The work of manga artist Leiji Matsumoto mixes historical periods, themes and technologies, often in a science-fiction setting: His signature comics involve steam locomotives and reborn World War II battleships sailing among the stars. These grand flights of fancy, which have found fans around the world, become even more magical when transposed into a traditional Japanese art form, such as ukiyo-e, the "pictures of the floating world" from Japan's Edo Period (1603-1868).
Matsumoto, 79, recently collaborated on a series of old-school woodblock prints with a modern twist in the form of his own characters and vehicles. In one, the titular romantic hero of "Space Pirate Captain Harlock" poses in samurai armor before Kumamoto Castle under the light of an oversized moon. In another, the mysterious Maetel from "Galaxy Express 999" is depicted in a classic Kyoto scene of flowers, golden clouds and a pagoda. Another carving features Harlock's ship Arcadia sailing over Katsushika Hokusai's "Great Wave off Kanagawa" with a ringed planet in the background.
The six works were made in limited sets of 1,000 prints and are selling from ¥95,000 each; part of the proceeds go to Kumamoto quake recovery efforts. The woodblock prints were produced in collaboration with Kyoto-based woodblock studio Takezasado, Team Hirota, a creative group led by Takeshi Hirota, and Living National Treasure Ichibei Iwano IX, a washi paper master.