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Raburetā (Love Letters)
by Kōji Seo
Kōdansha, 2007, 189 pages

This book by manga creator Kōji Seo has three stories involving love letters. The first one, which takes up about half of the book, depicts the love story of Chieko Machida and Toshio Anazawa, who died as a 20th Shinbu Special Attack Squadron member in a special (suicide) attack from Chiran Air Base on April 12, 1945. The story gets told from Chieko's perspective, and much of the time she wonders about their relationship since Toshio is a quiet type although he expresses himself eloquently in letters to her. The basis for the book is a 2005 television documentary entitled Kon'yakusha kara no isho (Last letters from my fiancÚ). Seo also met several times with Chieko for material to be included in this historically-accurate manga version, although the characters look like typical ones in manga rather than having a resemblance to the two main historical characters.

Toshio and Chieko first meet in July 1941 when he is a 19-year-old student at Chūō University in Tōkyō and she is a 17-year-old girl who has graduated from a girls' school and is now working at a summer training session in a university library in order to become a librarian. Chieko is surprised when Toshio, with no preliminaries and in what might be considered by others to be somewhat rude, directly asks her whether she would like to go together with him. In those days such a question would have been similar to engagement for marriage. She hesitantly responds that as friends she would like to see him. Toshio responds in a letter that he understand her hesitancy and continues with the following words: "No matter what, whatever happens, the feeling that I must love you only becomes more and more firm." Chieko soon grows to love him as they exchange letters, even though they live in the same city, and meet from time to time as she admires his smile.

In October 1943, Toshio enters the 1st Class of the Army Special Cadet Officer Pilot Training (Tokubetsu Sōjū Minarai Shikan) Program. They continue to exchange letters while he is in the Army, although Toshio's parents are against his marriage to Chieko with the circumstances that he faces in the Army. She writes in one letter that she wants to be his muffler so that she will never be apart from him. Later on a visit to an air base where Toshio is stationed, he borrows Chieko's muffler and says "we are together," which she interprets as an agreement to marry where they would always be together. In early 1945, Chieko gets a letter where Toshio has written that "it was decided that I will serve in a duty from which I will not return." She guesses that he has been assigned to the Special Attack Corps to make a suicide attack, so she decides to go by train in February 1945 to Kita Ise Airfield in Kameyama Town, Mie Prefecture, to try to see him. In an awkward moment, Toshio's unit commander has arranged a room with only one set of futon bedding at a local inn, but Chieko does not feel comfortable sleeping together with him. He understands and respects her feelings, but he says that he needs to sleep after a hard day of training, so she softly sings lullabies by his side throughout the night as he sleeps.

About a month later Toshio suddenly appears at Chieko's home to say that his parents in Fukushima Prefecture have given permission for them to be married. It is decided that they will get married in two weeks, but she never sees him again after he departs at the train station in order to return to base. She goes by train to Miyakonojō Air Base in Miyazaki Prefecture to try to see him, but she gets the message that his special attack squadron made a sortie to Tokunoshima two days before. However, he at this time is actually at nearby Chiran Air Base on stand-by due to weather. When his squadron prepares for the special attack sortie, another squadron member questions him as to why he is wearing a muffler in such hot weather. He makes his final sortie from there on April 12 with high school girls waving cherry blossom branches at him when his plane passes before them (see manga drawing below based on historical photograph). He is thinking that he can take off smiling because he is going to protect an important person and a women who he does not want to lose.

A final letter from Toshio is delivered to Chieko four days after he took off from Chiran. The manga story's last eight pages have short excerpts from his last letter. The letter can be read in its entirety at Last Writings of Second Lieutenant Toshio Anazawa.


 High school girls waving cherry blossom branches when
Second Lieutenant Toshio Anazawa passes before them
to make sortie from Chiran Air Base on April 12, 1945