bent low over the table, he rhythmically applies each color one by one. He uses all of his colored pencils in a balanced rotation, applying one color, then moving that colored pencil to a different box and immediately taking up the next from the container. Diagnosed with high functioning autism, Matsumoto lives surrounded by nature, caring people, and a loving family, freely creating one original world after another.
The very first thing that sprang to mind when I saw this illustration was “Earth Defense Corps.” In the upper left-hand corner are a group of space fighter aircraft—the command unit. The countless things surrounding it are the “Earth Defense Corps,” rallying around the sacred flame. When you look closely, you can see that they’re fish, as far as the eye can see. Fish actually make for more dedicated protectors of the Earth than humans, you see. More and more fish are gathering in order to try to defeat the enemy and defend the Earth.
As we can tell from the lighting of the sacred flame, this is a holy war. They haven’t joined this fight on the spur of the moment. These fish are deploying on a global scale, reinforcing the defense corps.
These round dots, they’re water droplets on the spaceships’ windshields. Even the raindrops are colorfully lending their support to the fight.
When we turn to this next illustration, we find a large group of people running. These are the pilots. This is the pilots undergoing training, which doubles as an examination. It’s the entrance exam that will decide whether or not they’ll go on to become space pilots. The corps needs young blood, so these students have been selected by their universities and are being trained.
What catches my eye is their footwear. They’re wearing slippers. Why are they wearing slippers? Well, apparently there’s an electric current flowing through the enemy’s spaceships, so they’re in trouble if they board them wearing normal shoes. Changing into slippers is a tactic for defeating the aliens. That’s why the candidates for pilot training are already wearing specially adapted slippers, endlessly running round and round as though they’re in a long-distance relay race. It’s that kind of endurance test. They’re doing this on Earth, wearing the Earth Defense Corps training kit.
We’ve known that the enemy’s spaceships are coming for a long time now, but we’re still in a state of “waiting.” Floating there, but not advancing.
But there are more fish arriving all the time. Which means that there are yet more fish out there that can’t fit into this illustration. They just keep piling in, until you have to ask, “who knew there were this many fish in the world?” I’d like you all to imagine that: so many fish that they can’t all be drawn here.
The young pilots who pass the exam will go on to take their places on these fish. But, because the fish are still arriving in a steady stream, there are also many fish without pilots. So yet more young blood is being recruited. Because there are more fish than people, right? We can’t lose to the fish—don’t talk to me about declining birth rates.
Well now, does it look like the Earth Defense Corps will ever see battle? Everyone is raring to go, but the illustration itself is incredibly peaceful. If you look closely, you can see that there are lit candles at the bottom of the drawing. I think it’s the Commander’s thirty-something-th birthday, so everyone’s celebrating together. That’s how peaceful the scene is.
I suspect that gathering like this will end up serving as a deterrent, and it won’t come to a battle. So I’ve titled this story “The Fish Deterrent Force.”
Born in Fukuoka in 1952, Ogata began his career in theater in 1971. With a foot on every stage—from his one-man plays to movies, TV shows, radio, voiceovers, commercials, and more—he has won widespread acclaim.