World Comic Book Review

11th April 2024

Vale Leiji Matsumoto (1938-2023)

Manga grand master Leiji Matsumoto passed away on 13 February 2023.

Mr Matsumoto was best known for epic science fiction manga sagas, including Galaxy Express 999, Queen Emeraldas and Space Battleship Yamato (published in the United States as Star Blazers).

In its obituary, The Japan Times noted he started drawing manga at the age of 5. Mr Matsumoto was 15 years old when his debut manga, Mitsubachi no Boken (Honey Bee’s Adventures), was published. After finishing high school, he moved to Tokyo to become a professional manga artist.

In 1961, Mr Matsumoto married Miyako Maki, a well-known manga creator but best known as the creator of the Licca-chan, a Japanese equivalent to the Barbie doll. Mr Matsumoto legally changed his first name from “Akira” to his pen name, “Leiji”, in 1965.

In the 1970s, Mr Matsumoto published Otoko Oidon, a very popular series about an impoverished student preparing for university exams. It won the Kodansha Publishing Award for Children’s Manga.

Several of Mr Matsomoto’s manga were made into anime series, most notably Space Pirate Captain Harlock.

In 1999, a number of bronze statues were erected in Japan’s port city of Tsuruga depicting a character or scene from Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999, with each featuring Mr Matsumoto’s signature.

Prior to becoming unwell in 2018, Mr Matsumoto’s output picked up on work from his younger days. Mr Matsumoto created the Sexaroid manga in the Manga Goruku magazine from 1968 to 1970. The spy action manga is set in the year 2222, and was to do with the adventures of secret agent Shima and his sex android partner Yuki. In 2017, Mr Matsumoto created a manga entitled Sexaroid 4 for the Yūkan Fuji newspaper featuring four sisters with various superpowers, who were the offspring of Shima and Yuki.

Mr Matsumoto received several prestigious cultural and arts medals including the Order of the Rising Sun (Japan), and in 2012 the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France).