Leiji Matsumoto has been a driving force in the world of anime for literal decades. His works have influenced, inspired, and carried on. His loss is heartbreaking, but he filled our world with beautiful stories in his time. So many, in fact, that we’d be hard-pressed to list every must-see work to his name.
For now, if you’re new to his works, start here. They’ll give you a good cross-section of what goes on in the Leiji-verse, and are also decently accessible. But remember, this is just a starting point: there’s much further to go.
Captain Harlock: Arcadia of My Youth
Leiji Matsumoto built a literal universe of characters, whose stories intertwine across multiple series. If you’re looking for a simple way to dip your toe into the Leijiverse, Arcadia of My Youth is an excellent place to start. This 1982 feature film lays out the backstory of Captain Harlock, arguably Matsumoto’s most memorable character, as well as that of his crew. Additionally, it introduces other recurring players from related series.
If you find yourself enjoying these characters, you can leap off into the wider worlds of both Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999. While the latter’s Maetel has her own convoluted story to follow, it is linked into this wider tale.
Back in 2003, Leiji Matsumoto teamed up with Daft Punk to create Interstella 5555. Set to their 2001 concept album Discovery, this colorful sci-fi adventure is a also an allegory for the entertainment industry. Our alien rock stars are made over, commodified, and worked to exhaustion. The ending is at once action-packed and surprisingly sweet.
This massive music video is an absolute treat. Not only that, this year also marks its 20th anniversary. It’s a better time than ever to dig into this.
Star Blazers 2199
Leiji Matsumoto became known to early U.S. anime fans thanks to StarBlazers—an adaptation of his masterwork Space Battleship Yamato. The series, about a group of intrepid humans fighting against their own extinction, got a remake starting back in 2012. Released globally as Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199, it’s won over a whole new generation of fans.
If you’re new to the world of this series, it’s a perfect jumping-on point for you, too. Follow humanity as they escape Earth, taken over by the power-hungry Gamilas. They only have a certain amount of time to make it to Iscandar, an Earth-like planet that could well be their salvation. If you enjoy what’s out, the original Star Blazers is out there, too!
Enjoy more classic anime with the upcoming PLUTO, a new take on Astro Boy.