Crown Jewels of Anime: The Leijiverse

Posted by Guest Author on May 19, 2008 in Animation |

Queen Emeraldas

In this exclusive series our guest author Tim Eldred picks the top ten crown jewels of anime:

As a guy who started watching anime in 1980, I was lucky enough to catch the virus when the medium was in a creative upswing the likes of which simply hasn’t been seen since. Of course, there was great stuff before that, but never in quite so much abundance. The early 80s in particular were chock full of shows that had the power to make me (A) cry like a baby or (B) leap out of my chair like a sports fan. And any show that could do both became a crown jewel in my eyes. They haven’t all been officially exported yet, which means a lot of people still have an opportunity to experience them for the first time. Here’s number 8 on my top ten list:

The Leijiverse

As one of those fans whose head was blown off by Star Blazers in 1980, I was an easy mark when it came to other anime by Leiji Matsumoto. After all, they looked just like my fave—or near enough. Turns out it was the same for Japanese fans. Matsumoto’s touch on Yamato naturally made them hungry for more, and he delivered it in spades: Space Pirate Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999, Queen Millennia, Endless Road SSX and numerous other projects turned him into a creative tornado. Then for some reason he went away for a while.

captain harlock

We didn’t see much Matsumoto anime from the mid 80s to the mid 90s, but when he came back he came ROARING back. Now supported by a whole generation of acolytes who grew up on his work, his signature style was amped up and reinterpreted into a whole new onslaught of projects. It was just in time for the US anime boom, and importers were lining up to bring us such fare as The Cockpit, DNA Sights 999.9, Cosmowarrior Zero, Queen Emeraldas, Harlock Saga, Maetel Legend, Insterstella 5555, Gun Frontier, and more. It wasn’t all gold, but it all fed into the vast, sprawling Leijiverse, a pantheon of stories that both connect and contradict each other. Fans are regularly driven mad in vain attempts to line it all up, which practically guarantees Matsumoto an eternal shelf life.

For me, the pinnacles of the Leijiverse are easy to define: early Captain Harlock (70s and 80s), the Galaxy Express movies, the Cockpit OAVs, and the awesome, amazing Galaxy Railways TV series. If you’re looking for an entry point, it’s hard to do better than this. This is Matsumoto at his finest; emotionally-rich character drama, over-the-top heroics, a pervading sense of melancholy, empathy for the common man, fantastic mecha design, engaging music, and big-screen-worthy animation. And the best part? Available in English. It fits well into the main body of the Leijiverse and requires no foreknowledge to enjoy. But be aware: it WILL make you hungry for more!

The opening titles for Captain Harlock:

The opening titles for Galaxy Express 999:

The opening titles for Queen Emeraldas:

Tim Eldred is a graphic novelist, TV animation artist, and hopeless fanboy. You can see his work at and

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