Leiji Matsumoto, a well-known Japanese manga and anime creator whose real name was Akira Matsumoto, passed away at 85, according to his studio. He passed away on February 13 from severe heart failure, according to a statement from Studio Leijisha.
Matsumoto was renowned for his monumental science fiction works, such as Space Battleship Yamato, Queen Emeraldas, and Galaxy Express 999.
His writing frequently featured heartfelt narratives and anti-war sentiments.
Makiko Matsumoto, the director of Studio Leijisha and Matsumoto’s daughter, stated in the statement that he “set out on a journey to the sea of stars. I think he lived a happy life, thinking about continuing to draw stories as a manga artist.”
Matsumoto, born in 1938 in the Fukuoka Prefecture city of Kurume, was only 15 years old when his first book, Mitsubachi no Boken (Honey Bee’s Adventures), was released in a manga magazine.
He relocated to Tokyo after completing high school to pursue his aspiration of becoming a successful artist.
In 1961, he wed Miyako Maki, a well-known manga artist and one of Japan’s first female manga artists. He changed his name to Leiji Matsumoto as they worked on numerous projects together.
After he wrote Otoko Oidon, a series depicting the lives of a young, impoverished man studying for university exams, he received his big break ten years later. It was given the Kodansha Publication Prize for Children’s Manga for its enormous success.
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His sci-fi epic Space Pirate Captain Harlock, which chronicles the exploits of an outcast turned space pirate, is one of many of his manga comics adapted into anime television series.
More than 150 of his manga stories—Matsumoto was seven years old when World War Two ended—depicted the horror of war. Years later, he said that his father, an excellent army pilot, had taught him peace should always be pursued because conflict “destroys your future.”
The world has lost an “absolute giant,” wrote Zack Davisson, a Californian writer who translated most of Matsumoto’s writing, on Twitter.
He continued by saying that Matsumoto’s portrayal of emotionally frail teenagers and young men demonstrated that having feelings was acceptable: “Star Blazers and Galaxy Express was a gut-punch. People… died. People… cried. People… fell in love.”
In a steady diet of sexless, emotionless, consequence-free children's entertainment, STAR BLAZERS and GALAXY EXPRESS was a gut-punch. People… died. People… cried. People… fell in love. And at the center of it was these young boys. (2)
— Zack Davisson @ECCC E-10 (@ZackDavisson) February 20, 2023
“There was an immense sadness in his works, a grandeur nowhere else seen. All wrapped in powerful visuals that were equally mythological and futuristic,” Mr Davisson said.
A French musical group, Daft Punk, was a fan of Matsumoto’s work and hired him to make multiple animated music videos, most notably for the 2000 song “One More Time.”
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter cited Matsumoto as their early inspiration.
Together, they produced the anime film Interstella 5555, which tells the tale of an alien band. Before it was even released, it was “a cult hit before it even came out,” according to the Japanese journal Pen Online.
In 1999, several bronze statues representing various characters and scenes from Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999 were constructed in Tsuruga, Japan.
Matsumoto has earned several renowned cultural and art medals from Japan, including the Order of the Rising Sun, and the French government gave him the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.
Because of his fame, his works have been adapted and spun out for a long time, impacting generations of manga and anime fans.
Rebecca Martin is an author of thrillers for both adults and teens. She was born in San Francisco and has lived most of her life in Los Angeles. When not writing, she can be found hiking the Griffith Park trails, taking the Metro and then questioning this decision, and haunting local bookstores.