Leiji Matsumoto and Japanese Street Fashion

Leiji Matsumoto (松本零士) was a legendary Japanese manga artist known for his sci-fi space operas and iconic character designs. Some of his most recognizable works include Space Battleship Yamato, Galaxy Express 999, and Space Pirate Captain Harlock. With a career spanning over 50 years, his stories have been adapted into several anime series and movies, stage plays, and a musical. Perhaps his most mainstream work when he collaborated with Daft Punk for Discovery‘s 14 music videos. Sadly, he passed away on February 13, 2023 at the age of 85.

Galaxy Express 999 and Space Pirate Captain Harlock have been on my watch list for what seems like an eternity. Although I have yet to watch either of them, over the years I admired his unique style and was sad to read about his passing. In particular, the character designs of Maetel and Captain Harlock have stuck with me, and those designs have also inspired some Japanese street fashion brands.

Maetel’s Design

Maetel from Galaxy Expresss 999 has a beautiful design with a mysterious fully black outfit that contrasts with her pale appearance. She is so mysterious that she doesn’t even have a last name.

Maetel character sheet: back, side, and front view.
Maetel character sheet

She is what I would call a long woman. Long hair, long face, long lashes, and long coat; everything about her is long. Her clothing silhouette further emphasizes her willowy appearance. Her sleek long black coat and fitted knee high black boots add to visual length to her body. In addition, the furry cossack hat she wears also adds quite a few inches atop her head, elongating her appearance further. She is iconic and even Malice Mizer’s drummer Kami cosplayed Maetel at one point.

Tribute to Maetel Gothic Lolita Fashion Collaboration

In 2017, an officially licensed three-way collaboration recreated Maetel’s outfit into real life. Leiji Matsumoto collaborated with two gothic lolita brands, Sheglit and Lumiebre, to make the vision come true.


Gothic lolita fashion brand Sheglit is known for their simple and elegant dresses. They replicated her signature hat, capelet, and coat; all sold together as a set for 60,500 yen (~$550 USD at the time). The coat and capelet were made of velveteen base fabric for the deepest black and create an elegantly draped silhouette. Inside the coat featured a beautiful galaxy printed lining, in reference to the series’s title. This set is pretty much a one-for-one official cosplay, but her design is quite timeless and friendly for general audiences. If you want to hide the anime elements, you can easily dress it down by omitting the hat and removing the capelet.

Sheglit velveteen and fur cape coat and hat inspired by Maetel.
Maetel set by Sheglit


Lolita parasol company Lumiebre created two parasols designed after Maetel’s image.

The more discreet (and expensive) parasol design had a black canopy with fur trim with pom-poms inspired by her coat. The inside featured a rose lace fabric lining. This version sold for 29,480 yen. If you weren’t familiar with the character design, then it would be easy to miss this was a collaboration piece.

Maetel inspired parasol with black fur trim.
Maetel Parasol by Lumiebre

The more utilitarian version was made of less ornate fabrics, but featured the printed galaxy lining and included the same pom-poms. The space print features Maetel’s profile and the Galaxy Express 999. This umbrella version costed 10,450 yen.

Maetel inspired parasol with printed galaxy lining, character, and the Galaxy Express 999.
Maetel Umbrella by Lumiebre

Midori Fukasawa, one of lolita fashion’s most famous models, wore the pieces from Sheglit and Lumiebre in the official image. In her blog post, she mentioned that the wig was styled in a way to lengthen her face to match Maetel’s features.

Maetel collaboration clothing worn by model.
Model: Midori Fukasawa
Clothing: Sheglit
Umbrella: Lumiebre
Photographer: Hiroshi Nonami
Hair and makeup: Yurika Uchida

Matsumoto drew a new illustration for the collaboration featuring Maetel wearing the set and holding the umbrella.

Maetel illustration for collaboration.

Captain Harlock’s Design

The design for Captain Harlock from Space Pirate Captain Harlock is pretty self-explanatory. He is a pirate in space.

The base of his outfit includes a black top with skull motif, white or black (depending on the source) slim pants tucked into knee high boots. Don’t forget the belts either; every pirate should have at least one belt. His iconic cape is big, making it known that he is the main character. The cape’s dramatic billowing is a nice touch to his overall look because all space operas need some extra drama.

Captain Harlock character reference.
Captain Harlock reference

Needless to say, he is incredibly handsome with a bit of ruggedness. They don’t really make protagonists like this anymore.

Captain Harlock Fashion Collaboration

In 2019, Leiji Matsumoto collaborated with gothic and lolita brand Ozz On for Captain Harlock’s outfit. The brand’s signature style features very layered looks that play with many textures. Ozz Croce, one of Ozz On’s punk-leaning sub-labels, released the collaboration for the 2019 A/W season.

The Harlock styling included 4 pieces:

  • Leiji Matsumoto Collaboration Mantle: 41,580 yen
    Captain Harlock’s officially licensed cape for the dedicated fan. Featured the red lining, gold trim, and a skull and crossbones applique on the shoulder.
  • Cross-Rod Blouse: 17,380 yen
    A long-sleeved blouse featuring skull and crossbones embroidery on the chest.
  • Side Line Skinny Pants: 19,580 yen
  • Hard Foot Covers: 18,480 yen

The whole set totaled 97,020 yen (~$900 USD at the time).

cape, blouse, pants, and leg covers inspired by Captain Harlock.

Technically, the mantle was the only licensed piece in the collection. The the blouse, pants, and leg covers were inspired pieces rather than a 1:1 reproduction. If you didn’t like the original black x red x gold colorway, it also came in black x black, grey x black, and brown x brown.

Leiji Matsumoto collaboration modeled by Kaya.

For the official promo images, they chose visual kei artist Kaya to model the pieces. A good choice made by the styling team since Kaya is really stunning and pulled off the beautiful and handsome look perfectly. Matsumoto drew an original illustration for the collaboration featuring Captain Harlock in the pieces as well.

Leiji Matsumoto official illustration of Captain Harlock for Ozz Croce.

Into the sea of stars

Real fashion inspired by anime and manga are beautiful when they are done well. I’ve always been a sucker for a good anime collaboration and these two knocked it out of the park. I only wish more Captain Harlock pieces came into fruition. I would be interested to see fashion brands such as Alice and the Pirates and Metamorphose put their spins on these characters. While I’m still just a bystanding admirer, I will indeed be reading or watching his works in the future. May he rest well in the sea of stars.

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