January 25 is the birthday of Leiji Matsumoto, who turns 83.
Matsumoto’s style is what I think of anime from the 70’s to the early 80’s. He wrote and illustrated space operas — such as Space Battleship Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, and Captain Harlock. In his world, space is traversed by old battleships, steam trains, and pirate ships.
There’s also a sense of hopelessness and suffering, but also great nobility. Captain Harlock, for example, is away fighting a war in Arcadia of My Youth. When he returns to Earth, he discovers it’s been conquered and all the residents enslaved. The people of Earth resent him and his fellow soldiers for failing to protect them. Nevertheless, he organizes a resistance, despite knowing that in the end they’re doomed to fail.
Galaxy Express 999 would have a similar melancholy tone. Maetel, a mysterious passenger on an interstellar train, would meet with a young man named Tetsuro. Tetsuro sees his human body as weak, and he’s traveling to a far off world to replace his flesh with robotic parts. Maetel offers him unlimited access to the train if he will be her traveling companion. Along the way he witnesses others who have gone through the procedure… many who are regretful, others who have become cruel.
Matsumoto would also team up with Daft Punk to release an anime film, Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. The dialogue-free film — which featured “One More Time” — follows a blue-skinned alien band named the Crescendolls, who have their memories wiped, their skins painted to flesh-tone, and their musical careers exploited by some evil record producer. Matsumoto supervised the film’s development. The animation style was directly derived from his work, as Daft Punk were huge fans.