Time and the Leijiverse Part I (Happy B-Day Sensei)
Today Mr. Leiji Matsumoto is 71 years old. Happy birthday to him and may all of his dreams come true! (a selfish hope, as we all end up winning whenever this happens)
I see no better occasion to begin addressing one of the key issues (or better, problems) discussed by Matsumoto fans: what kind of Continuity (if any) can we find in the various series spanning over 30 years of creation. I’m very slowly working my way through sensei’s work and I’m in no way an expert, but here I’ll gather together the results of my investigations so far. Any and all corrections/advice will be appreciated.
Basically, there are two fundamental facts in the Leijiverse that seem to contradict each other:
1) The same cast of characters, or a sample thereof, pop up in most Matsumoto series: Tochiro, Tetsuro, Tadashi, Maetel, Harlock, Emeraldas. The relationships between the characters are quite similar across series, e.g. Harlock and Tochiro’s partnership.
2) The series take place in vastly different time periods, and although certain events occur repeatedly the circumstances are vastly different.
For example, Space Pirate Captain Harlock takes place in 2977 (that is, exactly a thousand years after Matsumoto began to release the comics). The events in Galaxy Express 999 start from 2221. However, very early on in the anime Tetsuro receives a hat that looks suspiciously like Tochiro’s, who strictly speaking should not be born for another 750 years. Even more glaringly, Harlock has a cameo appearance in this series. Not to mention some think the technology in the 30th century looks inferior to the 23rd’s.
Or compare the original Captain Harlock series to Arcadia of my Youth. Both depict an invasion of Earth, but in the first series it is by the Mazone race and in the Arcadia movie it is by the Illumidas. At some point Matsumoto (or his people, I’d like to know which but I don’t) decided to date the movie as ocurring in the 2960s, so that the sequence is 1) Illumidas invasion, repulsion; 2) Mazone invasion, repulsion. The biggest problem here is that even though Captain Harlock could have been alive long enough to liberate the Earth twice according to this scheme, in 2977 we cannot find a shred of remembrance of the extremely recent Illumidas invasion. In fact, the premise of the original Harlock series is that Earthlings are completely ignorant of the many intergalactic perils out there, so the notion of a prior Illumidas presence pretty much ruins the story.
The easiest solution to the problem is to dismiss it, and many fans opt to do this (good example here). Mr. Matsumoto doesn’t care about time or continuity, so why should we? The very fact that a series released in 1977 takes place in 2977 suggests that time issues are not being thought out and simply used in a playful manner. If Mr. Matsumoto is endeared to his favorite characters and wants to use and reuse, cycle and recycle them, so be it!
Others agree that Continuity is impossible to uphold but they take their time to explain and argue their position. An excellent example is cornponeflick’s Leijiverse webpage here, which imo is a must read for fans and would-be fans.
Still there are those who would defend the notion of an integrated Leijiverse. One way to deal with all of the incongruities is to jettison some dates and accept others. There is a 145 page “Leijiverse Integrated Timeline” (the author is Richard Mandel-I don’t know of any websites of his) doing the rounds in the internet which does just that. It helps that Matsumoto and his people have throughout the years done some of the hammering already to put some series in line with each other.
The attempt here is to fit everything that happens in the Leijiverse into a single timeline. Still, when you consider that even in our own physical universe that’s no longer a valid theoretical constraint (say thanks to Mr. Einstein) it’s no surprise that there are fans out there trying to provide for a larger continuity that can account for multiple timelines, parallel universes, etc. We actually know that Matsumoto-sensei is interested in time and physics, so this is a legitimate approach (or as French fans say: leijitime, which curiously breaks down into leiji + time).
This website is a good example of a defense of Leijiversal continuity. Continuity supporters quote Matsumoto’s own assertion that all of his work is interrelated and tend to leave it at that. My goal in this series of posts will be to do the same the second website above has done for the anti-Continuity position: to give a relatively detailed explanation of how Continuity is possible in the Leijiverse, a continuity based on the the concepts of Time in Matsumoto’s thought, modern physics and anywhere else I can get them.