Harlock and Maetel Jostle for Position…
And Maetel wins hands down. Look at this pie chart:
What I’ve done here is totaled up the number of hours of animated work with the Leijiverse for a setting (close to 200 in my count), and then broken it down into 3 cycles plus a miscellaneous category.
I’m using “cycle” in the Classical Studies sense: a heterogeneous group of stories, histories, myths and legends based around certain common themes, personalities and ideas. In Greece, for example, I know of two major epic cycles: the Trojan Cycle and the Theban cycle.
For the actual number crunching, I used the ANN Leiji Matsumoto page with the list of his works and then tabulated running times for every OVA, special, movie etc.
The Classic Harlock Cycle includes all of the works in which Capt. Harlock fights the Mazones or the Illumidas. If I’m not mistaken most people think of Classic Harlock when they think of Leiji Matsumoto. Either that or Space Battleship Yamato, which I am not considering as part of the Leijiverse (if you disagree with this judgment, do let me know!). Surprisingly though, Classic Harlock makes up only 22% of total Leijiversal Animation.
Works centered on Maetel and her struggle against the Mechanization Empire contribute 52% of the total. In fact, the Galaxy Express 999 TV series is so long that at 117 episodes it’s longer than the entire Classic Harlock Cycle! The dominance of the Maetel Cycle is not simply a matter of numbers. The so-called Matsumoto Renaissance works of the 1990s were primarily Maetel works, so clearly Sensei is very deeply engaged with this tale.
Cosmo Warrior Zero is one of this renaissance shows, and I was initially tempted to treat it as part of the Maetel Cycle because it deals with issues of mechanization. In the final analysis, though, the roots of the story are different (although squarely within the Leijiverse) so it ended up as the biggest chunk of the Miscellaneous Tales.
I haven’t seen anything from the Galaxy Railways Cycle, and my prejudice is to exclude it from the Leijiverse because it seems to be more of a Matsumoto-sponsored work than a Matsumoto-created one. Still, Matsumoto himself seems to have linked it to the Leijiverse and a few of the classic Leiji characters do show up late in the series (see here for details) so I just had to put it in. This cycle owns 12% of Leijiversal animation.
Besides Cosmo Warrior, the Queen Emeraldas and Harlock Saga OVAs are parts of the Miscellaneous zone worthy of mention. The Saga manga apparently reaches quite the epic scale, but sadly the animation covers only the opening salvo of that story, probably due to the end of the Matsumoto Renaissance, so it’s really impossible to talk of a Saga Cycle.
And then there’s the fact that Cosmo Warrior and Queen Emeraldas OVAs feature the Metanoid race, which is the main enemy in the last Galaxy Express 999 movie, Eternal Fantasy. So by way of the Metanoids you could argue both OVAs are really part of the Maetel Cycle, which would make its share of the Leijiversal pie something like 60%. But that 999 movie is plain awful so I won’t subscribe to that view. Plus the entire Eternal Fantasy manga storyline seems to be a brand-new one and if more of it were to be animated then it would deserve its own post-Mechanization-Empire Cycle.
One more point: the title of the post is more of a gimmick than anything. Harlock and Maetel both show up all over the Leijiverse, so for example when I talk about a Maetel Cycle I’m not excluding the presence of the Space Pirate, or even his influence. If you pay attention to the Adieu Galaxy Express 999 movie you’ll find that Harlock, through his friendships (with Faust, with Emeraldas) as well as through his acts, plays a key role in the Mechanization conflict. The same could be said for Maetel in the other cycles.
It is precisely the relationships of these unique individuals through the varied course of Time that hold the Leijiverse together.