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Anime / Leijiverse

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The Leijiverse is the term used to describe the shared continuity that runs through several anime and/or manga series created or heavily influenced by Leiji Matsumoto.

Series set in the Leijiverse include:

  • The Zero Century is a movie trilogy currently in production at Studio Gainax, with each one focusing on one of the verse's mainstays: Emeraldas (tentatively to release in 2020; although it isn't released as of yet), Harlock (2023) and finally, Maetel (2026). With no sign of the first two at the end of 2022, these are likely in Development Hell.
  • Wodachi is a self-parody Space Battleship Yamato, making fun of its core concepts and character archetypes for a dark comedy. Japan has decided to leave Earth under Dr. Sado Sakezo's leadership, traveling in a fleet of Yamato-lookalike ships.
  • The Cockpit and Iron Heart are shorts collections set on 20th century Earth that sometimes feature Harlock’s ancestor or visitors from the future.

Matsumoto's works are instantly recognizable due to his unique artistic style. His drawings lovingly and precisely describe space vessels such as the Arcadia and Yamato, transforming them from mere back drops into a vessel so imbued with personality that it might as well (and literally does, in some of Arcadia's incarnations) function as one of the characters. While the Leijiverse falls short of "hard" science fiction, the machinery is definitely inextricable from the plot.

Matsumoto is also remembered for his depictions of tall, willowy women, with gentle curves to contrast the ubiquitous technology and hair flowing down to their ankles. Per the man himself, they are based on a very old photograph of his grandmother.

Stories set in the Leijiverse generally take place in the latter half of the fourth millennium (Except the Yamato series, which is set at the turn of the 23rd century - 2199-2205), though some series may contain flashbacks to 19th century Earth.

Willowy women aside, the hallmark of the Leijiverse is nostalgic spaceships. The Arcadia incorporates part of a tall ship, the Yamato is a historically significant battleship converted into a spaceship, and, for pure Rule of Cool, the ''999'' and other Galaxy Railways are steam trains that run between stars, as though on rails.

Earth itself in most Leijiverse stories ranges between Vichy Earth and One World Order. The inhabitants, with the exception of those who take to space, are generally portrayed as having grown lazy and unmotivated. The government is often ineffective to the point of simply not noticing the alien invasion right on their proverbial doorstep. Many of the characters, particularly Captain Harlock, have in one way or another fallen out of favor with the population and government of Earth; however, Earth, as the seat of humanity, still inspires a great deal of sentimentalism, and the plots of Matsumoto's works often revolve around these same exiled characters protecting Earth in some capacity or another.

In some series, such as Galaxy Express 999 and Cosmo Warrior Zero, humanity shares a tempestuous relationship with robots, ranging from the useful – if annoying – Iq-9 in Space Battleship Yamato to the downright murderous humanoid robots that form the backdrop of GE999 and CW0. Other shows, such as Endless Odyssey and Der Ring des Nibelunge, happily substitute an Eldritch Abomination in place of the machines.

The core characters – Harlock, Tochiro, Emeraldas, Maetel, and others – are apparently free to walk in and out of each other's stories. Some storylines will even take an uncommon pause to consider the ambiguity of the protagonists "heroic" actions – Cosmo Warrior Zero, for instance, has Captain Harlock as the villain.

The details of these characters and their lives often change from story to story. In fact, Matsumoto apparently disdains continuity. Sometimes this is due to marketing constraints, such as the Arcadia having two different designs – Endless Odyssey even has a Freeze-Frame Bonus where both designs of the ship appear at the same time, and doesn't even attempt to reconcile this in-universe! Other instances, though, such as Tochiro dying three different times in three different ways, and Endless Odyssey continuing the story of every character from Space Pirate Captain Harlock, except for Tadaishi Daiba, who goes through the exact same events that he did in SPCH! Then there is the inconsistency surrounding Emeraldas' relationship to Maetel. In some stories, they're sisters. In others, well...they're not. And in some stories, Harlock knew Emeraldas long before he met Tochiro. In others, Harlock and Tochiro were both already lifelong buddies and Emeraldas is the newcomer. One Starlog magazine writer, in a 1986 article described the Leijiverse continuity as similar to that of Doctor Who. Being that the Whoniverse has a built in excuse (time travel), we are still waiting on the in-universe excuse for the Leijiverse. At least one American comic book adaptation (by Eternity Comics) of ''Captain Harlock' attempted (unsuccessfully) to do this in The '90s.

Space Battleship Yamato is a special case in the Leijiverse due to ownership issues — Matsumoto developed the show with producer Yoshinobu Nishizaki. He came onto the project after it was conceived by Nishizaki. However, the use of the battleship Yamato (based on the Real Life battleship destroyed by the Americans during the Battle of Okinawa) was one of Matsumoto's ideas. Originally, the project was called Asteroid Ship Icarus. Matsumoto is credited with the art design, direction, and feel of the franchise. Consensus credits Matsumoto's vision with the success that Yamato would eventually become. Nevertheless, legal restrictions prevent him from using the characters and storylines from the Yamato anime. Those rights are presumed to currently remain with Nishizaki's estate. Courts ruled that Matsumoto is free, however, to use the ship design and name of Yamato, since he contributed those to the original project. Yamato continues to make cameo Leijiverse appearances, always without showing the crew. Matsumoto also had to rename a 90s manga called Great Yamato to Great Galaxy.

The strong characters, themes, plots, and intricate level of technical detail in Matsumoto's works made them very influential in early anime, particularly in the Space Opera genre.

The Leijiverse is very well respected on both sides of the Pacific, and in many corners of Europe as well (France, Spain, and Italy, to name some of them). However, the availability of his work in North America has long been patchy at best. His were among the first wave of anime to make the jump across the Pacific. Unfortunately, it turned out not enough Americans at the time liked Space Operas to justify bringing over anything but Star Blazers and the occasional Galaxy Express or Queen Emeraldas film. Being part of anime's first wave, these anime also tended to suffer from the questionable standards and practices of the early localizers. The 1979 Galaxy Express 999 film was dubbed by New World Pictures and this guy. While not a total disaster, it is best left alone in light of the availability of the uncut version now available. The two attempts to import the 1978 Space Pirate series included one very short lived attempt in the early 80s (where half of about four episodes was given a decent dub while the other two were just embarrassing!) and the infamous Macekre done by the trope namer himself Captain Harlock and The Queen of 1000 Years (A cut and paste of the 1978 Harlock series and Matsumoto's much lesser known Queen Millennia) which mutilated the source material in a far worse fashion than some might say was done with his more famous Macekre, which in comparison was arguably respectful to the spirits of source material. Only in The New '10s has more of this universe been made available to fans in North America.