The father of space opera anime leaves fans with an inspiring farewell message.

With the rapid rate at which the anime/manga industry churns out new series, there are a lot of creators for fans to keep track of, but few names are bigger than Leiji Matsumoto. Tetsuwan Atom/Astroboy author Osamu Tezuka is often referred to as the “god of manga,” but Matsumoto is, unquestionably the father of space opera and interstellar science fiction manga.

Sadly, Matsumoto’s production studio, along with publisher Toei, have announced that the artist passed away on the morning of February 13 at a hospital in Tokyo as a result of acute heart failure. He was 85 years old.

▼ Video of Matsumoto painting Captain Harlock, one of his most iconic characters

Born in Fukuoka prefecture in 1938, Matsumoto made his professional manga debut at just 15 years old. It would take until the mid-1970s for him to really hit his stride, though. In 1974, Matsumoto began drawing Space Battleship Yamato, and in 1977 he would debut two more all-time classics, Space Pirate Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999. Compared to the straightforward adventure stories for young children that had composed most of the previously available science fiction manga, Matsumoto’s works a more melancholy, mature look at the tolls of conflict among the stars and intergalactic odysseys. Galaxy Express 999, in particular, starts as a story of young boy’s quest to become stronger in order to take revenge against his mother’s murderers, only for his travels down that path to lead to soul-searching questions of what makes us human.

▼ The Galaxy Express 999 theme is also one of the handful of anime songs that virtually everyone in Japan recognizes, regardless of whether or not they’re an otaku.

With three hits coming in such close proximity, Matsumoto was the driving force of science fiction anime in the ‘70s, and that prestige allowed for lengthy TV and lavish theatrical anime adaptations. These were also some of the first anime to gain fandom footholds overseas in Europe and the U.S., with Yamato being localized for English-speaking audiences as Star Blazers. As proof of Matsumoto’s enduring popularity outside Japan, 2003 saw the creation of the Japanese/French co-production Interstella 5555, an hour-plus combination of Matsumoto-supervised and inspired anime imagery paired with Daft Punk’s Discovery album.

▼ Matsumoto shaking hands with French ambassador to Japan Christian Masset at a promotional event for the live-action Harlock movie in 2013

▼ A Galaxy Express 999 manhole cover in Kita Kyushu City, in Matsumoto’s hoe prefecture of Fukuoka

The official Twitter account of Matsumoto’s production company, Leiji Company, posted the following:

“On February 13, 2023, manga artist Leiji Matsumoto departed from a Tokyo hospital on a journey to the sea of stars.

We would like to sincerely thank all of the fans who have supported him over the years.

‘We’ll meet again at that far-off point where the wheel of time touches,’ he always said.

We will believe in those words, and look forward to that day.”

It’s an inspiringly optimistic farewell message from an artist whose works have done so much to inspire the generations who came after him, and whose legacy will continue to do so into the future.

Source: NHK News Web
Photos ©SoraNews24
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