Manga by Leiji Matsumoto

Cosmoship Yamato Part 1

Of all those who pushed themselves to the limit (and beyond) to get Space Battleship Yamato made, none was a greater glutton for punishment than the legendary Leiji Matsumoto. To gain an understanding of what he endured during production of the first TV series, consider this: after spending an untold number of hours every day designing and supervising the look of the anime, he would then return to his own drawing board every night to render the same story in manga form, struggling all the while to keep ahead of his monthly deadline for Bouken Oh (Adventure King) magazine.

Though he was already a highly-disciplined workhorse, even Matsumoto admitted that he’d bitten off more than he could chew: “I lost a lot of sleep and I became emaciated as a result. It was hell until I adapted to the workload. Since the manga was a monthly publication, the TV series sped on ahead, and I had a hard time catching up with it. I vowed I would never commit to such a schedule again!”

Matching the publication timing of Matsumoto’s manga to the airing of the TV episodes reveals much about the creative decisions he made to keep both versions concurrent; amazingly, they started and ended almost simultaneously, running from October 1974 to March 1975. What neither Matsumoto nor anyone else on the anime series could have anticipated was the Yomiuri network’s decision to reduce the episode count (from 39 to 26) as a result of low TV ratings. Prior to this unpleasant development, everyone assumed they had more time to tell their story, which helps to explain the long voyage to Iscandar and the very brief one back to Earth.

One of the best-known casualties of the reduced episode count was the appearance of Matsumoto’s Captain Harlock as a supporting character. Although Harlock’s story was cut from the anime altogether, he still appeared in the manga version, though by this time it was clear that Matsumoto intended the Yamato Harlock to have no relationship to the Space Pirate Harlock, who would later experience a successful manga & anime career of his own.

A fan who was devoted enough to keep up with both the TV series and Matsumoto’s manga in Bouken Oh would have seen both versions of the story unfold as follows. Clicking on the links embedded in this text will open a page of the manga itself. (Remember that manga pages are read from right to left.) All artwork is © Leiji Matsumoto.

Bouken Oh October issue (Sept 3, 1974)

There was no manga yet, but in the very front and very back of the issue could be found two Yamato images. The first promoted the anime (above right)…

…and the second promoted Leiji Matsumoto’s manga adaptation, which would debut in the November issue.

Bouken Oh November issue (Oct 3, 1974)

Manga chapter 1 (31 pages)

same content as TV episode 1; We see the battle of Pluto and the message capsule is recovered on Mars. The chapter ends with our first view of Yamato in the ground.

ON TELEVISION Episodes 1-4

We meet the characters, Yamato is built, launches and warps to Mars.

Bouken Oh December issue (Nov 2, 1974)

Manga chapter 2 (35 pages)

Yamato launches as Gamilas missile approaches.

ON TELEVISION Episodes 5-8

Yamato travels from Jupiter to Titan to Pluto, destroying the Reflex Gun.

Bouken Oh January issue (Dec 3, 1974)

Manga chapter 3 (31 pages)

Yamato warps to Mars and moves on to Jupiter.

ON TELEVISON Episodes 9-13

Defeat of Gamilas fleet, departure from solar system, encounter with Gamilas mines, the Orion star, capture of the enemy pilot.

Bouken Oh February issue (Jan 1, 1975)

Manga chapter 4 (20 pages)

the ship explodes. The end. But not really. This was a Yamato drone destroyed in a test-firing of the Pluto Reflex Cannon. The real one zipped right on by, forcing Dessler to intervene with an array of space mines. The chapter ended with the ship surrounded on all sides.

ON TELEVISION Episodes 14-17

Octopus star storm, Magellanic Stream, Planet Beemera, encounter with Balanodon.

Bouken Oh March issue (Feb 1, 1975)

Manga chapter 5 (35 pages)

Yamato faces the Orion Star and the Sargasso Sea of Space. There was only one more chapter left for Matsumoto to wrap up the story. How did he manage to cram 11 TV episodes of story into his final chapter? With the magic of manga.

ON TELEVISION Episodes 18-21

Magnetron Satellite, homesickness, Planet Balan, Challenge from General Domel [Lysis]

Bouken Oh April issue (March 1, 1975)

Manga chapter 6 (31 pages)

Earth receives a report from Captain Okita about the destruction of Gamilas and the arrival at Iscandar. Yamato is attacked by Dessler on the way home, but safely returns to Earth. The end.

ON TELEVISION Episodes 22-26

The Battle of the Rainbow Star Cluster was aired the day after the final manga chapter was published, and the series pushed on from there to the end. But, of course, we hadn’t heard the last from Mr. Matsumoto.

Cosmoship Yamato paperback (July 1975)

When all six chapters of Matsumoto’s manga were collected into a single paperback tankobon, fans found another bite of the apple inside. In the time since the series ended in Bouken Oh (and the anime concluded on TV), he had gone back to upgrade it. No less than 54 new pages had been added between chapters 5 and 6 in which Yamato encounters Captain Harlock, brings down the artificial sun of Balan, defeats Dommel, and proceeds to the Sanzar System, where Gamilas and Iscandar are found. Three more pages were added to chapter 6 in order to flesh out the visit to Iscandar before returning home.

Read the Captain Harlock scenes in English here.

This material became a permanent part of the Matsumoto manga, which has been in print practically ever since. That includes the English-language version published by Seven Seas in January 2019 (above right).

On the other hand, some material was lost in the transition; color pages were converted to greyscale and most of the title pages were eliminated along with logos and other graphics. So if you still wanted the original version, the only way to get it was to collect back issues of Bouken Oh. Until 2018, anyway. That’s when Fukkan Publishing revived it at the original page size in a very satisfying 304-page tome. It also included Matsumoto’s picture story serial from Fifth Grader magazine, the Eternal Story of Jura spinoff chapter, other illustrations from the same time frame, production art from the Series 1 development phase, and more.

See Fukkan’s home page for this volume here. Order it from here.

Read more about the first Matsumoto manga

Continue to Eternal Story of Jura

2 thoughts on “Manga by Leiji Matsumoto

  1. I wanted to thank the creator of this page, it’s the only place where I can find an answer to my questions. Some days ago I brought an omnibus version of the first and second series of the manga, and I didn’t understand why the story was so fast. Thankfully I have seen the anime, so for me it wasn’t really a problem to read the first manga when at the end it basically says that the adventure is already finished whitout letting you reading it: I was confused, but now I understand.

    But I still have a question: what about the second part, the story of the white comet empire? When I brought this volume the story is uncompleted, and it just shows the “Eternal Story of Jura” instead of finishing the story. Where can I read the second series?

    • There is more to this story. Click on the “continue” link at the end. That will take you to the JURA page, and a link from there will take you to the Comet Empire story.

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