Highly respected manga artist Leiji Matsumoto has passed away at 11:00 AM on February 13th. He was 85 years old. Matsumoto passed away due to acute heart failure at a Tokyo hospital. This is after a fairly recent scare just a few years ago when he was 81 years-old. On November 14 2019, Matsumoto arrived in Turin, Italy to take part of a 40th year anniversary celebration of his works. On November 15th, he was attending a theater in Turin which was having a special showing of Galaxy Express 999. While talking with people, Matsumoto became ill and needed to leave. But after returning to his hotel he was rushed to the hospital. Initial reports were that he had a stroke, but the hospital later refuted that by saying he had trouble breathing. Matsumoto had suffered severe respiratory problems and required a breathing tube until he was stabilized the very next day. He was able to go home to Japan in early December.
Leiji Matsumoto was born as Akira Matsumoto on January 25, 1938 in the city of Kurume Fukuoka, which is in the southern part of Japan. He was born as a middle child between six other brothers, coming from a poor family. As a child he was given a 35mm film projector which enabled him to watch American cartoons from Walt Disney and Max Fleischer during the Pacific War. He also read science fiction novels from authors such as Unno Juza (who Leiji would later pay tribute to as the character Captain Juzo Okita in Space Battleship Yamato) and H.G. Wells (who wrote The World of the Wars) as well as Osamu Tezuka’s works. By the age of six, Leiji would begin to draw, with manga drawing beginning three years later. At 18 years old, he set out to Tokyo to become a manga artist, with his one-way ticket and painting tools.
His first manga was created during high school under his real name Akira Matsumoto, in 1953 with the manga called Honeybee’s Adventure (Michibachi no Bōken). After moving to Tokyo, Leiji initially was a shojo manga creator under a pen name. It wasn’t until 1965 at the age of 27 when he began using his more well known pen name Leiji Matsumoto. In 1961, 23-year-old Matsumoto married fellow manga artist Miyaki Maki, who is best known for creating the famous Licca-chan dolls that became very popular in Japan.
Leiji Matsumoto is best known for Space Battleship Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, and Space Pirate Captain Harlock as well as having anime adaptions of many of his works. In 2000, Leiji helped create an over hour-long anime music video compilation using Daft Punks’ album Discovery. Matsumoto works’ were the two-member French music groups’ childhood hero. So to create something with him was a dream come true for their 2003 animated feature film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.
Many have written heartfelt messages showing how much his works have meant to them and anyone who had ever seen or read his works. Here are a few of them:
Trigun creator Yasuhiro Nightow:
Mr. Matsumoto. I was drawn into the world of manga by the teacher’s work. I quietly believe that some of the star drops I received from my teacher are mixed in with what I draw, and that they are being passed down to the next generation. Tonight, I will read and remember Wadachi and Daijunjou-kun. good job for today. And thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Anime distributor Discotek Media tweeted:
Zack Davisson, Captain Harlock and Queen Emeralda manga translator tweeted the following Twitter thread, including a photo of him and his wife with one of their cats:
Patrick Macias, who used to work for Netflix and Crunchyrol, tweeted several pictures including this one of Leiji Matsumoto sitting between Daft Punk:
Here is a tweet from Toei Animation:
Leijisha, Matsumoto’s company Twitter account for his cats, Miikun and Miime, which he loved including into his stories also tweeted a message:
A message from Leijisha:
On February 13, 2023, the manga artist Leiji Matsumoto departed from a city hospital on a journey to the sea of stars.
We are grateful to all the fans who hav supported him.
Matsumoto always used to say: ”You can meet again at a place that connects to the distant ring of time.
Included in the above tweet is a letter from Leiji Matsumoto’s wife Miyaki Maki, who is also a representative of Leijisha. It translates to this:
On February 13, 2023, the manga artist Leiji Matsumoto departed from a city hospital on a journey to the sea of stars. He was 85 years old. His immediate family has already held a private service.
I believe that he lived a happy life, allowing his thoughts to run free through the stories he drew as a manga creator. Matsumoto always used to say: “You can meet again at a place that connects to the distant ring of time.” I believe in those words and look forward to that day.
To all the fans who supported him, the people involved in delivering his works to the world, the government and organization people who have helped him, the manga creators who honed their skills alongside him in his youth, and to all the hospital staff who aided him in his journey—I extend my deepest gratitude. Thank you so much.
I apologize, but I must refuse all condolence gifts, flowers, and telegrams. I plan to accept flower offerings and telegrams at a farewell gathering, which will be held on a later date. Also, I cannot say yet when I can provide details about the farewell gathering.
Do you have any fond memories of reading or watching any of Leiji Matsumoto’s works? Has his stories or artwork inspired you in any way? We would love to hear your thoughts!
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