A Personal Look Back at Matsumoto Leiji

The news of Matsumoto Leiji’s death shocked me. While the passing of an 85-year-old shouldn’t be too surprising, it still makes me contemplate so many things. The number of creators who can trace their careers back to those early decades of the postwar manga industry is now vanishingly few. Matsumoto’s influence was monumental, with great works like Galaxy Express 999, Captain Harlock, and Space Battleship Yamato all under his belt. He was also instrumental in so much of what we now call the anime fandom, as his work on Space Battleship Yamato was the catalyst for fandoms in Japan, the United States, and elsewhere.

More than his broader artistic and historical significance, though, I feel Matsumoto’s legacy supporting me, as I might not have gone down my particular path of anime and manga fandom if I had never discovered his works. His messages of humanity and compassion sparked my curiosity, and helped me to look both forward and backwards.

The 1979 Galaxy Express 999 film is, bar none, my favorite anime ever. I reviewed it in the early days of Ogiue Maniax, but as I explained there, my history with it goes back further. I first watched it as part of a local film festival, at a time when my exposure to much older works was more limited. I can’t recall when exactly I saw it relative to other 70s anime, but I still remember to this day the sense of awe I felt coming out of the theater. Maetel remains one of my top 3 favorite female anime characters of all time, a figure whose presence in the story speaks to the beauty and soul of Galaxy Express 999. Nothing has toppled it in my heart even decades later.

An illustration by Matsumoto Leiji found at Comic Store Wonderland in Osaka

After seeing the film, I naturally began to notice more Matsumoto Leiji material, and since then, the worlds of his creations have been part of my world too. I bought a single volume of the Galaxy Express 999 manga in English in high school, and I would read it over and over. I would repeatedly consult Frederik Schodt’s Manga! Manga!, which included not only a biography of him but also a sample of one of his more obscure manga. Among my first figure purchases was a large Maetel, and I remember my excitement over finding the Queen Emeraldas OVAs and discovering Daft Punk through Interstella 5555.

I’ve reviewed Danguard A to celebrate the 50th anniversary of anime on television, sent Harlock to show “the pirate’s way” in Super Robot Wars T, and made lasting bonds thanks to The Galaxy Railways. I’ve also purchased that 1979 Galaxy Express 999 film over and over, whether it was happening upon a used Region 2 DVD at a Bookoff, getting the US DVD to show my support, or upgrading to the blu-ray so I could experience it in better quality than I ever thought possible. Actually, in that regard, the film festival I attended all those years ago showed a VHS version, so it really is like night and day.

An old drawing I made of Ogiue cosplaying as Maetel

In the long run, I think I would have still come to take a broader view of anime and manga. But as I currently am, Matsumoto Leiji’s art contributes no small part to the enthusiast I am today. As he leaves us, I wish his messages about the importance of remembering and cherishing our humanity continue to resonate in the years to come.

The Galaxy Express 999 will take you on a journey, a never-ending journey. A journey to the stars!

Miura Kentaro, Berserk, and the Pursuit of Perfection

This past week, the world learned of the passing of Miura Kentaro, the creator of Berserk, on May 6th. Miura was 54. This leaves one of the most powerful and influential manga in history most likely unfinished, but more importantly, it’s the sudden and tragic end to a career of an artist whose ambition in storytelling always felt beyond human.

To be clear with where I stand, I’m not a Berserk mega fan. I didn’t spend my developing years in the thrall of its gorgeously detailed artwork like some manga readers, so my connection to the series isn’t especially personal. However, even without that intimate closeness to Berserk, it’s impossible to not feel the amount of dedication that Miura put into his magnum opus. He began the series in 1989 and worked on it for over 30 years. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to claim the man poured his soul into Berserk—Morikawa George, creator of Hajime no Ippo and an artist to whom Miura was an assistant early in their careers, said as much:

The months passed by, and I started serializing Hajime no Ippo, and it wasn’t long after that Berserk started. Miura shared some stories of difficulty with me, but I was confident that his manga would be a hit. Kentarou-kun had poured his strength and confidence into this long-awaited serialization, after all. The world would soon be as astonished as I was when I first saw his drawings. He had a completely refined artistic skill and drew with all his soul, and I had nothing but the deepest respect for every new chapter of Berserk

It’s one thing to have a long and sprawling story but a less detailed art style, or an intricate style but a fairly simple story. It’s another to try to go full blast in both respects. To want to tell a tale so ambitious in scope and so lovingly rendered on every page, and to make it so cohesively impactful is nothing short of astounding. Just thinking about his designs of the God Hand, malevolent deities central to the story in Berserk, leaves me amazed. In fact, it’s a wonder that Miura was able to keep it up for as long as he did, even if chapters became much more infrequent later in his life. 

There’s a question of whether stress played a role in Miura’s death, given that aortic dissections can be caused by high blood pressure, and that the manga industry is known for putting people through the ringer and encouraging workaholic habits. Tezuka Osamu himself passed away unable to finish his most ambitious work (Phoenix) after a self-imposed grueling career that became a model of sorts for other creators. However, one thing that makes it hard to tell how much responsibility the manga industry carries is that Miura was an absolute perfectionist, and not the kind of creator who would compromise quality for expediency. In an interview from 2019, he mentions switching over to working digitally, only for him to end up going through his drawings pixel by pixel—a trap common enough for it to be mentioned in a chapter of Genshiken, but also something that takes on a whole new meaning now that Miura is gone. 

If there was a way he could’ve told the story he wanted to tell, the way he wanted to tell it, all the way through while still being able to live to old age, I wish we could have found it. That said, it’s clear to me that the whatever disappointment remains over a potentially unfinished work, Miura’s artistry and vision of Guts’s journey in Berserk has left a mark on fans the world over.

Wishing for Hope, Reaching to Help

I’m grateful to be in a position where I am mentally and emotionally well, even in this pandemic. It’s easy for me to assume that fear and concern over COVID-19 is what’s on people’s minds, but the recent deaths of so many people and figures in my social and fandom spheres just has me hyper-aware of the challenges many face that are likely exacerbated by current circumstances. 

In the world of anime, Zac Bertschy of Anime News Network died in his apartment on May 21, 2020. In wrestling, Shad Gaspard died at age 39 after helping save his son from a rip current on May 17. Another wrestler, Hana Kimura was 22 when she died by suicide on May 23 after online harassment due to her appearance on the reality show Terrace House. And while this isn’t recent, it’s been almost a year since the suicide of gaming youtuber Etika, who was 29. Death may be unpredictable and inevitable, but the fact that they all left so young makes me shake my head in disbelief.

I wasn’t close to any of the people I mentioned, so my perspective is not as a friend or peer, or even necessarily as a fan or follower. Yet, I feel something: sadness, anger, frustration, or maybe something else I can’t describe. In the case of Hana Kimura, I kept saying to myself, “I really need to check out Stardom because she seems like a star,” and now all I’ll have is past videos to reference. It makes me want to reach out to my friends, and those I’ve lost contact with over the years. It’s easy to just assume that the last image you had of them is roughly how they are today, but time passes and people face challenges both internal and external. I always worry about overstepping my boundaries or thinking I’m closer to someone than I actually am, and maybe I just need to find the tiny ounce of courage to get over that and maybe, just maybe, help someone turn away from a bad decision. 

I used to frequent a chat room that was named after the anime Maria-sama ga Miteru (aka Maria Watches Over Us). A few years since I last visited, I decided to stop by, and the chat topic included a person’s name: “So-and-so ga Miteru.” It turns out they had passed away. A couple more years passed, and I visited again. This time, more names had been added to the topic. It feels like I blinked, and more of the people I knew had vanished. As far as I know, none of those deaths were due to suicide, but they stung nevertheless. And while I never really interacted with them on any deeply personal level, it made my infrequent visits feel like “too little, too late.” When it’s related to physical health, there’s only so much any of us can do. When it’s not, it hits differently. 

I hope we can connect to our fellow human beings, those we love and even those with whom we have the barest connection, so that we can help lift up one another. If you’re feeling like life isn’t worth living, reach out to suicide prevention for professional help. If you’re hurting and just need someone to listen, feel free to even leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter

Remember: you’re worth something.

iNcontrol, You Will Be Missed

On Sunday, Geoff “iNcontrol” Robinson passed away due to a sudden illness. A beloved figure in the StarCraft community, his gregarious nature and sense of humor did a lot to push and keep StarCraft in the limelight for many years.

The news hit me in a way I wasn’t entirely expecting. I enjoyed his work, but I haven’t been avidly following StarCraft for a few years now. Still, I remembered all the times I would stay up late to listen to a State of the Game podcast or leave a match on in the background just to hear the entertaining banter between him and the other casters, and I realized what an impression he had left on me. When I did check in on what he’d been doing as of late, it seemed like the world was open to him. He had so much potential left.

33 years old. Damn it, that’s much too young. While jokes are made in esports that anyone over 30 is a relic, iNcontrol always looked like the picture of health. To say his passing was unexpected is an understatement, and it saddens me in a profound way that I can’t fully describe or understand.

iNcontrol leaves behind a hell of a legacy. He was a major figure in the early days of non-Korean Brood War. He helped to bring esports to renewed prominence in the early days of Twitch streaming and being a positive force in his community. I can tell his impact because I find myself impacted by him, and my deepest condolences and respect for those near and dear to him.



Last week saw the passing of one of the greatest anime directors of all time, Ishiguro Noboru. I’m not an expert on Ishiguro, so I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk as if I am keenly aware of his entire history. Instead, I would like to just talk about his impact on a more personal level.

Ishiguro’s list of influential works is almost second to none, and I know from personal experience that his finest works stand the test of time in a way that few can. Back in 2004, I was a college student who finally managed to get all of the original Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. The show was so utterly engrossing that I managed to finish all 36 episodes in two nights. During that time, I felt myself moving from cheering for Minmay to cheering for Misa; the way the show had developed and grown its characters amidst the backdrop of pop-songs-as-simple-ideals and war made it feel like I might  never experience that kind of thrill burning through a show again. Then came late Autumn 2008, and Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

At a daunting 110 episodes, it wasn’t a show that was really possible to marathon in a short period, but I still found myself often unable to stop. This wouldn’t have been any sort of a problem except at the time I was also studying for my Level 2 Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Was it worth it to cut into my study time so much? Well, the fact that I managed to pass probably colors my reflection, but again I was treated to one of the most well-crafted, intelligent, and hopeful pieces of fiction I’ve ever had the privilege to enjoy. I know Macross and LOGH aren’t Ishiguro’s only works, and there are even people who hold them far more dear than I do, but together they shape much of my views of the man.

I first had the opportunity to talk to Ishiguro as part of a press conference at Otakon 2009, and asked him a question about Nagahama Tadao, director of Combattler V, Voltes V, and Daimos. The way I framed my question was that since Nagahama had passed away decades prior, the only way to really know about him was to ask those who had worked with him, which included Ishiguro. Reflecting on this question, I realize that I had mentally placed the idea of Ishiguro dying far away from Nagahama’s own passing.

Then at Otakon 2011, I attended a panel which had both Ishiguro and Shinkai Makoto (5cm per Second, Place Promised in Our Early Days), and seeing the significant age gap between the old veteran and the newer talent and how that difference also meant the difference between cel and digital animation, I asked if Shinkai had any advice for Ishiguro. I caused a fair amount of light-hearted controversy for suggesting that the younger Shinkai could advise Ishiguro on the craft in which he made his name, but Ishiguro was more than open to it. For a man who was still looking for his next anime to work on, the hierarchy of age didn’t matter to him.

One question about the past and the old, one question about the future and the young, both assuming the man would live for many more years to come. Funny how things work.

I hope Angel Scandies makes it somehow.

The Passing: Satoshi Kon

Satoshi Kon, dead at age 47, will always be remembered for creating great animated films.

In writing this post, I am aware that I am nowhere near the biggest Kon fan. I’ve only seen a handful of his total output, owning none of it on physical media or in digital format, but I know that of the films I have seen, all have had a profound effect on me. To this day, I distinctly remember that scene in Millennium Actress where the titular character is moving gracefully between still paintings, stepping out of one and taking up her pose in the next. It’s visually creative in a way rarely seen in anime, even with someone like Miyazaki, who usually goes a much more orthodox route when it comes to representation of events. It’s the kind of thing that gets burned into your memories, and you’re all the better for it.

When I say that the man will be remembered for creating great animated films, you might be wondering, by whom? And the answer is nearly everyone. Not just film buffs, not just the casual movie-going audience, and especially not just anime fans who themselves come in all varieties, but just about anyone who’s had the opportunity to see one of his films. Satoshi Kon’s recurring themes of psychology, memories, and dreams have the potential to be incredibly heavy and complex to the point of driving people away, but instead Kon managed to create incredibly accessible works which get their audiences to think. Not every film is for every person, but there’s inevitably one you can show to your friends or your family and have a nice discussion afterward. You want to know how to mature your tastes as an anime fan in a short amount of time? Watch a Kon film, and see where your mind takes you.

I’ve seen around the internet that people are worried about the fate of anime and the creativity therein after all of this. To this I say, losing Satoshi Kon, especially at such a young age, is a serious blow to the heart and gut of Japanese animation, but great creators die. It’s kind of what they do, being human and all, and to dwell on what they could have done, while a worthwhile exercise, only takes you so far. A creative form of expression such as animation, Japanese or otherwise, is not so simple that it can be felled by the death of one man, great as he may have been. There is mourning, but there is also the next step.

Rest in peace, Satoshi Kon, with the knowledge that it’s impossible for you to not have inspired someone.