Aa tokkou: Chiran, Kanoya ni saita wakazakura
(Ah, special attacks: Young cherry blossoms that bloomed in Chiran and Kanoya)
Edited by Senshi Komikku Seisaku Iinkai (War Comics Production Committee)
Ohzora Shuppan, 2007, 434 pages
This manga anthology of eight stories by different authors deals with suicide
attack squadrons (tokkotai in Japanese) that sortied from Navy and Army
air bases in southern Kyushu during the last year of World War II. The
"young cherry blossoms" in the subtitle refer to kamikaze pilots, and
Kanoya and Chiran mentioned also in the subtitle were the air bases with the most sorties of tokkotai
(special attack) planes for the Navy and Army, respectively. Most of the eight
stories were originally published in the 1970s. The action for each manga story
focuses on fictional characters, and actual battle history serves only as
background, often inaccurate. The authors depict most characters' emotions and
actions in a very exaggerated manner, so they have almost no
connection to actual historical figures.
The book's first story, entitled "Shiroji ni kuroku shi no maru
somete" (Circle of death dyed black on a white background), takes up about
40 percent of the pages, whereas the remaining seven stories range from about 25 to 50
pages each. This first story presents a 17-year-old pilot, Daiya Horiguchi, with
his squadron at Chiran Air Base. He flies a Type 97 Fighter (Allied code name of
Nate) having the number 4-444, with 4 being pronounced as shi, which also
means death in Japanese. When B-29 bombers are sighted heading toward southern
Japan, Horiguchi's special attack squadron takes off to meet and engage them in
ramming suicide attacks. However, his plane's engine catches fire, and he barely
makes it back to base. The base commander court-martials him for disobeying
orders by returning to base rather than trying to crash into the enemy planes.
Horiguchi gets punished with an assignment to fly between Chiran and the Sixth
Air Army Headquarters in Fukuoka in order to deliver names of pilots who
will fly on suicide missions from Chiran. This task troubles him greatly, since he feels
responsible for sending his friends to their deaths, and others start referring
to him jokingly as Shinigami (Death God). He develops an affection for Noriko, a
high school girl who works at Chiran Air Base to help maintain planes. She cuts
the locks of her hair and gives them to him before he takes off with his friends on a suicide attack mission. Horiguchi's
plane gets shot down by B-29 gunners, but
the last page shows him and his friends together happily after death.
Horiguchi's story contains several historical inaccuracies. For example,
although Chiran served as an Army kamikaze base during the Battle of Okinawa,
Army special attack squadrons that made ramming attacks on B-29s did not use this
base. The story depicts the Army's forming special attack squadrons at Chiran
soon after the Navy's first kamikaze attacks in the Philippines in October 1944.
In actual history, the Army's Shinbu special attack squadrons were formed at air
bases other than Chiran, usually at ones on the main Japanese island of Honshu.
After a short period of training, these Shinbu special attack squadrons then proceeded to Chiran Air Base
and other bases in southern Kyushu shortly before the expected
dates of their suicide missions toward Okinawa.
Several manga stories in this anthology contain unbelievable characters. One
story features a gambler who goes directly from jail to Chiran Air Base for his
death sentence, although he manages to survive the war when his decrepit plane
goes down into the sea and he gets rescued by a fishing boat. Another story
depicts an easygoing kamikaze pilot who returns to base each time after being
sent seven times with special attack squadrons on suicide missions.
In addition to manga stories, the book also has a few pages of background
information on Navy and Army special attacks. There are also pages on the Chiran
Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots and the 2007 movie Ore wa
kimi no tame ni koso shini ni iku (English title: For Those We Love).
This book of previously published comics about special attack pilots most likely
was published in 2007 to take advantage of the media hype surrounding this movie about
Chiran kamikaze pilots.
Special attack squadron ready to
sortie from Chiran Air Base.
From "Shiroji ni kuroku shi no maru somete"
(Circle of death dyed black on a white background).