Viz published a collection of Taiyo Matsumoto's short stories titled Blue Spring a few years back, most likely to cash in on the release of the live-action adaption of one of the shorts after fumbling around in the dark, uncertain of how to sell Matsumoto to North American audiences after apparently lackluster sales of Black and White (later rectified in 2007) and the abysmal performance of No. 5. All of the stories in the collection are relatively straightforward -- one of which featuring characters that appear in Tekkon Kinkreet (Black and White) -- except for one that deals with the disappointment of baseball players as they play mahjong during a hot summer day. Another short story collection, Brothers of Japan, repeats this style of storytelling even more abstractly.
The material here is from the mid 90s -- I'd call it his transitional period -- with shades of the fantastical that Matsumoto would later use in No. 5. There's no real logical sense to the stories, so they end up as thematic vehicles -- a tale of an old man reflecting through three or four different stages of his life -- or indeicpherable, atmospherical oddities. Even the more convential pieces like the 500cc race between two animals, a gorilla and bear, seem to spin off into their own universe before the reader is able to grab hold of them. If there is a success, it's the title story where Brothers Sun and Moon attempt to dig to the otherside of the world -- a fantasy directly contrasted by the more realistic reflections of a woman returning to visit her father as attempts to adjust to a new stage of motherhood. There's not a radical difference between it and the other shorts, but Matsumoto's favorite theme of yin-yang and all of its facets provides enough of a familiar hook for readers to grab onto.
Disappointing as it may be, the collection is a nice reminder of Matsumoto's consistently excellent art, and makes me look forward to finally reading GoGo Monster.