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Matsumoto Leiji

Entry updated 20 February 2023. Tagged: Artist, Author, Comics.

Working name of Akira Matsumoto (1938-2023), Japanese artist and illustrator whose Space Opera stories and designs became icons of Manga and Anime in the 1970s and 1980s. Matsumoto's father was a pioneer aviator who had trained in inter-war France with aggressor squadrons, but fell on hard times in the 1940s. While Matsumoto's brothers went into engineering, the self-taught Matsumoto became a teenage Comics prodigy, pawning his record collection to make the one-way 24-hour train journey to Tokyo to work for the weekly magazines. He has cited Jūza Unno and H G Wells as primary influences not only on his writing, but on his reading; he has lambasted comic creators who read nothing but other comics. Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle looms large in his sf plots, characters and themes (see Music), alongside melancholy elegies of Time Abyss and Entropy. His artwork frequently displays a love of mechanics and machinery, in the original sense of the word "Mecha", particularly from the World War Two era; his non-sf output includes The Cockpit, a long-running series of war stories.

Beginning with "Mitsubachi no Bōken" ["A Bee's Adventure"] (graph 1954 Manga Shōnen), Matsumoto's early work was published under his real name, and chiefly in the field of non-sf girls' comics, until the rising numbers of female creators crowded out male artists. His work in this period covered a multitude of genres, and included the manga adaptation of the US television series Laramie (1959) as Laramie Bokujō ["Laramie Ranch"] (graph 1960 Hinomaru). His earliest sf work, Betsu Sekai no Bōken ["Adventures on Another World"] (written 1956; graph 1958 venue unknown), foreshadows many of his later themes, with an Invasion by Aliens compounding problems for an Earth that faces imminent collision with Mars. Gin no Tani no Maria ["Maria of the Silver Valley"] (graph 1958 Shōjo Club) was commissioned as a fairytale fantasy of medieval Europe, but soon accrued sf themes including references to the sunken continent of Mu (see Lost Worlds; Under the Sea).

His work post-1965 was entirely published as Leiji Matsumoto. Collected sf manga short stories from the ensuing decade fill several volumes [see Checklist], but true success eluded him until Otoko Oidon ["I Am a Man"] (graph 1971 Shūkan Shōnen Magazine), the non-sf examination of an impoverished youth awaiting the chance to re-sit his university entrance examinations. Matsumoto also worked as a book illustrator, most notably for Japanese collections of the Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry stories by C L Moore, beginning with "Dai Uchū no Majo" ["Cosmic Witch"] (trans Katsuo Jinka 1968 S-F Magazine). Published in book form in the early 1970s, these helped establish his reputation for Space Opera imagery and lissome heroines. This in turn led the producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki to commission Matsumoto as a conceptual artist on a new television anime project, eventually broadcast as Uchū Senkan Yamato (1974), in the US as Star Blazers (1979). Matsumoto arrived on the project after preliminary writing by Nishizaki and the authors Keisuke Fujikawa and Aritsune Toyota, but is widely believed to have contributed the lion's share of the work.

For the following three decades, Nishizaki and Matsumoto were locked in legal battles over who had created which part of the Seiun Award-winning franchise. In 2002, a Japanese court finally ruled that while the trademark and basic plot of Yamato belonged to Nishizaki, the characters and Spaceship design belonged to Matsumoto, who had established the show's iconic look through storyboards for many early episodes, and a manga series Uchū Senkan Yamato (graph 1974).

Uchū Kaizoku Captain Harlock ["Space Pirate Captain Harlock", in some variants, Herlock] (graph 1977 Play Comic) has a Far Future setting in which an apathetic human race on a Dying Earth largely submits to Alien invaders, before the titular buccaneer raises a flag of resistance. The subsequent Anime television series (1978) was much loved in the Francophone world under the title Albator: le corsaire de l'espace, and also broadcast in Latin America as Capitán Raymar. It was subsequently combined with Millennium Queen (see below) and entirely rewritten for the US market as Captain Harlock and the Queen of a Thousand Years (1985).

Sennen Jo-Ō ["Millennium Queen"] (graph 1980 Sankei Shinbun) involves the discovery of La-Metal, a rogue world beyond Pluto (see Outer Planets), with an eccentric orbit that will cause it to collide with the Earth on the 9th September 1999. The protagonist professor's beautiful assistant Yukino is revealed as an agent of the queen of La-Metal, who has been on Earth preparing the way for an exodus and enslavement of the survivors of humanity. She comes to question her allegiance, in a retelling of the Japanese folktale Taketori Monogatari ["Tale of the Bamboo Cutter"]. Later revealed as a distaff sequel, Ginga Tetsudō 999 ["Galaxy Express 999"] (graph 1977 Big Comic) drifts into Magic Realism, with a spacebound steam engine that takes an orphan protagonist to Andromeda in search of a Cyborg body. He later questions the wisdom of this decision during a picaresque series of Planetary Romances. The story is strongly redolent of Kenji Miyazawa's Ginga Tetsudō no Yoru ["Night on the Galactic Railroad"] (1934), although Matsumoto points to other origins: chiefly the shock and awe he felt as an aspirant teenage artist on his first journey to Tokyo, travelling on a train network that still ran efficiently, but through a Japan in ruins. In the 21-volume version included in the Checklist below, volumes 1-14 are the initial "Andromeda" story arc; volumes 15-21 are the subsequent "Eternal" story set after the destruction of the Earth (see End of the World).

From the 1980s, Matsumoto began fashioning his disparate serials into a loosely linked Future History. Numerous linking stories and revisions introduced or reframed ancestors or descendants of the originals, "revealed" family relationships or established previously unmentioned links, imparting a form of Reincarnation to many of his characters. This enterprise has been arguably hindered by the widely differing venues of original publication, forcing Matsumoto to reconcile plots, characters and situations from manga aimed variously at children, teenagers and mature audiences, in similarly mismatched genres from Hard SF to Fantasy. Combined with the contemporary legal tensions over Uchū Senkan Yamato, this has often led to frustratingly truncated or fanciful rewrites of earlier work, unconvincingly framed as retro "nostalgia", and disappointing to all but the most fervent Matsumoto completist. However, he also basked in the glow of approbation from fans who had grown up watching anime versions of his work, particularly in France. This was most notable in the Daft Punk album Discovery (2001), videos for which were produced by Matsumoto at the band's request, and spliced together to make the feature-length anime Interstella 5555 (2003).

His prose nonfiction includes autobiography in Tōku Toki no Rin no Sessuru Toko ["The Place that Connects with the Ring of Distant Time"] (2002), a Swiss travelogue, and the coauthorship of the magisterial Manga Daihakubutsukan ["Great Manga Museum"] (2004) a superb overview of the Japanese comics medium from 1924-1959, ending with the rise of Osamu Tezuka. Several of his works were released in English, largely through the auspices of the San Francisco company Viz Communications (now Viz Media), although few of them lasted their entire count of volumes. [JonC]

Akira Matsumoto

born Kurume, Japan: 25 January 1938

died Tokyo: 13 February 2023

works (selected)

Matsumoto's work has been widely printed, reprinted, renamed and refashioned in archive editions. This is only a small fragment of a bibliography that would otherwise run to over a thousand variants.

as Akira Matsumoto

  • Betsu Sekai no Bōken ["Adventures on Another World"] (Tokyo: Masakazu Manga Shuppan, 1958) [graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
    • Uchū Sakusen Daiichigo ["Space Battle Number One"] (Tokyo: Nakano Shoten, 1981) [graph: vt of the above: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
      • Uchū Sakusen Daiichigo ["Space Battle Number One"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2006) [graph: vt of the above with additional material by Sakyō Komatsu: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Gin no Tani no Maria hoka ni hen ["Maria of the Silver Valley and other stories"] (Tokyo: Suiyōsha, 1979) [graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]

as Leiji Matsumoto

  • Sexaroid (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1974) [graph: 4 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Panic World (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1975) [coll: graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Wadachi (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1975) [graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Machinners City (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1976) [coll: graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Gun Frontier (Tokyo: Akita Shoten, 1976) [graph: 2 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Otoko Oidon ["I Am a Man"] (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1977) [graph: 9 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Dangard A (Tokyo: Akita Shoten, 1977) [tie to the anime of the same name: 2 volumes: pb/Matsumoto]
  • Yonjigen Sekai ["Four Dimensional World"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1977) [coll: graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Hotaru no Naku Shima ["Isle Where the Fireflies Weep"] (Tokyo: Ōtoshisha, 1977) [coll: graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Dinosaur Zone (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1978) [coll: graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Sanzennen no Haru ["3000-Year Spring"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1978) [coll: graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Mystery Eve (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1978) [coll: graph: 2 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Kūkan Kikantai ["Armoured Space Platoon"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1978) [coll: graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Uchū Senkan Yamato ["Space Cruiser Yamato"] (Tokyo: Akita Shoten, 1979) [graph: 2 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Shin Taketori Monogatari: Sennen Jo-Ō ["New Tale of the Bamboo Cutter: Millennium Queen"] (Tokyo: Sankei Shinbun, 1981) [graph: 5 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Diver 0 (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1983) [graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Kasei Reijō ["Daughter of Mars"] (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1984) [coll: graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Hyōryū Sanzenman Kōnen ["Three Million Light Years Adrift"] (Tokyo: Asahi Sonorama, 1984) [coll: graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Uchū Kaizoku Captain Harlock (Tokyo: Akita Shoten, 1985) [graph: 5 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Sennen Jo-Ō ["Millennium Queen"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1985) [graph: 3 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Queen Emeraldas (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1986) [graph: 4 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Nibelung no Yubiwa ["The Ring of the Nibelung"] (Tokyo: Shinchō Comics, 1989) [pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Mu no Kokusen ["Black Ship of Mu"] (Tokyo: Leed-sha, 1989) [graph: 2 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Yōseiden ["Fairy Tale"] (Tokyo: Chūkō Comic, 1989) [graph: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Uchū Kaizoku Captain Harlock ["Space Pirate Captain Harlock"] (Tokyo: Akita Shoten, 1992) [graph: 3 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Nibelung no Yubiwa ["Ring of the Nibelung"] (Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 1992) [graph: 8 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Case Hard (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1994) [graph: 6 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Hyōryū Kansen 000 ["Railtrack Adrift 000"] (Tokyo: Fusōsha, 1994) [graph: 4 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Mugenkai no Hyōryūki ["Adrift on the Infinite Sea"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1996) [graph: 2 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Ginga Tetsudō 999 ["Galaxy Express 999"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1997) [graph: 21 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Sensuikan Super 99 ["Submarine Super 99"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1997) [graph: 2 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • The Cockpit (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1997) [graph: 8 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Sayonara Ginga Tetsudō 999 ["Adieu Galaxy Express 999"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 1999) [graph: tie to the anime: 2 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Toki no Haguruma: Kikai Gensō Suisse Kikō ["Cogwheels of Chronograph: Machine Fantasy Swiss Travel Diary"] (Tokyo: NHK, 1999) [nonfiction: binding unknown/Leiji Matsumoto]
  • Tōku Toki no Rin no Sessuru Toko ["The Place that Connects with the Circle of Distant Time"] (Tokyo: Tōkyō Shoseki, 2002) [nonfiction: binding unknown/]
  • Manga Daihakubutsukan 1924-1959 ["Great Manga Museum"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2004) with Bin Hidaka [nonfiction: pb/]
  • Shin Uchū Senkan Yamato ["New Space Battleship Great Yamato"] (Tokyo: Shonen Sunday Comics, 2009) [graph: 2 volumes: pb/Leiji Matsumoto]


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