Leiji Matsumoto and the Battleship Musashi

Text from Spa Magazine #3443, Fusosha Publishing, Inc. March 10, 2015

The sister ship of Yamato appears after 71 years

Space Battleship Yamato‘s Leiji Matsumoto speaks personally

Raise Battleship Musashi!

Before the milestone of 70 years after the war, the God of the Sea speaks gently…

On March 2, the second of the “world’s largest” and “history’s strongest” battleships in the Yamato-class, built by the Imperial Japanese Navy and named Musashi, was found at the bottom of the Philippine Sibuyan Sea by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

At 263 meters in length, it displaced 65,000 tons and boasted three sets of three 46cm cannons, which were state of the art at the time. It was sunk by concentrated enemy fire in the Battle of the Leyte Gulf in October 1944. Since its sinking point was unknown, several exploratory efforts after the war failed to find it, giving rise to the legend that “it wanders somewhere even now, riding the ocean currents.”

“The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and, as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction.”

Mr. Allen issued this respectful Tweet immediately after Musashi was found, and the responses spread unexpectedly wide across the generation that never knew the war. But apart from this noise, there is a person who has thought about the brave figure of Musashi from the old days.

“When I heard it was found at last, my tears flowed…”

It is Leiji Matsumoto, the creator of Space Battleship Yamato who has sent many popular SF works out into the world. He began to squeeze out his memories of those days as he spoke.

“When I was 18 years old, I lived in a boarding house in Hongo. A man moved in who was the first mate of a heavy cruiser that escorted Musashi, and I heard all about its last moments. He’d also taken many hits but somehow survived, and he handed over design drawings to me of Yamato and Musashi. These were top secret during the war.” (Laughs)

“This was how I learned about the structure of Yamato, and it’s the reason I could draw Yamato later. It took a strange turn, and it feels like it has a mysterious relationship to Musashi. The first mate said it was ‘a tremendous ship.’ Musashi wasn’t just the world’s largest and strongest battleship, it was made with the most advanced technology.”

One of the biggest characteristics in the form of the masterpiece Space Battleship Yamato was that the bow below the waterline became spherical, similar to the “bulbous bow.” This shape is built into ships with advanced technology to counteract the resistance of waves, but Musashi had already adopted it more than half a century ago.

“The design of the bulbous bow on Yamato was a little exaggerated, but I was able to draw it because of the designs that were entrusted to me by that first mate. To some extent, even small boats now adopt this shape all over the world. I’m surprised by Japan’s technological capabilities in those days. Since it has spread out so much, I should have taken a patent when I drew Yamato.” (Laughs)

“This advanced technology also provide “spaced armor” inside the ship. If a shell penetrated through the exterior wall, there would be no damage to the structure. Even in the Sibuyan sea battle, it took 20 torpedoes, 17 bombs, and countless small arms fire, probably the most hits in the history of naval battles. Musashi didn’t sink for a long time.”

Musashi is the Japanese Samurai spirit, and the last symbol of Japanese chivalry.

Perhaps it was due to a deep karma, but the truth is that Musashi has previously shown up in a Matsumoto work. The huge battleship that was built in secret by the Imperial Japanese Navy lives on to fight enemies of the human race in Super Dimension Battleship Mahoroba (1993-98). Mahoroba sights Musashi at sea, depicting a scene that seems to serve as a requiem.

“In those days, Musashi was a ship into which the Japanese put their heart and soul. As a Japanese person, I don’t want to forget the tragic events that sank Musashi, so I put it into my work. Musashi is the Japanese Samurai spirit, and the last symbol of Japanese chivalry. In other words, it was the Japanese belief itself that had crossed the sea. Musashi rolled over after the sinking, and a gun turret fell off. So it will be hard to find. By chance, Musashi‘s gravity and buoyancy were balanced in the sea, so it continued to drift after the war…and for this reason, many romantic legends were born.”

Matsumoto’s father was a senior pilot in the Army Air Forces, and welcomed the end of the war with his 7-year-old son. The hardships he experienced under the occupation are seen on paper in various aspects of his work.

“It is miserable to be in an occupied condition. I had it in my childish mind never to accept charity from the occupation army! So I’d crush the candy thrown to me by American soldiers beneath my feet and walk away. One day, I secretly ate some of the candy that landed near my house, but it wasn’t like I’d actually taken it from them. (Laughs)”

“After losing the war, the Japanese became people of a ruined nation and endured it with clenched teeth. That’s the reason it recovered so quickly. Looking back, even when the black ships of a certain royal family in Europe approached in gunboat diplomacy, the strength of the Japanese spirit issued them a strict order to ‘keep your hands off Japan.’ That’s why Musashi symbolizes the Japanese Samurai spirit, and it’s why Japan should immediately dispatch a deep-sea research vessel to raise the hull with our own hands. If we don’t, then what about the feelings of the families of Musashi‘s crew, who gave their lives to the fatherland? Even now, the thought of it is enough to make my heart burst.”

Because the point at which Musashi sank is 1000 meters underwater, a debate about raising it has already been reported. The Japanese government has raised sunken ships before, and there is also a history of neglect in recovering the remains of those who died in the war. In response to this, the Philippine government has begun an investigation. The Japanese government should also find some way to do it, and not just stand idly by and watch.

RELATED: read a 1978 essay by Matsumoto about growing up in the occupation years here.

Will Paul Allen donate Musashi to Japan!?

According to Forbes, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who discovered the battleship Musashi, owns $17.5 billion in assets as of 2015! How on Earth did someone of such extraordinary wealth come to discover Musashi? Middle-aged finance man Mr. Koto Guchi speaks about this.

“I’ve been friends with ‘Allen’ since I worked at Morgan Stanley. At the time, Microsoft was in trouble and was considering seeking financing in Japan. I collected 5 billion yen for him, and he still feels indebted to me. I stayed at his home during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and we could take a water jet from the lake in front of his house to the stadium. Nowadays he is a go-getter, but his specialty in college was archeology. He always seemed to want to become a treasure hunter. More than ten years ago, he said, ‘Yamato has been found already, so I want to find Musashi.’ (laughs)”

Since the discovery of Musashi had been a ten-year dream, Mr. Guchi sent Mr. Allen a congratulatory mail.

“When I sent my congratulations, Allen’s reply was, ‘I want to donate it to Japan. It would be a problem if the Philippine government intervenes. But I intend to buy it and donate it to Japan.’ That’s awfully generous talk from him.” (Laughs)

Mr. Allen entered the private
spaceflight business with a new
company in December 2011.

Furthermore, according to Mr. Guchi, “Allen hates being called ‘Allen’.” Let’s stay tuned to the achievements of the very generous Allen-sama!

The End

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

Find more about the discovery and history of Battleship Musashi at these links:

First deep sea footage from Paul Allen’s ROV Motor-Yacht Octopus

Bow highlights

Full-length documentary on Youtube

Paul Allen’s Twitter feed

Musashi page at Paulallen.com

English-language accounts of the discovery:

MSN.com | War History Online | Washington Post | Business Insider | Telegraph | Japan Times | CNN | Yahoo | News.com.au

Historical info: Wikipedia | World of Warships

Manga artist Leiji Matsumoto talks at his home in Nerima, Tokyo

BONUS Leiji Matsumoto Interview

Published at iRONNA, April 9, 2015

70 Years After the War

Leiji Matsumoto: Yamato lives to fly

Sankei Shimbun 3-minute read

Leiji Matsumoto talks about Yamato

Interviewer: There is a model for each of the characters in Space Battleship Yamato.

Matsumoto: Juzo Okita, the captain of Yamato, is modeled on my father’s face and words. For example, at the beginning he says the line, “Endure the humiliation of today and live for tomorrow. Don’t die, Kodai.” I heard many words with such meaning. “This is good, this is good,” I said, and in the scene where he dies, it was my father’s way of dying. The name Juzo came from [novelist] Juzo Unno.

Interviewer: How about the others?

Matsumoto: Susumu Kodai came from my brother Susumu. My younger brother worked on rocket engines and deep sea submersibles for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Yuki Mori was based on a woman named Miyuki Moriki who read my manga Oidon Man and wrote me letters. I asked her if I could use her name.

The model for Dr. Sakezo Sado was a young man from Sado Island who worked in my office and was a heavy drinker. All the characters are based on people I know, including their personalities.

Interviewer: How did you come to consider the Battleship Yamato?

Matsumoto: When I participated in the anime production, I honestly asked, “should this be the Battleship Yamato?” I had an airplane mania and a battleship mania, but Yamato was a tough theme to handle. I didn’t want to get involved in things like religion or ethnic issues because I didn’t want to carelessly break a taboo. I’d always wanted to do a space fantasy.

Interviewer: Is that so?

Matsumoto participates in the unveiling of the Oizumi Anime Gate on April 4,
2015 to commemorate Nerima, Tokyo as the birthplace of anime.
See video reports here and here. See photos here

Matsumoto: This was a rare chance, so I decided to take the challenge. And when I drew the first Yamato story, I carefully considered how to avoid offending or hurting anyone of any nationality who saw it.

Interviewer: Your works are filled with depictions of your own beliefs, aren’t they?

Matsumoto: All humans are brothers. They may quarrel, but when you take a long view of history, Earthlings are all the same. That’s also how it is in Japan. When I first met someone from Aizu, he said, “Are you from Kyushu? If we met in the old days, we’d be enemies.” We roared with laughter and became friends. Today it’s just a funny story. That was a long time ago, but now we’re Japanese. It’s the same with Earthlings. The day will come when we can all understand each other.

Interviewer: The Yamato anime has been translated for foreign countries. What has been the response?

Matsumoto: Most voices say, “It’s fun to watch.” This is because I depicted it as a “warship of Earth.” I had the same considerations with Galaxy Express 999 and Captain Harlock.

Interviewer: What is the theme of Yamato?

Matsumoto: It lives to fly to save the Earth. It flies for survival, and not to die. At its heart is a thought for all those on Earth who fell in a battlefield. Someday we will no longer kill each other. I put such thoughts into it.

(Interviewer: Kenryo Mizogami)

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