(January 25, 1938 - February 13, 2023)
Famed Japanese manga and anime creator Leiji Matsumoto,
whose real name was Akira Matsumoto, has died at age 85
Leiji Matsumoto was born on January 25, 1938, in Kurume, Fukuoka. He was the middle child of a family of seven brothers, and, in his early childhood, Matsumoto was given a 35mm film projector by his father, and watched American cartoons during the Pacific War. During this time, he gained an interest in science fiction novels by authors Unno Juza and H. G. Wells. Matsumoto started drawing at the age of six, and began drawing manga three years later after seeing the works of Osamu Tezuka. At 18, he moved to Tokyo, to become a manga artist.
Matsumoto made his debut under his real name, Akira Matsumoto, in 1954 with Mitsubachi no bōken in the magazine Manga Shōnen.
Matsumoto had his big break with Otoko Oidon, a series that chronicled the life of a rōnin (a young man preparing for university entrance exams), in 1971. In 1972 he created the mature-themed dark comedy Western seinen series, Gun Frontier, for Play Comic magazine, which ran from 1972 to 1975. Around the same time he started a series of unconnected short stories set during World War II, Senjo Manga Series, which would eventually become popular under the title The Cockpit.
He was involved in Space Battleship Yamato (1974) and created the highly popular series Space Pirate Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 (both 1977). In 1978, he was awarded the Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen for Galaxy Express 999 and Senjo Manga Series. Animated versions of Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 are set in the same universe, which spanned several spin offs and related series, most notably Queen Emeraldas and Queen Millennia.
Matsumoto supervised the creation of several music videos for the French house group Daft Punk, set to tracks from their album Discovery. These videos were issued end-to-end (making a full-length animated movie) on a DVD release titled Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.
About two dozen bronze statues – each perhaps four feet tall – of characters and scenes from Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999 were erected in the downtown area of Tsuruga in 1999. Each statue includes a plaque at its base explaining the character and featuring Matsumoto's signature.
Matsumoto worked with Yoshinobu Nishizaki on Space Battleship Yamato (known outside Japan under various names, but most commonly as Star Blazers). Matsumoto created a manga loosely based on the series, and the Yamato makes cameo appearances (sans crew) in several of his works including the Galaxy Express 999 manga.
A later work by Matsumoto called Great Yamato featuring an updated Yamato had to be renamed Great Galaxy due to legal issues with Nishizaki. As of 2009, Matsumoto and Nishizaki were working on independent anime projects featuring the acclaimed Space Battleship Yamato, with the conditions that Matsumoto cannot use the name Yamato or the plot or characters from the original, and Nishizaki cannot use the conceptual art, character or ship designs of the original.
In August 2014, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his debut, Matsumoto launched the manga Captain Harlock ~Jigen Kōkai~ (Captain Harlock: Dimensional Voyage), illustrated by Kōichi Shimahoshi, in the pages of Akita Shoten's Champion Red magazine. Dimensional Voyage is a retelling of the original 1978 Space Pirate Captain Harlock manga. It had been licensed in the U.S. by Seven Seas.
Matsumoto was married to manga artist and Licca-chan creator Miyako Maki.
On November 15, 2019, Matsumoto suffered severe respiratory problems and collapsed during an event in Turin, Italy, for the 40th-anniversary tour celebrating the Captain Harlock anime adaptation. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition and had a breathing tube inserted after he was admitted to the emergency unit. However, he was considered to be out of danger two days later.
Matsumoto died of acute heart failure at a hospital in Tokyo on February 13, 2023, at the age of 85.
Sayonara, Mr. Leiji Matsumoto! You will be sorely missed.