A memoir of Leiji Matsumoto, 1938-2023
The news of Leiji Matsumoto’s passing was not unexpected. He had reached the age of 85, and we were already on notice after a health scare in November 2019. That didn’t make it any easier to bear. After the customary week-long period of privacy for his family, the following announcement was made by his daughter:
Manga Artist Leiji Matsumoto departed for the sea of stars at a hospital in Tokyo on February 13, 2023, at the age of 85. A funeral has already been held with his next of kin. I believe that he had a happy life as a manga artist who was always thinking about storytelling.
“We will meet again at a place that connects to the distant ring of time.”
We believe in his words and look forward to that day.
To all the fans who have supported us so far
To all the companies that have brought our works to the world
To all the local governments and organizations that have been so kind to us
To all the manga artists who have worked with us since we were young
And to all the people at the hospital who supported us on our journey.
Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart.
Please refrain from sending incense, flowers, or telegrams of condolence. They will be accepted at a farewell party to be held at a later date. The details of the farewell party have not yet been decided.
February 20, 2023
Makiko Matsumoto, Representative Director, Leijisha (Zero Company)
See the announcement on Leijisha’s Twitter page here
The news rippled outward, gaining speed and impact as it rebounded all over the globe. Few people give us gifts we can carry for the rest of our lives, even fewer from across oceans on the other side of a language barrier. Leiji Matsumoto was indisputably one of them. He left so much of himself behind for us, we will likely never live long enough to absorb it all.
Over time, Cosmo DNA has played a major role in translating Mr. Matsumoto’s words for greater consumption and understanding. They can be found in all corners of the site, with the greatest concentration here. You can also explore extensive galleries of publications here and spinoff products here.
This page is about the man himself, as reflected through the memories and news stories that exploded across Japanese media (and elsewhere) upon the news of his loss. As a wise man once said, you learn the true worth of a man not by the amount of money in his bank account, but the number of tears shed at his funeral. By that reckoning, Leiji Matsumoto was wealthy beyond measure.
Visual coverage (Japanese)
Leiji Matsumo, creator of Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato Dies at 85
Cinema Daily US
Leiji Matsumoto, known for antiwar anime, space tales, dies
Leiji Matsumoto, famed for Space Battleship Yamato anime, dies at 85
The Japan Times
Japanese manga artist Matsumoto Leiji dies
NHK World Japan
Leiji Matsumoto (1938-2023)
by Helen McCarthy, All The Anime.com
Legendary Manga and Anime Creator Leiji Matsumoto Passes Away at 85
Legendary Manga Creator Leiji Matsumoto Passes Away at 85
Anime News Network
Anime, Manga Industry Members Honor Leiji Matsumoto’s Memory
Anime News Network
Galaxy Express 999 manga artist Leiji Matsumoto dies at 85
Translator’s note: “Shimbun” is the Japanese word for “Newspaper.” Click on publication names to see the original articles. Some content has been edited to reduce repetition.
Nikkan Sports and Sankei Sports, February 21
Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999 director Leiji Matsumoto dies at 85 of acute heart failure
Leiji Matusmoto was born on January 25, 1938 in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture. He started drawing when he was 6 years old, and started drawing manga when he was 9 years old, influenced by Osamu Tezuka. His professional debut was Adventure of a Honeybee in Manga Shonen magazine.
Leiji Matsumoto’s wife is Miyako Maki, a manga artist
Miyako Maki is 87 years old (as of 2023), three years older than Leiji Matsumoto. They were manga artists, and they met at Osamu Tezuka’s home.
They were later married in 1962, when Leiji Matsumoto was 24 and Miyako Maki was 27. It is said that Miyako Maki was so beautiful when she was young that even Osamu Tezuka was surprised by her beauty. They continued to be known as a loving couple.
Her representative works include The Woman with the Scarlet Monogram, The Tale of Genji, The Legend of Evil Women, and Maki’s Whistle”.
The couple in 1968 (with the first Mi-kun)
Photo posted on Twitter by Leijisha
Family Structure of Leiji Matsumoto!
Also, how he met his wife, Miyako Maki!
Name: Miyako Maki
Date of birth: July 29, 1935
Age: 87 years old
Occupation: Manga artist
Genre: Girls’ manga
Birthplace: Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture
1974 Japan Cartoonists Association Award
1988 Shogakukan Manga Artist Award
After graduating from high school, Miyako Maki worked at a bank, but left because her family’s wholesale store was short on staff. She became interested in manga while helping out at her parents’ store. She then started writing manga and made her debut in 1957 with Hana Koi Waltz. In the 1960s, she worked for Ribbon (Shueisha) and Shojo Friend (Kodansha) before turning to women’s manga. Currently, she also writes sensual manga such as Akujyo Bible (Bad Girl Bible) in weekly and youth magazines.
Miyako Maki illustrated the first Rika-chan, one of Japan’s most popular dress-up dolls. An advertisement for which accompanied by the words, “supervised by the great artist, Miyako Maki.”
Leiji Matsumoto and Miyako Maki were married in 1961. At the time, Leiji Matsumoto was 24 years old and Miyako Maki was 27. They met at Osamu Tezuka’s home. Before Miyako Maki debuted as a manga artist, she took her manuscript to a publisher, who showed her Osamu Tezuka’s manuscript as a guide for writing manga. From there, she wrote her debut work, Mother Love Waltz, and made her debut.
When Leiji Matsumoto was in high school, he was an assistant to Osamu Tezuka. That is how they became friends. Leiji and Miyako met at Osamu Tezuka’s home and developed a relationship. Also, Miyako’s beauty at that time was remarkable. Perhaps Leiji Matsumoto fell in love with her beauty.
Leiji Matsumoto and Miyako Maki have one child (daughter), Makiko Matsumoto. She is the president of Leijisha, the company to which her parents belong. Her private information, such as her age and appearance, has not been made public.
Model for Captain Okita of Space Battleship Yamato revealed
The model for Captain Okita was Matsumoto’s father Tsuyoshi.
“I was proud of my father. He was born in Ehime, a local samurai of the Ozu clan, and graduated from the Army War College, a narrow gateway to success. He joined the air force and worked as a test pilot for state-of-the-art aircraft.”
Tsuyoshi was taken prisoner of war immediately after the war’s end and sent to the Indonesian island of Lembang, just below the equator, where he spent time in internment. It was not until the summer of 1945, one year after the war’s end, that Mr. Matsumoto was reunited with his father, who had returned to Japan.
“I loved hearing stories from my father,” he said. He used to tell me that when flying at night in the southern night sky, you can’t tell what is above or below you, and it feels like you’re flying through a sea of stars. He said that in daytime the ocean is so clear that a ship appears to float in the sky. There were some stories about planets and nebulae, the probability of the existence of aliens, and the relationship between distance and time, but I think these stories of my father’s inspired me to draw manga set in space and in the sky in later years.”
Mr. Matsumoto revealed that the model for Captain Okita of Space Battleship Yamato was Tsuyoshi. We pray for his soul rest in peace.
The origin of Leiji Matsumoto’s science-fiction manga was his father, an army pilot
Mr. Matsumoto’s science-fiction works set in the magnificent universe were loved around the world. A major influence was his father Tsuyoshi, an army pilot. He was in charge of test flights of new aircraft at an aircraft factory. At home, there were tools for flying and combat, and when Matsumoto played with a gun with his older brother, he was scolded severely. It was around this time that his love of weapons and mechanisms began.
At the end of World War II, he was evacuated to Ehime. A large force of U.S. B-29 fighter planes flew overhead. While he experienced the fear of falling bombs, the beauty of the starry sky he looked up at made his yearning for space grow. After the war ended, his father was taken prisoner and was not able to see the family again until a year later. He was expelled from public office and lived in poverty, which gave him a rebellious spirit. He continued to emphasize the “preciousness of life,” which he learned from his father’s war experiences, through his Battlefield Manga Series and other works.
His depictions of mechanical objects based on his vast scientific knowledge became the starting point for many of his science-fiction works. He studied history, ideology, religion, beliefs, and various other subjects with great enthusiasm, saying, “I want to make a work that will not hurt anyone.” It was for this reason that his works were loved universally.
Even in unrealistic science-fiction works, he depicted realistic human drama. The main male characters he portrayed were often long-bodied and short-legged, like Tetsuro Hoshino in Galaxy Express 999. He continued to depict people with blood in their veins. After moving to Tokyo, he lived in poverty in a small room at the Yamakoshikan boarding house in Hongo, which had a great influence on his work. His favorite dish, ramen noodles, often appears in his works. Although it seemed unbalanced with the universe in which it was set, his line, “the eternal friend to mankind’s mouth,” is the most human expression of his personality.
He was also a romantic. He liked to develop his stories as if they were guided by fate, and he had many catchy lines. Captain Harlock’s belief was “Under my banner I live free.” From the reality of his impoverished life, he was romantic about the universe. It was Mr. Matsumoto himself, a realist and romantic, who was projected in his works.
Farewell to Leiji Matsumoto in Nerima, Tokyo, where he lived
Mr. Matsumoto contributed to the local community in a wide range of fields and was well known for his friendly personality. Upon hearing the news of his death, many people visited the statues of Tetsuro and Maetel from Galaxy Express 999 in front of Oizumigakuen Station on the Seibu Ikebukuro Line, offering flowers and taking pictures.
Kenichiro Maruta, 53, a musician from the same ward who was playing a memorial song on his guitar, said, “I am of the generation that saw Galaxy Express 999 in the movie theater. At a time when the Cold War between East and West was still going on, this movie left a deep impression on me because it made me think from a larger perspective that we are all members of the same crew on the same planet. Thank you for the dream. Please rest in peace.”
A housewife, 42, from the same ward said, “I have been watching anime since I was a child. It is sad to see the times change.”
Mr. Matsumoto was a longtime supporter of the ward government, participating in meetings and events to study the strengthening of the animation industry. He has also served as stationmaster of Oizumigakuen Station for a day, and was elected an honorary ward resident in 2008. A ward official recalled, “He was always friendly and made a great effort to create a lively atmosphere.”
Mayor Yosio Maekawa commented, “He has made a great contribution by cooperating in the design of the station and by providing the characters to local shopping associations free of charge.”
Sports Nippon and Chunichi Sports, February 21
Mourning in Kitakyushu, where Leiji Matsumoto grew up
A giant star has fallen. In Kitakyushu City, where Leiji Matsumoto grew up, those who were related to him bid him farewell.
According to Mr. Matsumoto’s younger brother, Susumu Matsumoto (78), professor emeritus at Waseda University, Leiji Matsumoto was inspired by the culture of Kokura Ward, and began drawing manga. He said that his brother always said, “Kokura raised me,” and that he was very attached to the city. He returned to his hometown from time to time and served as the first honorary director of the Kitakyushu Manga Museum from 2012 to 2009.
Hajime Ogino, 85, a sophomore at Kokura Minami High School in Kokura Minami Ward, remembers Mr. Matsumoto saying, ‘After graduation, I will move to Tokyo and become a manga artist.’ Mr. Ogino said, “At field day, we handed out bulletins to report the progress of the event. I wrote the text and he did the illustrations. The face of Maetel, the heroine of Galaxy Express 999, was the very girl he was drawing at the time.”
Tomoyuki Omote, 53, a specialist researcher at the Manga Museum, said, “The museum owes a lot to Mr. Matsumoto. He was a great help to us from start to finish. When I heard the news of his death, I was saddened and at the same time filled with gratitude. When we asked him if we could use the characters from his works on manhole covers in the city, he always readily agreed, saying, ‘If it is for Kitakyushu’.” The museum exhibits Mr. Matsumoto’s achievements and works. Mr. Omote said, “Many of his works are universal. I believe I have been entrusted with the role of passing them on to the next generation of artists. I would like to convey this message to them, even if it is only in a small way.
A woman in her 70s from Kitakyushu City commented, “He was well versed in a wide range of genres, and I think he made many suggestions, especially about the future and war. I was glad to see that he remembered his hometown, the names of places in Kokura such as Sunatsu and the Kanmon Tunnel, as the motif of his works.”
Manga artist Leiji Matsumoto, born in Fukuoka Prefecture, mourned in his hometown
In 2012, Maetel and Tetsuro from Leiji Matsumoto’s masterpiece Galaxy Express 999 and Space Pirate Captain Harlock appeared as monuments at JR Kokura Station in Kokurakita Ward, Kitakyushu City, and are well known to citizens and tourists.
Leiji Matsumoto was born in 1938 in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture. He later served as the first honorary director of the Kitakyushu Manga Museum, having spent his childhood until he moved to Tokyo as a manga artist in what is now Kitakyushu City.
In a corner of the Kitakyushu Manga Museum, there is a special corner dedicated to Leiji Matsumoto, who has spread his wings from Kitakyushu to the world. Mr. Tomoyuki Omote of the Kitakyushu Manga Museum said, “We would like to spread the word about the achievements left behind by the great manga artist Leiji Matsumoto, who created characters that everyone knows and loves, and his passion for Kitakyushu.”
In 2010, the Kitakyushu Monorail operated a Galaxy Express 999-wrapped monorail designed by Mr. Matsumoto. Also, Galaxy Express 999 was used as the departure announcement sound at JR Kokura Station on the Sanyo Shinkansen. At the commemorative departure ceremony, Mr. Matsumoto expressed his feelings toward Kokura, saying, “Kokura is the most important place on earth for me. How happy I am to hear this song played there.”
Sadanori Iwashita of the Otoarai Peace Memorial Museum in Chikuzen Town, Fukuoka Prefecture, where Mr. Matsumoto gave a lecture before his death, recalls that Mr. Matsumoto “had a very strong desire for peace, and in his lecture he said, ‘We were not born to die, we were born to live’.”
During the war, Mr. Matsumoto’s father, who was a pilot at the Otoarai Airfield, told him about the horror and sadness of war. At the same time, his father’s dream of flying was the starting point of his work. “When he was flying over the clear water, he would say, ‘It was like flying in space,’ so I imagined it on my own,” said Matsumoto.
After continuing to draw works filled with thoughts of peace and dreams of the sky, Matsumoto departed for the sea of stars where the characters he created await.
In memory of Mr. Leiji Matsumoto, the man who created the image of Galaxy Express 999 in his hometown
The news of the death of manga artist Leiji Matsumoto spread sorrow in the Niiya district of Ozu City, Ehime Prefecture, where he spent his childhood in an evacuation zone during the Pacific War. The steam locomotive he saw running at the foot of a mountain under a star-filled sky in the area inspired his masterpiece Galaxy Express 999, and he showed up at events in the area from 2006 to 2013. The chairman of the organization that hosted the event said, “He willingly became the center of local revitalization. He is a source of pride for the local community.”
In 1944, when he was 6 years old, Mr. Matsumoto was evacuated to his parents’ hometown of Ozu City. He attended elementary school, where he spent about three years. In 2012, about 65 years later, he presented the mural “Departure from Home” (2.3 meters long by 5.8 meters wide) to his alma mater in conjunction with the construction of a new school building. A train runs through the sky against the backdrop of the landscape of the district. The mural is believed to be based on a memorable scene seen from his mother’s family home, and has become a symbol of the local community.
Koichi Otsuka, 79, chairman of a local community revitalization group, said, “Mr. Matsumoto was always surrounded by children at the events he planned. I was surprised to see a Russian woman dressed as Maetel (the main character in the 999 series), which proves that she was loved all over the world.”
From Ichiro Mizuki’s staff (posted on Twitter):
Mr. Leiji Matsumoto has passed away. We wonder if they are now reunited beyond the sea of stars. Thank you for bringing Mizuki and Harlock together. We pray for his soul, rest in peace.
Takuya Kimura, star of the live-action Space Battleship Yamato, mourns Leiji Matsumoto
Actor Takuya Kimura (50) updated his Instagram Stories on January 20, mourning manga artist Leiji Matsumoto. Kimura starred in the live-action movie Space Battleship Yamato (2010), one of Matsumoto’s masterpieces. He added an image of the movie and said, “I pray for the repose of the soul of Mr. Leiji Matsumoto. Many dreams and courage.”
Sports Journal, February 21
Tetsuya Chiba: “All the strength in my body is drained away”
Manga artist Tetsuya Chiba, who was a longtime friend of Leiji Matsumoto, posted a memorial message on his official website:
It has been more than 60 years since I met Leiji Matsumoto, then 19 years old, having just graduated from high school and moved to Tokyo from Kokura in Kitakyushu. I was 18 years old, the year after his debut. We were both aspiring manga artists, and we hit it off because of our similar age. We were both still earning very little money and could not afford to eat well. Matsumoto-san used to say, “I want to eat beefsteak like a boss!” while drawing manga. We were both pressed for deadlines, and we worked together at the same desk in the same room. I was a slow writer even then, so I sometimes asked him to help me after he had finished his manuscript first.
When I was in the prime of my career at the age of 40, we traveled around the world together. The Amazon River and the ruins of Machu Picchu are some of my fondest memories from that trip. I had heard that he had fallen ill overseas and had not been recovering well, and I had been worried about him for a long time, but I had no idea. I am speechless. I had been feeling lonely for the past few years as my close manga artist friends left one after another, and now you have passed away as well. Already…all the strength in my body is draining out of me.
Voice actress Masako Nozawa:
“Please continue your pleasant journey”
Voice actress Masako Nozawa, who voiced the main character Tetsuro Hoshino in the anime Galaxy Express 999, said, “I had the opportunity to work with Mr. Matsumoto in so many places during the Galaxy Express 999 nationwide traveling events. I remember as if it were only yesterday that he was wearing a conductor’s uniform in Yamaguchi and was so happy to see me. When we were recording the movie version, he came to the studio and told us how nice it was, which made it very easy for us to perform. Whenever we met him, he always said, “Let’s do something with 999 sometime soon,” and I was looking forward to working with him again. I am sad that it will no longer be possible. I think the conductor is already waiting for us on the 999, so please continue to have a pleasant journey.”
Voice actress Masako Ikeda:
“My treasure for the rest of my life”
Voice actress Masako Ikeda, who voiced Maetel in the animated series Galaxy Express 999, said, “I am at a loss for words to express how I feel about the suddenness of this news. I can only express my gratitude to Mr. Matsumoto. I will treasure the experience of traveling with him for the rest of my life. I wish I could have met him again. I would like to express my deepest condolences.”
Singer Isao Sasaki: “I will continue to sing with the heart of his works”
Singer Isao Sasaki, who sang theme songs for TV animae such as Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999, commented on the passing of Leiji Matsumoto, saying, “I think he left for space with endless dreams. Thank you for all the guidance you gave me while you were alive. I will continue to sing with the heart of your works.”
Manga Artist Michiko Satonaka: “He was one of the main pillars of my work”
Manga artist Michiko Satonaka, who had been a close friend of Leiji Matsumoto for many years, said, “Leiji Matsumoto was one of the main pillars of my work, showing me in a tangible form what is important for a manga artist.
Ms. Satonaka said that she had been reading Ms. Matsumoto’s works since she was in junior high school, and “it was one of the reasons I decided to pursue this career. Each of his wonderful works has nurtured me. Once again, I would like to say thank you very much.”
She added, “It is important for a manga artist to be strongly aware of the need to draw something that is uniquely their own, and Mr. Matsumoto was one of the pillars that really showed that to me in a tangible way. Mr. Matsumoto himself was very romantic, like a dreaming boy, and this was directly reflected in his characters. It is a kind of romance that transcends national borders and ethnicities, and I think that is why it will never fade away and will never go out of style. I think it is the mission of the entire world to preserve his works and keep them alive, so I want to make sure that we protect them.”
Former astronaut Naoko Yamazaki:
“Please continue to watch over us”
Former astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, who says that Leiji Matsumoto’s works such as Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999 first sparked her interest in space, told NHK, “I am very sorry and sad. Mr. Matsumoto always put a lot of effort into educating the boys and girls of the future. I would like to carry on his legacy and pass it on to the next generation. I would like to offer my prayers to Mr. Matsumoto as he returns to space. Please continue to watch over us from space.”
The Chinese online media “Pen Pai” reported that “Leiji Matsumoto, one of Japan’s national treasure manga artists, passed away due to illness,” under the headline “In addition to the creation of manga, he made great achievements in the fields of astronomy, archaeology, weapons, and war history.”
Other Chinese media also reported that he was a pioneer of Japanese science-fiction manga.
On the Chinese version of Twitter, “Weibo,” comments on Matsumoto’s death were posted such as, “I pray for the repose of your soul” and “I am a vision of youth that was in your mind when you were a boy,” a reference to the character Maetel from Galaxy Express 999.
Hiroshima and Kure express their sadness
Leiji Matsumoto served as honorary director of the Battleship Yamato Museum in Kure City, which opened in 2005. At the time, he said, “Those who went down with the Battleship Yamato and those who were shot dead by the Battleship Yamato both had families, didn’t they? It was a matter of their lives.”
He had many connections with Hiroshima through the Battleship Yamato and Space Battleship Yamato. License plates for motorcycles designed by Mr. Matsumoto have been issued since 2013.
Kure City Mayor Yoshiaki Niihara commented, “The train arrival melody at Kure Station is Space Battleship Yamato. I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Mr. Leiji Matsumoto. I would like to thank him for his assistance in the construction and operation of the Yamato Museum, including the provision of materials and cooperation in the exhibition of his works. He also served as honorary director of the museum. We are sincerely grateful for Mr. Leiji Matsumoto’s contributions to the city of Kure. We will continue to make every effort to carry on his wishes and to encourage more people to visit the museum in the future.”
Ceremony in Tsuruga, 2003
Matsumoto World: Tsuruga’s Treasure,
a Monument that Continues to be Loved
Monuments related to Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato, two of Leiji Matsumoto’s masterpieces, line the shopping street in front of Tsuruga Station. Nearly a quarter of a century after their installation, there is still no end to the number of fans from inside and outside of the prefecture who visit the monuments and take pictures. On the 20th, when it was announced that Matsumoto had passed away, there was a wave of mourning in Tsuruga City.
The monument was installed in 1999 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of Tsuruga Port, and has become a familiar symbol at the entrance to Tsuruga, the “city of railroads and ports.”
Masaki Kawato (53), chairman of the Ekimae Shopping Center Promotion Association, said that when he visited Matsumoto’s home in 2004, he was encouraged to “make more use of the many monuments” and that he “was thinking of planning another event to mark the opening of the Shinkansen next spring. I am saddened by the sudden news.”
Kazuharu Kawase (71), the mayor of Honmachi, said, “He tried to enliven the city together with us through his work. He was also warm to the local community.” Around 1996, when Mr. Matsumoto visited the city for an event, Mr. Kawase asked him directly for permission to use the characters, and he readily agreed. After the monument was completed, Mr. Kawase often visited Mr. Matsumoto’s home in Tokyo to deepen their relationship. “He was always talking about how he wanted to give children dreams,” he said.
Mayor Takanobu Fuchigami also commented, “The monument is still loved by many people, and he made great efforts for the city’s tourism projects. I would like to pay tribute to his achievements and express my deepest gratitude for his support.”
Sports Nippon, February 21
Leiji Matsumoto showed his deep feeling for Kagoshima, the city of rockets
In 1995, Mr. Matsumoto visited Kanoya City to attend the Oosumi Division formation ceremony of the Japan Space Boys Club. When the children asked him for his autograph, he drew Maetel from Galaxy Express 999 on about 40 pieces of colored paper.
Hironobu Yasuyama (69), who acted as the sponsor, said, “Just by hearing the name ‘Osumi,’ they understood that it was named after the first Japanese satellite. I was impressed by the way he vividly talked about his dreams for space.”
In 2009, Mr. Matsumoto produced an original Galaxy Express 999 anime as a tourism PR film for the prefecture. The 999-second film (16 minutes and 39 seconds) was set in Kagoshima, which was the best place to observe the total solar eclipse that year, and Sakurajima and a sand steam hot spring also appeared in the film. Mr. Matsumoto was on hand for the opening of the film in Kagoshima City and said, “This is a story of a boy fulfilling his ambition, and I hope you will set off on the railroad track called life to pursue your own paths.”
Mr. Hidehito Mawari, a prefectural government official and director of the PR and Tourism Division, who communicated with Mr. Matsumoto, recalled, “He has the heart of a boy and was full of desire to give dreams and hopes to children.”
Hisatsu Orenji Railway has been operating 999-wrapped trains for over five years since July 2010. The trains attracted fans from inside and outside of the prefecture. A work depicting Maetel is on display in the mayor’s reception room at the Kimotsuki Town Hall. In 2012, Mr. Matsumoto presented the work to the “Galactic Federation,” a group of six municipalities across Japan that have space-related facilities.
Leiji Matsumoto, who was “supposed to be on Mars” and “wanted to see the Earth from space,” entrusted his alter ego, Tetsuro, with his dream
by Kenichi Sato, Culture Department
I visited Mr. Matsumoto many times at his home in Nerima Ward, Tokyo. I was always overwhelmed by his gritty, Kyushu-boy-like manner of speaking. Whenever we interviewed him in his parlor, where the walls are decorated with pictures of the Earth as seen from the moon, he passionately shared his dream of going to space.
The origin of his longing for space was when his father, who served as a test pilot in the former Japanese Army, told him as a child that night flights in the south were like flying through a sea of stars. He made his debut as a manga artist in his first year of high school, and after graduation he moved to Tokyo from Kokura, Fukuoka, where he crossed the Kanmon Straits on a steam locomotive.
The TV broadcast of Space Battleship Yamato (1974-75), in which he participated in anime production for the first time, suffered from low viewer ratings, but 999, a manga that he drew “with a kind of enlightenment” after being moved by the magnificent scenery of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa during a sabbatical, exploded in popularity. Together with Space Pirate Captain Harlock and other works, 999 ushered in the science-fiction boom with its elaborate depiction of mechanical engineering and romantic stories.
He also produced masterpieces in military history manga and the everyman genre, such as Otoko Oidon, which depicted life in poverty. He described his life as a cartoonist as “an eternal ronin who switched his sword for a pen,” living freely with only a pen to rely on. He lived out his love of manga in accordance with Harlock’s famous phrase, “Under my banner I live freely.”
Matsumoto said his reason for continuing to draw space was that “in order to protect nature and all life on earth, there is no other way for mankind but to go into space.” He entrusted his dream to his alter ego, Tetsuro, and to the children of the next generation who have fallen in love with manga and anime.
Always chasing his dream as a manga artist…”Galaxy Express 999 is the story of my youth”… “I want to travel in space”…
by Hiroshi Iwata, Culture and Society Department Desk
I met Mr. Matsumoto for the first time in the summer of 2015, when I was interviewing him for the “For Tomorrow” series of interviews with manga artists for the paper’s 70th anniversary postwar project.
His war experiences as a boy evacuated to Shikoku were vivid, and I will never forget his story of being hit by sweeping fighter planes. “A Grumman flying at low altitude turned its fuselage and headed toward us. I thought my eyes met the pilot’s, and then he shot at me, Ta-ta-ta! It was terrifying.” While I was amazed by his spectacular story, I felt that his powers of observation and description of instantaneous events were alive and well in his works, starting with the Battlefield Manga Series.
He was 77 years old at the time. When asked about his masterpiece Galaxy Express 999, he replied, “It is still going on. I am still practicing judo.” When asked what he was working so hard for, he replied, “Because I want to fly in space.”
At the time, civilian spaceflight was just beginning to become a hot topic. He seemed to be enjoying himself, saying, “The time when ordinary people can go to space is just around the corner.” Above all, he wanted to be a cartoonist. “I want to see the Earth with my own eyes. I have seen images on TV and computers, but I want to see it with my own eyes. I want to draw it with my own hands.”
Fan tribute art by xacro2009
Leiji Matsumoto: “Even if I am reduced to bones, I will fight” Harlock’s dream of freedom on the banner of a skull
by Kosuke Murakami
Mr. Matsumoto was a man who loved to talk. He was always open to direct questioning, and sometimes it was hard for him to stop talking. He once revealed that Space Pirate Captain Harlock had its roots in a phrase that came to him spontaneously when he was in elementary school.
“It was right after the end of the war, when things were in shambles. I would walk along the Kagoshima Main Line (trains) blowing their whistles and billowing smoke, calling out, ‘Harlock, Harlock.’ The word ‘Harlock’ came to me spontaneously. I don’t know where or why.”
At the time, Matsumoto said, he had a dream of “going on a great voyage. The word [Harlock] led me to my dream, and since I was an astronomy fanatic, I even ventured into space,” he said, spreading his creative wings.
He was full of power when he explained why he chose a skull as the symbol of the battleship Arcadia, on which Harlock rides.
“It means that I will fight even if I am reduced to bones. It means that I am equal to everyone in the world, without any distinctions. I will live freely under my banner, not to threaten others. This is a very old mark…this is the dream of mankind,” he said.
While uttering the word “fight,” he also expressed his desire for world peace. He had his own feelings about his country’s defeat in the war. “We are the generation that tasted the fall of Japan and lived as people of a lost country. So that feeling has seeped into us from the bottom of our hearts. I see them rising from the ashes.”
He had his own experience of exploring the world. “I swam in places where there were crocodiles, piranhas, and sharks. I ate with the people of those places.” He felt that, “there are many victories and defeats throughout the world, and history repeats itself, but the thoughts of all human beings on the earth are the same.” This thought became his reference material. “The basic dream I put into Harlock is for the dreams of people all over the world bloom in space.”
Mr. Matsumoto said, “Harlock will not be scared off. No matter what happens, he is prepared for it and flies freely through the universe toward his dream.” Mr. Matsumoto may have been projecting his ideal way of life onto Harlock.
Fan tribute art by Luna Lun
Galaxy Express 999 movie premiere train ride, 1979
30 Quotes by Leiji Matsumoto
Live The Way (published October 2021)
Leiji Matsumoto served as a special-appointment professor at Takarazuka University, a guest professor at Kyoto Sangyo University, and a special-appointment professor at Digital Hollywood University. He is known as a science-fiction manga artist, but also draws various genres of manga, such as shoujo manga, war manga, and animal manga.
(1) The skull mark is a statement of will: “I will fight even if I am reduced to bones.” It is not meant to intimidate or startle people. It is a banner that anyone is free to use, and it is a mark that is common throughout the world and has no hostile intent.
(2) People are born to live. Not a single life is born to die. Harlock grits his teeth and lives through to the end. No matter what people say, he sticks to his path. Harlock will never change. I did not mean to exaggerate, but that is what I wanted to portray. That’s why Harlock is a work that empowers me.
(3) Once in everyone’s life, there comes a moment when they have to decide what they are going to do. Whether or not you willingly set out on your own journey at that moment, it will change your destiny. I hope you will fulfill your dreams under your own banner.
(4) If we can build a friendship with each other sincerely and without calculation, it will become a huge root that supports the tree that is you. I still firmly believe that this is the most important thing in life.
(5) People live for the sake of living. No one is born for nothing.
(6) Take good care of yourself, your friends, and the people of the world. The future already exists in your hearts as young people. The dream of young people is the future itself!
(7) What I want to convey to readers around the world, or even to people of my own age, is that I want the whole world to understand each other and live in harmony. To this end, we must never step on each other’s thoughts, religions, beliefs, or ethnic feelings. I want to continue to work happily while respecting others, and I also want to draw such things.
Ribbon-cutting ceremony, 1999
(8) The daily life of young people is itself a utopia, an Arcadia.
(9) Eating nourishes physical strength, physical strength sustains energy, and energy sustains dreams.
(10) The world of manga is the only genre in which we can run around the world together without any conflict. Therefore, I want to cherish it forever. Just to hear the comments of boys and girls overseas who have read my work makes my life worth living as a manga artist.
(11) The days I spent in the crucible of the postwar period taught me a lot about becoming a creative artist.
(12) Captain Juzo Okita of Yamato is modeled after my father in both face and lines. For example, the line, “Endure today’s humiliation and live for tomorrow. Don’t die, Kodai.” I heard those words so many times!
(13) When I was asked to participate in animation production, I honestly thought, “Of all things, the Battleship Yamato.” I was an airplane fanatic and a battleship fanatic, but Yamato is a difficult subject to deal with.
(14) All human beings are brothers. We may fight, but in the long history of the world, we are all from the same planet.
Signing a 999-wrapped train, 2009
(15) When a pirate raises his flag, it is not to intimidate people, but to be alone, right? This skull mark has a strong meaning of, “No matter where I fall, I have no regrets” and “I will fight even if I am reduced to bones.”
(16) Live by your own will, but don’t have regrets. If you have regrets, don’t do it in the first place. This is the most important part. It has always been the same. It will never change.
(17) How important it is to have friends. A person cannot live alone throughout his or her life. We have best friends, we help each other, and that’s what makes it possible. It is not good to be alone. I also have a best friend. He has passed away, but I still feel nostalgic and strong about my best friend who I shared my whole life with.
(18) In the past, it was a disgrace to bully the weak. If you did such a thing, you were made fun of. Fights were frequent, but they did not drag on. Once when I got into a scuffle with a kid on the playground, I got his blood on my clothes. He immediately apologized, saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ and wiped the blood off with his own clothes. We often became friends through fisticuffs!
(19) Those of us who spent our childhoods in the turmoil of the postwar period may be said to be the last generation that could play around freely at the beach or in the mountains as much as we wanted. Today’s children are too regulated, and their outlet for frustration is insidious bullying. We need to let children have more freedom and do our best to stop them only when they are about to cross the line. Such a watchful attitude on the part of adults is what is needed more than anything else.
Tokyo International Anime Exhibition, 2013 (60th anniversary of his debut)
(20) The universe is a vast new world where human beings will run around freely in the future. There can be people of all purposes there. Harlock, who lives freely, exists as one of them. He is not flying for personal gain, but with the firm conviction that he will not allow anyone to harm the weak. He is a pirate, a righteous pirate who helps those who are trying to fulfill their ambitions.
(21) In any age, young people have unlimited potential. I want them to have bigger dreams, not dreams that are forced upon them by others or that are easily fulfilled. Do not give up even if you fail. Time is running out for you to fulfill your dreams.
(22) I was once mistaken for a terrorist. I was arrested in Peru, India, Africa, and Holland because I had a beard and was dressed suspiciously. However, when I answered that I was a cartoonist, the treatment changed drastically. They told me that I could take pictures even if photography was prohibited, and they showed me everything, even the back rooms of museums. This made it clear to me that manga is a universal, open-minded, and peaceful world.
(23) Personally, I have roamed all over the world. The only places I have not been to are the North and South Poles.
(24) As for firearms, I like many things related to history, and I have my own collection of firearms, including classic pistols and rifles from the Wild West and Civil War, Winchesters, old flintlock rifles, and Russian percussion rifles, as well as old guns from all over the world. I have a lot of old guns from all over the world.
2020, with another Mi-kun
(25) The gun called “Colt Dragoon” which was carried by the American heavy cavalry during the Civil War is the basis of the space gun called “Cosmo Dragoon”, and I draw it in my manga based on the real thing.
(26) “The Galactic Railroad Story” is also a branch, but no matter where you go, the root is always 999. 999 means incomplete youth, and when you reach 1000, it reaches completion, meaning adulthood, even though the 1000 year queen is Maetel’s mother.
(27) I believe that the dialogue and stories in my works must be close to the truth. In writing a script, I need to understand history better, and in the case of battle scenes, the dialogue must be based on an understanding of “command delivery style” and “battle rules” in order to make the expression more realistic.
(28) The character “man” in the word “manga” does not mean “irresponsible” at all. It means to draw with youthful vigor.
(29) I am responsible for everything, and I can’t blame a third party, so I have to make my own decision at that moment to move forward toward my goal, and then set out on my journey.
(30) The history of Japanese manga is very old. Kabashima Katsuichi, Tagawa Suiwo, Yokoyama Ryuichi, Yokoi Fukujiro, Fukushima Tetsuji. These people laid the foundation. Then Osamu Tezuka created the first postwar boom.
Fan art tribute by Ink Silvery
Registration No. 6565 Temporary code 1992 FT
Date of discovery: March 23, 1992
Discoverers: Kin Endate, Kazuro Watanabe
Proposer/Recommender: Kazuro Watanabe/Koichiro Tomita
Orbital period: 3.20 years
Standard magnitude: 14.1
Leiji Matsumoto was born in 1939 in Kurume City, Fukuoka Prefecture. He spent his kindergarten years in Akashi City, and when he was five years old, he watched a domestic anime titled Spider and Tulip at a movie theater in Akashi (Osamu Tezuka also watched the same movie at the same theater). He later debuted as a manga artist, and his representative works include Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato. He has also created many works on the subject of space, and has served as a counselor to the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) and chairman of the board of directors of the Japan Space Youth League (JSWL).
Fan art tribute by Takanori Takane