Matsumoto Leiji (松本 零士, Matsumoto Reiji?, born Matsumoto Akira, January 25, 1938 — February 13, 2023) was a well-known creator of several classic anime and manga series.
Matsumoto was born in January 25, 1938 in Kurume, Fukuoka. He was the middle child of a family of seven brothers, and, in his early childhood, Matsumoto was given a 35mm film projector by his father, and watched American cartoons during the Pacific War. During this time, he gained an interest in science fiction novels by authors Unno Juza and H. G. Wells. At 18, he moved to Tokyo, to become a manga artist.
Matsumoto made his debut under his real name, Matsumoto Akira, in 1953. He would have his big break with Otoko Oidon, a series that chronicled the life of a rōnin (a young man who was preparing himself for entrance examinations to universities and colleges), in 1971. Around the same time he started a series of unconnected short stories set during World War II, the "Senjou Manga Series", which would eventually become popular under the title The Cockpit. A year later in 1972 he radically changed genres and published a cowboy western manga called Gun Frontier.
He was later involved in several Science fiction works including Uchuu Senkan Yamato (1974) and the debut of the highly popular series Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 (both in 1977). In 1978, he was awarded the Shogakukan Manga Award for shōnen for Galaxy Express 999 and his Senjou Manga Series. Animated versions of Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 are set in the same universe, which spanned several spin offs and related series, most notably Queen Emeraldas and Queen Millennia.
Matsumoto supervised the creation of several music videos for the French house group Daft Punk, set to tracks from their album Discovery. These videos were issued end-to-end (making a full-length animated movie) on a DVD release titled Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem.
About two dozen bronze statues — each perhaps four feet tall — of characters and scenes from Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999 were erected in the downtown area of Tsuruga in 1999. Each statue includes a plaque at its base explaining the character, and featuring Matsumoto's signature.
Matsumoto worked with Nishizaki Yoshinobu on Space Battleship Yamato (known outside Japan under various names but most commonly as Star Blazers). Matsumoto created a manga loosely based on the series, and the Yamato makes cameo appearances (sans crew) in several of his works including the Galaxy Express 999 manga.
A work by Matsumoto called Great Yamato featuring an updated Yamato had to be renamed Great Galaxy due to legal issues with Nishizaki. As of 2009, Matsumoto and Nishizaki were working on independent anime projects featuring the acclaimed Space Battleship Yamato, with the conditions that Matsumoto cannot use the name Yamato or the plot or characters from the original, and Nishizaki cannot use the conceptual art, character or ship designs of the original. Since Nishizaki's death in 2010, it is uncertain whether these restrictions will continue to apply.
His wife is shōjo manga artist Maki Miyako (better known as the creator of the doll Super Doll Licca-chan, the Japanese equivalent of Barbie). Matsumoto passed away in February 13, 2023 due to acute heart failure. According to his daughter "he now rests in the sea of stars...".