As Space Battleship Yamato‘s most visible and active participant, with dozens of other high-profile credits to his name, Leiji Matsumoto himself has been the focal point of much publishing and merchandising over the years. While in possession of the Yamato copyright for a time (1998-2002) he put his name and personal stamp of approval on many products from toys to books to video releases. His other stories spawned enough publishing and merchandising to fill an entire website, but here we focus on the Yamato products that directly resulted from his personal touch.
Part 1: Bibliography
These publications all feature Yamato material either by or about Leiji Matsumoto. This collection does not include his Space Battleship Yamato manga, which is described in detail here.
Manga no Hoshi No. 1
Fanzine, 44 pages
This early ‘zine landed just ahead of the Yamato movie’s 1977 premiere and was devoted entirely to Leiji Matsumoto manga. Despite the Yamato image on the cover, the content was an overview of his other titles, including a reprint of his pivotal 1969 SF manga Daffin, which was the first to use the term “Space Wave-Motion Theory.”
Leiji Matsumoto Anime Fantasy World
128 pages, November 1980, Kindaieiga-sha
This was the first large-format book to explore Matsumoto’s anime projects, which by this time included Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999 and a movie titled The Legend of Marine Snow. Read a short Yamato essay from this book here.
All of Leiji Matsumoto
16 pages, 1980, unknown publisher
This slim magazine resembled a movie program book and coincided with the debut of Matsumoto’s next major TV series, Queen Millennia.
Leiji Matsumoto’s Special Collection
282 pages, March 1982, Asahi Sonorama
Shown above left is the dustjacket for this keepsake hardcover, a “best of” collection representing Matsumoto’s personal favorites. There is one chapter from each of his best-known titles with Eternal Story of Jura representing Yamato. (Read it here.)
Frontline People: Leiji Matsumoto
192 pages, January 1983, Fututake Publishing Co.
This was one volume in a series of books about various individuals at the “frontline” of Japanese culture. It included several interviews with Matsumoto on a variety of subjects, covered much of his personal history, and offered readers valuable tips on pursuing a career in manga or anime, replete with cartoons and photos.
Comic Gon magazine
May 1998, Million Mook Publishing
This contained the first articles to comment on the beginning of Matsumoto’s tenure as a Yamato copyright holder. Read his entire interview here, which includes his first announcement of a new Yamato story.
Figure King magazine #22
June 1999, World Photo Press
Dedicated to toy collecting, this magazine published a 24-page career retrospective on Matsumoto with a special emphasis on toy merchandising from his various anime and manga titles.
The Space Battleship Yamato Legacy
July 1999, Footwork
This was the first full book written during Matsumoto’s copyright tenure, and devotes an entire chapter to an interview. Read it in full here.
This is Manga!
November 1999, Media Factory
A retrospective of classic manga, this book was the first to reprint a little-known picture story Matsumoto illustrated for Shogakukan’s 5th Grader magazine while the first Yamato TV series was on the air. Read all about it here.
Super Mecha Illustration
October 2000, Graphic Co.
This art book showcases the work of a popular studio run by painter Koizumi Kazuaki, a former assistant to Matsumoto. He now specializes in high-end mecha illustration for posters and product packaging. 8 pages are dedicated to Matsumoto spaceships, and Koizumi speaks with special pride about his rendering of Yamato, which was used on several products, such as…
From The Far Place Where
the Ring of Time is Linked
190 pages, August 2002, Tokyo Shoseki
This is Matsumoto’s autobiography, which covers his entire career in colorful detail. Read the Yamato chapter here.
Outer Space of Leiji Matsumoto
(Conte de liens d’eternitie)
November 2003, Yahata Shoten
This thick hardcover covers Matsumoto’s entire manga career with analysis of key titles and a complete publishing record from 1947 to 2003.
World of Leiji Matsumoto
240 pages, August 2005, Tatsumi Mook
This volume is another excellent retrospective of Matsumoto’s most popular manga titles with a generous amount of artwork from SF and “real world” stories alike. Read an excerpt here.
Future Creation/Dream Concepts
199 pages, September 2010, Kadokawa Publishing
With the live-action Yamato movie on the horizon, Leiji Matsumoto began a personal campaign to remind the world of his critical role in the making of the original. This paperback was the first step, part biography and part creative thesis about his approach to storytelling and design for all manner of projects.
Proverbs That Fly to the Future:
Quotations from Yamato and Galaxy Express
195 pages, November 2010, Bamboo Books
This is a substantial compendium of memorable (and quotable) scenes from Matsumoto’s vault of manga titles. Yamato and Galaxy Express are just the beginning; Captain Harlock, Queen Millennia, Gun Frontier, and many more are included. While there is black and white manga art on almost every page, there isn’t much context; casual fans are better off going for the originals.
Leiji Matsumoto Seminal SF Anthology
December 2010, Shogakukan Creative
“From Lightning Ozma to Space Battleship Yamato” is the secondary title of this unique box set of books from Matsumoto’s early career in SF manga. In keeping with other 2010 publications, its purpose is to examine the precise nature of his role in the development of Yamato. To that end, all his most influential manga has been gathered and reprinted in this collection.
The contents are: 1) a 2-volume reprint of Lightning Ozma from 1961-63 in which Matsumoto first revived Yamato as a space battleship, 2) Yamato Creation Note, a 32-page reproduction of his story notes for the anime, 3) A commentary pamphlet containing short interviews with Matsumoto, Aritsune Toyota, and Yasuhiko Yoshikazu, and 4) Seminal SF Anthology, a 160-page compilation of manga titles in which a key Yamato design or concept originated. Also included is a reprint of Matsumoto’s seldom-seen “Picture Story” for Series 1.
Owing to the eclectic nature of this package and the difficulty of tracking down each individual title, fans who are driven to have the roots of Yamato at their fingertips should make an effort to acquire this keepsake. Unfortunately, the initial print run appears to have sold out, so grab it wherever you can find it.
Words of Life Taught by Leiji Matsumoto
by Soichiro Miyakawa
174 pages, Quen Publications, June 2011
This book examines scenes from Matsumoto’s most popular manga for the wisdom of their philosophy. Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express, Oidon Man, and The Cockpit are included. The scene chosen from Yamato is from the opening chapter, Okita’s battleship at Pluto.
The Universe of Leiji Matsumoto
312 pages, Shogakukan Publishing, August 2013
A flurry of Leiji Matusmoto books appeared just ahead of the Captain Harlock feature film premiere. This one cherry-picked some of his most memorable manga stories from all genres including Harlock, Galaxy Express, Sexaroid, Oidon Man, Gun Frontier and many more. The Yamato chapter was a new reprint of Eternal Story of Jura, which can be read here.
If you’re a casual fan hoping for a grab-bag manga sampler of the Leijiverse, this book is a treasure trove. Order it from Amazon.co.jp here.
Leiji Matsumoto Pia
98 pages, Pia Publishing, September 2013
If you’re looking for a quick-and-easy compendium of Matsumoto’s works past and present, Pia is an excellent choice. Full color from cover to cover, it weighs in favor of the 2013 Harlock movie and carries everything else along for the ride, including an overview of his other manga and anime works. Most noteworthy is the rare opportunity to see design art for the as-yet-unproduced Cosmo Super Dreadnought Mahoroba anime.
Order it from Amazon.co.jp here.
Space Pirate Captain Harlock
Manga series, Akita Shoten, August 2014-present
Champion Red, a monthly manga anthology published by Akita Shoten, caught the eye of Leiji Matsumoto fans with the October 2014 issue (published August), which featured the first chapter in a brand new Captain Harlock series that stands out from its predecessors in several ways.
Most significantly, it isn’t drawn by Leiji Matsumoto. Instead, the artist’s name is Kouichi Shimahochi, with Matsumoto credited as the supervisor. The story is titled Dimension Voyage, and though it begins as a remake of the original Space Pirate, it seems positioned to accomplish a goal Matsumoto has flirted with for many years: to bring all the Harlock mythos together in one story.
Read more about it here.
60th Anniversary Creative Works
136 pages, Gakken, February 2014
This book accompanied a lecture tour Matsumoto conducted in 2013 to celebrate his 60th anniversary as a professional artist. A mix of color and black and white, it contains two classic manga chapters from Captain Harlock and Queen Emeraldas along with an extensive career retrospective with samples of his work from all media.
Order it from Amazon.co.jp here.
Zero Dimensional Machine Travelogue
272 pages, Shogakukan, June 2015
This stunning collection is a compendium of collaborative works between Matsumoto and mecha designer Katsumi Itabashi. In it, Itabashi assembles his best and most elaborate works from Galaxy Express, Captain Harlock, Great Yamato and many other titles to present them in their original form and spruced up with modern digital color techniques. There is also a smattering of Itabashi’s designs from Yamato 2 and Final Yamato.
Order it from Amazon.co.jp here.
Leiji Matsumoto Big Analysis
128 pages, March 2016, Sanei
All the major titles are covered in this deluxe magazine (Harlock, Galaxy Express, Yamato, etc.) with loads of art both new and old and lots of data on spinoff projects, merchandising, publishing history, etc. Many such books have been published, but every new one has its own treasures and perspectives.
Professional Manga Techniques: The Manga of Leiji Matsumoto
142 pages, July 2017, Genkosha
This is an excellent resource for classic Matsumoto art from the 60s and 70s, collecting many color paintings done for posters, manga, and other special projects. Yamato is represented alongside his other major titles, and dozens of pieces are analyzed for their technique. Also included is a rare episode of his Sexaroid manga and a reprint of a booklet on manga techniques by Matsumoto himself.
Order it from Amazon Japan here.
How to Draw SF Mecha starting from Leiji Meters
168 pages, August 2017, Genkosha
As a companion to the book described above, this full color volume is by Leiji Matsumoto’s longtime mecha design collaborator Katsumi Itabashi. It provides step-by-step instruction of his process for creating elaborate mecha at all scales from control panels to gigantic space stations. Most of the subjects are original Itabashi creations, but Matsumoto’s Galaxy Express is included. The name of the book derives from the famous “Leiji Meters,” those impossibly complex gauges that populate his SF manga. If you ever wanted to draw one yourself, this is the book you’ve been waiting for.
Order it from Amazon Japan here.
Leiji Matsumoto Infinite Creation Orbit
80th Anniversary Chronicle
Shogakukan, February 2018, 208 pages
This thick volume provides an extensive overview of Matsumoto’s manga career, dividing up his enormous number of titles into genre categories and punctuating it with interviews, side projects, and actual comics. Other books have done the same, but this one is the thickest and contains a larger amount of illustrations than its predecessors.
Order it from Amazon.co.jp here.
Classic Anime Great Analysis
San-ei Publishing, June 2018, 128 pages
Despite the promise of its title, this large format magazine is entirely occupied with the various iterations of Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 with no space given to Matsumoto’s many other anime productions. That’s no reason to bypass it, since the coverage is still comprehensive and colorful, but you’ll need to look elsewhere for lesser-known anime titles.
Order it from Amazon.co.jp here.
Part 2: Merchandising
Yamato merchandising specific to Matsumoto was sparse during the production years and often shared space with other programs, such as the two vintage posters shown above. The first has an unknown pedigree, but the second was a tie-in with the first all-Matsumoto song LP from Nippon Columbia, World of Leiji Matsumoto (1979). Many more such collections would follow as the number of memorable theme songs piled up. (See a partial discography here.)
His true contribution to Yamato merchandising began with his copyright tenure in 1998 when, in cooperation with Bandai Visual and Tohokushinsha Film Corp., he helped usher in an avalanche of new products that continues to this day. All the products with a specific Matsumoto connection are shown here.
A fresh release of the entire Yamato anime catalog on home video was the first order of business, with Emotion (the video branch of Bandai) leading the charge. Package art for the 2nd and 3rd series was revived from previous editions (released in 1992 and 1994 respectively), but the look of Series 1 and the movies was all new. Artist Toshihiro Kawamoto, the architect of a brilliant new take on Matsumoto character design in such anime projects as The Cockpit and Queen Emeraldas, was hired to mimic the Matsumoto style again for the new packaging. His work graced the VHS and LD sleeves, then made the transition to DVD in 1999. Click here to get a look at the complete history of Yamato on home video.
The next big thing to happen was the Rail of Fantasy concert in August 1998 to commemorate Leiji Matsumoto’s 45th year as an artist. Hiroshi Miyagawa and other luminaries performed concerts in both ’98 and ’99 with Yamato music front and center. Shown here are CD releases, a program book, and a phone card (above). Learn more about the concerts here and read an interview from the program book here.
Here is the program book for the following year; the embossed lettering on the cover reads:
1999 Sept., Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Leiji Matsumoto.
In November 1998, toy manufacturer Mimuko (another division of Bandai) released a commemorative reproduction of the diecast Yamato toy originally made by Nomura in 1978. The packaging (above left) included a message from Matsumoto that was as good a signal as any that the house was under new management: “Yamato is a nation’s utopia and also one of the original points of my animation. I am still continuing my endless voyage across the sea of stars with Yamato. Let’s take this voyage together as crew members and also as companions.”
Mimuko then kicked of the Leiji Matsumoto Museum Collection (center) in the summer of 1999, a series of high-quality miniatures in heavy polystone. See the entire lineup here.
A 1/2000 scale Yamato (above right) manufactured by F Toys appeared in 2006. A special edition was made for the gift shop at the Battleship Yamato Museum in Kure, Japan. Matsumoto himself approved the design and appears on the box. Get a better look at this toy here.
By far the biggest thing to happen during the Matsumoto tenure was the arrival of Space Battleship Yamato on the Sony Playstation in February 1999. Working closely with Bandai’s game division, it was the nearest opportunity he would have to remake the original. A huge volume of new artwork and animation was created for six games that encompassed the first series, Farewell to Yamato, The New Voyage, and Be Forever.
The gameplay was tactical in nature, heavy on text and impenetrable to many non-Japanese speakers, but they were tremendously popular in their home country and played a huge role in the Yamato renaissance. The final game was released April, 2005.
Learn much more about these games here.
1999 marked Yamato‘s 25th anniversary, and if the Playstation games weren’t enough to remind everyone of this, plenty of trinkets were there to do the job. Toy and novelty maker Unifive (yet another subsidiary of Bandai) offered a limited edition set of finely-sculpted lapel pins. 2,000 such sets were made, and had the distinction of including character names in English.
Since anyone who watched Yamato as a child was now old enough to smoke, Unifive made this handsome anniversary Zippo lighter, also in limited quantities. The copyright names are abbreviated as LM (Leiji Matsumoto), TFC (Tohokushinsha Film Corp.) and BV (Bandai Visual). This lighter was re-released as a tie in with Matsumoto’s Great Yamato in 2001. See that version here.
Finally, this classy set of four anniversary Zippos was crafted by the
Yutaka company and only carried Matsumoto’s name as the copyright holder.
One more release from 1999 was this pair of Yuki t-shirts, cleverly sold in her twin uniform colors. The illustration was specific to the shirt and does not appear to have been used elsewhere.
In 2000, Matsumoto’s attention was focused on the all-new Great Yamato manga, which generated merchandising of its own (see a record of that here). He also formed a working relationship with software manufacturer Venture Soft that would lead to many more projects. Venture Soft’s creativity apparently went beyond computers, judging by this limited edition (600) bottle of Leiji Matsumoto wine they released in January 2000. The presence of Yuki on the label officially makes it a Yamato tie-in.
Just as Space Battleship Yamato revolutionized the world of anime, Hiroshi Miyagawa’s amazing score revolutionized the world of anime soundtrack music. Leiji Matsumoto had always been a fan of classical symphonies, so it was a natural choice to maintain the symphonic tradition in his subsequent animated works, starting with the Danguard Ace TV series in 1977 and continuing all the way to the present with such titles as Galaxy Railways.
This 10-CD collection (which came with a book of liner notes, a mouse pad, and a wristwatch) brought together favorite scores and unreleased tracks into one gigantic omnibus. Two discs were devoted to Yamato music, and the rest of the set covered various iterations of Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express and Queen Millennia along with lesser-known titles such as The Legend of Marine Snow, Queen Emeraldas, and Danguard Ace.
The Yamato discs were notable for the inclusion of every version of the original opening title plus a previously-unreleased instrumental of Yamato ’83. The Music Encyclopedia was limited to 1999 copies. Liner notes for the set were penned by Yu Hayakaya, who also authored text for the Eternal Edition CD series.
Read a detailed history of Yamato music here.
In the pre-cel phone era of the early 1990s, telephone cards swept through Japan like a typhoon. And of course, everywhere you’ve got a flat, blank surface there’s a licensing tie-in waiting to happen. Yamato phone cards appeared before 2000, of course, but others specific to Leiji Matsumoto’s many creations were quick to follow.
Shogakukan, always knowing a good promo when they saw it, threw their own weight behind a tie-in with Matsumoto’s Great Yamato with the cards shown above.
“Beat Mania” (Bemani for short) was a mega-popular video arcade game series released by Konami, which was accompanied by a broad lineup of console and handheld versions. The game worked a little like Tetris, but used descending musical notes rather than blocks. As these games expanded they began to incorporate anime theme songs, and that’s where the Matsumoto connection comes in. This was the third in the “Bemani Pocket Series,” a game called Anison[g] Mix 3. Released in the summer of 2000, it contained themes from Yamato, Galaxy Express, Captain Harlock, and other Matsumoto titles. The skull and crossbones emblem was specific to this game.
See another game from the “Pocket Series” (devoted to Mazinger Z) in action here.
The Seiko company had a long history of anime tie-ins that began with an alliance with the God of Manga himself, Osamu Tezuka in the early 70s. They produced two Yamato watches in 2000. One was a Great Yamato tie-in, and this offering in Seiko’s “TV Hero” line came with a bonus metal Yamato to dangle from whatever was handy.
Seiko followed up with this Teresa pocket watch in 2001, also accompanied by the Matsumoto signature.
In the summer of 1998, a popular art exhibition called The World of Leiji Matsumoto was held at Japan’s Kagamigahara aerospace science museum, kicking off a tour through more cities over the next two years. In the wake of this, he signed with a broker named Art Collection House to reproduce high-quality lithographs of his favorite paintings in signed-and-numbered limited editions of 250 each.
A similar deal was struck in early 2001 with an anime speciality goods store called Anime World Star. This time, a set of six new images referred to as ‘Limited Edition Cel Art’ was commissioned from artist Keisuke Masunaga, character designer of the Yamato Playstation games. All six of these images can be seen here and here.
The World of Leiji Matsumoto Exhibition had become a sort of annual event after its kickoff in 1998. The touring show commenced in the summer of ’99 to mark Yamato‘s 25th anniversary (and the debut of the Playstation game) and visited seven cities over twelve months. Doubtless much of the merchandise shown on this page was available in the gift shop. The World of Leiji Matsumoto II was a more modest affair with only three stops in June of 2000. A postcard promoting the latter two stops (in Osaka and Aichi) is shown below.
The Big Leiji Matsumoto Exhibition advertised on the flyer above was a revival of sorts, happening July-September 2001 at the Isetan department store in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The back of the flyer (above right) gives a sense of the event’s layout with all sorts of interactive attractions that must have kept fans drooling for hours. The photos indicate that artwork was accompanied by real-world artifacts such as the famed Revi C12D gunsight that figured prominently in his Battlefield manga stories and the 1982 Captain Harlock movie, My Youth in Arcadia.
See an enlargement of this flyer here.
Promotional flyers for another such exhibition are shown at left.
One of the products that was almost certainly sold in the exhibition’s gift shop was this limited edition (500) Zippo lighter triple set that combined to form a Yamato profile. Sold in an undoubtedly wallet-busting wood case, this handsome collector’s item was the masterpiece of Bandai’s Unifive division, maker of the previous 25th anniversary lighters.
The poster above promotes another Matsumoto exhibition from Art Collection House, probably a smaller affair that is difficult to date. The poster at right, however, probably got printed near the beginning of their relationship with Matsumoto if the quote is any indication: “Leiji Matsumoto has just made a fresh start.”
More goods that were probably available in the gift shop: a Teresa postcard and a pair of clear files, plastic sleeves meant to hold whatever papers you’re traveling with…
…large and small shopping bags to carry home your Matsumoto loot…
…a set of cards from Art Collection House Ltd., packaged in a CD jewel case
(there were 14 in total, half of which were Yamato images)…
…and another set of postcards that were certainly more affordable than an art book. Of all these products, the only one with a firm date is the calendar poster (above right) which would have been released in late 2003.
Matsumoto no longer had a controlling interest in the Yamato copyright after 2003, but another set of high-end Yamato products was still to come. Designer toy manufacturer Zero Goods Universe became his art broker in 2005 and worked with his wife Maki Miyako, a skilled artist and dollmaker, to develop the “Leiji Character Doll Series.” Since their launch in February ’05, they have produced over 30 such dolls from his major works, with Yuki [Nova] variants dominating the line. They continue to be made today, and the entire lineup can be seen at their website.
See all of their Yamato dolls here.
It should come as no surprise that Matsumoto is alive and well and still very active today. One signal of this could be found in Shinjuku, Tokyo in the month of October 2008. A thoroughfare was lined with posters promoting the Takarazuka University of Art and Design, at which Matsumoto now serves as a Professor for the Department of Media and Contents. (Both of the posters shown here specifically mention a “manga course.”)
Finally, the “Leiji Future” mini-convention has become an annual event; a single-day gathering that gives fans a chance to meet the man and spend a day in Matsumoto’s private universe. Leiji Future 2007 was the first and it has reconvened every December since then. The day typically starts with a dealer’s area and autograph session. In the afternoon it shifts over to a talk show with Matsumoto and a few of his friends from the anime and manga industries. English-speaking fans began to attend Leiji Future in 2009 and have written eyewitness reports for each of them.
As active and energetic as he still is, there is no doubt that Leiji Matsumoto will invent new reasons for this page to be updated on a regular basis.
Continue the Journey:
Click here to see a gallery of products for Great Yamato
Click here to see a gallery of products for Dai Yamato Zero Go