Leiji Matsumoto: The 72nd Birthday for a Master of Manga

Posted by Michael Pinto on Jan 25, 2010 in Animation |

Leiji Matsumoto

Leiji Matsumoto was born on this day in Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan in 1938 — and he went on to dominate anime in the 70s much to the delight of a generation of fanboys including yours truly. He got his start in 1953 drawing romantic shōjo manga for girls and although he disliked this genre you can see the influence it would play in the many strong (but rail thin) female characters which would be featured in his work for years to come.

A Bandai model kit for the Space Battleship Yamato

Otoko Oidon

Otoko Oidon

In the 60s Matsumoto was able to to switch to drawing boys manga and his first hit was the 1971 series Otoko Oidon which was about the adventures of a young man who was preparing himself for college. However what put him over the top was his collaboration with Yoshinobu Nishizaki on the anime series Space Battleship Yamato. Nishizaki conceived of the series in 1973 but it was Matsumoto who would give the show its soul with his amazing spaceship designs and brilliant art direction. After that he went onto create Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 which all take place in the same universe.

Captain harlock was a hit all over the world: This is an album cover from Italy in 1979

Above: Captain Harlock was a hit all over the world — this is an album cover from Italy in 1979.

By the 80s new anime series like Macross would take science fiction anime to the next level. However anime fans of today should realize that Matsumoto was that living bridge between what Tezuka was doing in the 60s and the more sophisticated shows that would appear in the 80s. Every time you see a female character with amazingly detailed hair or some bit of mecha that is over the top chances are that you’re seeing the influence of Leiji Matsumoto in action.

Below: Poster for the film Adieu Galaxy Express 999 from 1981.

Poster for the film Adieu Galaxy Express 999

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