> Articles Leiji Matsumoto's Biography

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Leiji Matsumoto Leiji (his real name being Akira Matsumoto) was born on January, 25th 1938 in Kurumé, on the island of Kyûshû, a few miles south of Fukuoka. His father was an officer in the Imperial Air Force, and he will give Leiji his fancy for war vehicles. He made his first drawings when he was eight, as he was keen on Walt Disney's cartoons, but mainly being inspired by the style of Osamu Tezuka, who became well known at the same time. In 1953, he is 15 and he enters a contest organized by Manga Shônen, and his manga Mitsubachi no bôken (the adventures of a bee) attracts notice and is published. As early as the next year, the same magazine publishes steadily several of his stories, that are still signed with his actual name. Only from 1965 does he start using the name Reiji (which he transcribes as Leiji for western people), which means " warrior zero ". Another war name ... Is he such a nationalist man ? It is true that his fancy for German culture is obvious : Harlock's family is German, and many heroines in his works have such Germanic names as Maja (you should say Maya). But he lived thought a painful post war time in Japan, and through the humiliation from the American during the occupation, so that those little " flaws " can be easily forgiven...

In 1957, hardly out of high school, he can fulfill his dream at last : going to Tôkyô. He settles in the Bunkyô area, north of Shinjuku, where he rents a room where he's gonna live in for six years. From then, he starts publishing in a row, or nearly, comic strips inside... girl magazines. This is not at all unusual, famous people like Tetsuya Chiba (Ashita no Joe) or ShôtarôIshinomori (the author of Cyborg 009 and San-ku-kai, who is said to be born the same day as Matsumoto), have done so. Even Mitsuteru Yokoyama, father of Giant Robo, published his Sally the Witch inside Ribon, a shôjo magazine. By this time, Leiji marries Miyako Maki, another pioneer in the world of shôjo manga.

Queen Millenia In April, 1968 he starts his first sci-fi comic, Sexaroid (this title probably inspired many of his readers), that had such a success as it is still edited nowadays, in spite of a peculiar drawing (a king of awkward Tezuka, mixed with his young heroines, so beautiful and slender). It mainly allows his author to devote himself freely to stories for boys... He's going to devote his career to three different genres : sci-fi, of course (Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock and Yamato are the most famous), but also war (see for instance his famous The Cockpit in five volumes, see below, or his War fields series) and western. In this style, one may remember his Far West series and Gun Frontier, the first place where the duo Harlock-Tochirô appears, a manga that marked Matsumoto and that is moreover referenced in the first movie of Galaxy Express. The beginning of his fame happened in 1973, when Otoko oidon (I am a man !) was released. The hero, Nobotta Oyama, ancestor of the future Tochirô (yeah !), is a student looking for a college that will take him... A rônin, as it is called, like Godai in Maison Ikkoku.

Nowadays, Leiji Matsumoto still makes periodic apparitions, after a long silence. He keeps on drawing, he's even working on several series at a time. The graphism gets better (not too early, after 40 years), even if you still can find those silly dwarfs that some cannot stand... Among his latest creations, there are Kagerô no monshô from Chûô-kôronsha (at least 2 volumes were released, the hero is a woman) and Case Hard from Shôgakukan. I found 2 excellent stand-alone mangas in the St Comics collection, Highlander 0 and V2 Panzer, but I couldn't find out if it is a first edition or a new one. Sorry. Same thing for a manga published in 1992 and based upon the legend of the ring of Nibelung. Finally, and you may know it if you read every month the Japanese news in the French version of Cyber Namida, he is mainly working now on the continuation of Galaxy Express 999, of which he publishes 40-50 pages each month in a comics magazine.

Matsumoto also keeps on doing animation work. He supervised the adaptation of The Cockpit into an OAV in 1993. It is made of 3 sketches of 25 minutes each, produced by different staffs (mainly known for The forbidden City, Gundam 0083, Ulysses 31 and Votoms), which gives three particular visions of his universe... Moreover, people still talk (less and less, however) about the possibility of Captain Harlock coming back on TV. But nothing on the horizon for the moment. Finally, he agreed (with Yoshinobu Nishizaki, the creator) about the start of Yamato 2520, the new OAV series of Yamato. It consists of seven 50 minute episodes and one movie, that should be out after the OAV and hence be an end to the new saga. This OAV is realized by some of the giants from the first Yamato (especially Toshio Masuda), who is now directing a young staff that did prove itself by working for the Gainax studio, especially taking part in the production of the best episodes of Nadia, Evangelion and Gunbuster. Wow!!

Yamato is the first experience into animation for Leiji Matsumoto, even if he was only a graphic designer, and not the author of the script. Also on this TV series (that dates back to 1974), did he make his first work with Ichirô Mizuki, the great singer of that time, who can be found on many songs illustrating the work of Matsumoto, especially in Captain Harlock. In the opening theme, you can hear, small detail (huge detail, in fact), the melodious voice of a young chorister whose name is Kazuko Kawashima, and who will sing again twelve years later in... Saint Seiya. Yes, she does perform all those divine melodies written by Seiji Yokoyama. She also appears in the " Esmeralda theme " in a radio drama of that time, this very theme being composed by... Yokoyama, again. Everything is related in Matsumoto's universe.

About our favorite author, you should know that he is fond of new technologies, and, therefore, of CG (Computer Graphic). That's why some can be found in the Yamato OAV, but I don't know if it is his own idea. Matsumoto is also responsible for a short animation film made in CG, based upon Galaxy Express, where 3D pixels make Maetel nearly unrecognizable. What did you expect ? Computers cannot compete yet with humans about aesthetics !

(This article is not complete ; check out the French version here.)

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