Memorial offerings left at stations in Tokyo and Fukuoka near homes of Galaxy Express 999, Space Battleship Yamato creator.

On February 13, Leiji Matsumoto, the legendary manga/anime creator behind such landmark works of Japanese science fiction as Galaxy Express 999, Space Battleship Yamato, and Space Pirate Captain Harlock, passed away. Following a private funeral service for family members, Matsumoto’s production company and publisher issued statements informing the public of the 85-year-old artist’s passing.

Though Matsumoto’s stories with filled with futuristic technology, his ability to craft complex and charismatic human characters is what truly made his stories special. Statues of them can be found near two different train stations in Japan, and since hearing the news of Matsumoto’s “departure to the Sea of Stars,” fans have been leaving flowers at them as a memorial to their creator.

After moving to Tokyo to pursue his career as a manga artist, Matsumoto lived in Nerima Ward’s Oizumi Gakuen neighborhood. Near Oizumi Gakuen Station are bronze statues of Galaxy Express 999 protagonist Tetsuro and Maetel, the mysterious motherly figure who accompanies him on his journey through space, as shown in the video below.

In the wake of Matsumoto’s death, fans have been placing flowers in Tetsuro’s hands or beside the boy on the bench on which he sits. Inside the station is a statue of another character from the series, the shadowy Conductor, though the barriers around him mean that it’s Tetsuro who the floral offerings are being entrusted to.

Before Matsumoto was a famous manga author in Tokyo, though, he was a kid living on the other side of the country in Fukuoka Prefecture. He spent his formative years from elementary to high school in the town of Kitakyushu, with the sound of trains rumbling down the tracks near his home stirring thoughts of adventures in placed he’d never been too, laying the groundwork for themes and emotions that would become essential parts of 999 and his other works.

Kokura Station, Kitakyushu’s main rail hub, also has a statue of Maetel, as well as Harlock and Tochiro (a character who appears in both the 999 and Harlock series), and these too have become places fans are visiting to pay their respects to Matsumoto and leave flowers.

▼ The 999 theme song has also been serving as the train departure chime at Oizumi Gakuen since 2009, and on Kokura’s Shinkansen platform since 2016.

According to a Nerima Ward spokesperson, when the statues of Maetel and Tetsuro were installed, Matsumoto said “Even after I’ve departed from this world, [they’ll] still be here,” and the same could be said of the inspiration and joy his works continue to give fans.

Source: Asahi Shimbun Digital via Yahoo! Japan News, Jiji
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