“Galaxy Express 999” Manga Artist Leiji Matsumoto Dies at 85

TOKYO (Kyodo) – Leiji Matsumoto, a famed Japanese cartoonist known for his works “Galaxy Express 999” and “Space Battleship Yamato,” has died of acute heart failure, his production studio said Monday. He was 85.

The manga artist, who also created “Space Pirate Captain Harlock,” died at a Tokyo hospital on Feb. 13, Studio Leijisha said. Many of his works were adapted into anime television series that became popular at home and abroad.

File photo shows copies of Leiji Matsumoto’s manga works Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato. (Kyodo)

In a tribute to her father posted on his production studio’s website, Matsumoto’s daughter Makiko wrote that he had “set off for the sea of stars” and that she believed the famed creator had “led a happy life as a manga artist who was always thinking about storytelling.”

Matsumoto first became known in 1954 while in high school and rose to fame with “Otoko Oidon,” a comedy manga series that illustrates the story of a young, poor man preparing for a university entrance exam in Tokyo, published in a magazine in 1971.


“Space Battleship Yamato,” a story depicting an uncharted cosmic voyage in the 22nd century aboard a spaceship modeled off the World War II Imperial Japanese Navy of the same name, was made into a TV series and broadcast from 1974 to 1975.

File photo taken in December 2016 shows Japanese cartoonist Leiji Matsumoto at work in Tokyo. (Kyodo)

His work “Galaxy Express 999,” set in a future world controlled by machines, illustrates the growth of the main character Tetsuro Hoshino, a boy who sets out on a space journey with a mysterious woman named Maetel.

Hailing from Fukuoka Prefecture in southwestern Japan, Matsumoto was one of the first manga artists whose manga and animation work attracted fans overseas.

He was 7 when World War II ended, and his experiences of the time proved a lasting influence on his works, which were frequently set amid conflicts. He called for war never to be repeated and described his memories of the harsh reality of living in Japan after its defeat.

During the war, his father served as a pilot and lost many of his subordinates. While he never flew again after the conflict, the stories he told the young Matsumoto of nighttime flights over the ocean as it reflected the stars above that “felt like flying in space” would go on to inform “Galaxy Express 999.”

Matsumoto also served as president of the Young Astronauts Club in Japan and taught at Takarazuka University and Kyoto Sangyo University.


He was honored by the Japanese government with a Medal with Purple Ribbon, an honor bestowed on those who have made academic or artistic contributions to society, in 2001. He also received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette in 2010.

In 2012, the French government decorated Matsumoto with the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters.

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