Throughout the majority of manga sci-fi/space opera, there’s a strong chance that there is some influence from the works of Leiji Matsumoto. In a career spanning over sixty years, Matsumoto has been responsible/played a part in some of the definitive entries in those genres across both manga and anime. He was the co-director of the legendary anime series Space Battleship Yamato, which was one of the earliest examples of anime moving to more serious subjects and tones and would also serve as a source of inspiration for several series released over the following years including Mobile Suit Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion. For non-manga/anime fans, he is probably best known for his collection of music videos for Daft Punk that made up Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem. But for manga/anime fans, his definitive works were the two manga series – Galaxy Express 999 and Space Pirate Captain Harlock which are still beloved today. Both series take place in the same universe and have been subject to several spin-offs and tie-in series. One of which is Queen Emeraldas.
Emeraldas, known throughout the galaxy as the Pirate Queen, travels through space on her heavily-armed ship, searching for a secret. Hiroshi Umino is a young boy who escaped the bounds of Earth only by building his own spaceship. He crashes on Mars, where he encounters Emeraldas, who sees a little of herself in the reckless young man.
Not only is the first English translation of any of Matsumoto’s work since 2003, it is also the first time this particular series has been released in English. Given the author’s pedigree, it is appropriate that Queen Emeraldas gets the prestige hardcover treatment in the style of Kodansha’s releases of Vinland Saga. Matsumoto’s art is great enough already, but the paper stock and larger format really emphasise just how gifted he is. Emeraldas maintains that badass quality through both her actions and design and everything else from the outer rims of space to the spaceship interiors are all very sleek. Whilst it is set years after the events of the main franchise and being mainly a standalone piece, readers will benefit from familiarity with the Captain Harlock franchise. Not only do characters from Captain Harlock and Galaxy Express 999 make appearances, but also the story is mainly designed to show what Emeraldas’ future held and it certainly helps being familiar with her character going in. That said, she shares the spotlight with young astronaut Hiroshi so if you put yourself in his unfamiliar shoes, this can easily be enjoyed as a standalone sci-fi piece.
For fans of Leiji Matsumoto, this is a must-buy. Anyone else looking for great science fiction manga and wanting to examine historical works in the manga canon should also give this one a look.
Queen Emereldas 1 is published 28 July by Kodansha
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