Leiji Matsumoto (1938-2023)

Leiji Matsumoto On February 13, 2023, about ten days ago, Leiji Matsumoto left this world. A phenomenal Japanese manga artist, he created several space operas that influenced me as a kid. Matsumoto directed Space Battleship Yamato1, wrote and illustrated Galaxy Express 9992, and then released the magnificent Space Pirate Captain Harlock. Regarding visual operas, I suspect my fascination with space, astronomy and all things science has much more to do with these three than with the Star Wars movies that came later, or Star Trek.

What I did not know until the other day, however, is that Matsumoto worked with Daft Punk. In 2001, the artist and his studio produced all the videos for Daft Punk’s Discovery album. I distinctly remember watching the One More Time video and being blown away. It was fantastic and also fascinating in a strange way, but I couldn’t pinpoint the reason. Now I understand. I didn’t make the connection back then, but Matsumoto’s touch immediately drew me back to my childhood fantasies, themselves sprouting from the artist’s animes.

In 2003, Toei Animation released Interstella 5555, an “animated musical science fiction film” and a visual companion to the Discovery album. It has no dialogue, minimal sound effects, and all (most?) of Discovery’s music. I watched it this morning and loved every moment of it.

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  1. Space Battleship Yamato was influential in the creation of many future series such as Gundam, Evangelioon, and Macross. [return]
  2. Matsumoto was inspired to create Galaxy Express 999 by the idea of a steam train running through the stars in the novel Night on the Galactic Railroad by Kenji Miyazawa. [return]