So I came across the cutest Japanese history anime that I want to recommend to everyone called Meow Meow Japanese History. Each episode is nine minutes long and covers different historical figures throughout Japanese history. However the characters are all cute cats! I was a little sceptic at first but after watching a few episodes I have to applaud the writers and animators for really capturing the little details without boring the audience. In the first episode Himiko entrances everyone to stop fighting, an allusion to her use of witchcraft. Later in the episode, she stops fighting amongst the cats again while basking under the sun, an allusion to her being a descendant of Amaterasu, the sun goddess. In the Oda Nobunaga episode, Toyotomi Hideyoshi is portrayed as a monkey. This is because Nobunaga’s nickname for Hideyoshi was little monkey. Also in the Nobunaga episode, at the betrayal at Honno-ji, he is depicted as dancing in the fire. This is because, while there is no actual account of Oda Nobunaga’s death and the body was never recovered, it is often portrayed in cinema and theater that Nobunaga performed the Atsumori before his death. The Atsumori is a play about a young samurai who was killed in the Genpei War and Oda Nobunaga was known for performing this play for his comrades. It is little touches like this that make me excited to watch the rest of Meow Meow Japanese History and I really encourage everyone else to give this anime a shot.
While looking for new anime to watch this past week I came across an old classic, Star Blazers. This anime originally aired in Japan as Space Battleship Yamato in 1974 in all its bell-bottomed, glory. The anime takes place in an apocalyptic future where humanity’s only hope lies in the WWII era battleship Yamato that has been equipped with alien technology to travel through space in the hopes of getting the special Cosmo DNA to clean Earth of its radiation. While the protagonists go through their weekly hijinks on their trek across the galaxy, the real star of the show is the battleship Yamato.
The Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Yamato was the heaviest and most armed battleship ever constructed, commissioned on December 16th 1941, just one week after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She had nine 46 cm (18.1 in) Type 94 main guns which were the largest guns ever put on a boat and displaced over 72,800 tonnes. However her sheer size required massive amounts of fuel to keep her moving and since fuel shortages were always an issue for the Japanese navy this hindered the deployment of the Yamato and her sister ship the Musashi. The only time the Yamato fired her guns was in the battle of Leyte Gulf. However, the Japanese fleet turned back thinking they were fighting the entire US Navy carrier group and not the light escort carrier group they were actually engaged with.
Towards the end of the war as the tide turned in favor of the Allied forces, the Yamato was sent on a one way mission towards Okinawa. There she was to beach herself, in essence turning the giant battleship into a fortress to stand as a bulwark against the expected allied invasion. The Yamato would not reach its destination because on April 7th, 1945 allied aircraft would engage the Yamato and her escorts. From the first attack at 12:37 to the explosion at 14:23, Yamato was hit by at least 11 torpedoes and six bombs from allied aircraft and sank.
So, I finally got around to watching a historical themed anime that came out this season called Sengoku Night Blood. It is based on the smartphone dating-sim game of the same name where you play the role of a young girl, Yuzuki, who is transported back to the Sengoku period and seek to fall in love with a prince who will transport you back to the present. With that well-developed plot how could I not want to delve right into this!
Our first episode has Yuzuki opening her phone and being magically sent back in time to seeing several pretty boys duking it out on the battlefield. From my understanding these are the “princes” that you are meant to seduce during the game. None of them are wearing period specific clothing and look like are ready to hop on stage at a J-pop concert at any time. However, I will use them as a segway to explain a question I often get. “Did main characters actually call each other out on the battlefield and duel?”
The answer to that is, yes and no. What can I say, I am a historian so there is never a definitive answer! While not always the case there are records in the Azuna KJagami of samurai calling out their name before entering a battle as a means of finding a worthy opponent. If someone met their challenge, there would be a duel. This single combat is known at ikki-uchi. The most hilarious example of ikki-uchi in my opinion would be during the Mongol invasion of Japan. When the Mongol troops landed on the shore individual samurai hoping to make a name for themselves stood in front of their armies and stated their names. The Mongols, not knowing of the tradition or understanding the language, killed the samurai on the spot. Also, despite depicting it in Sengoku Night Blood, the practice pretty much phased out by then as militaries used large troop formations.
Well I hoped you all learned something interesting about Japanese medieval combat. I know we didn’t talk too much about the anime itself but just like how Sengoku Night Blood is a dating sim disguised as a historical anime this article is a history article disguised as an anime review.
So I have been wanting to write about Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu since the first episode aired. This show is an amazing blend of history, sci-fi, and fantasy and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction. The premise of the show is that The Government of Time sends Touken Danshi (manifested spirits of historical swords) back in time to preserve the flow of history. They are fighting the Historical Revisionists who send their demons back in time with the goal of disrupting the flow of time to gain dominance over Japan.
This season of Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu deals with Japan in the 1860s. During this time Japan was ending its isolationist policy and opening itself up to the West. As western influence modernized Japan, the Tokugawa Shogunate began to lose its hold over the country. Our protagonists are various weapons who have been given human form by the Saniwa and are known as the Second Unit. They include Izuminokami Kanesada, Horikawa Kunihiro, Mutsunokami Yoshiyuki, Yagen Toushirou, and Tonbokiri and with Izuminokami Kanesada as their leader. The mission I wanted to discuss in this post takes place in Episodes 3-5. The Second Unit is tasked with protecting the meeting between surrender meeting between Saigō Takamori and Katsu Kaishū. These two men are discussing the terms of surrender of the Tokugawa Shogunate forces to those loyal to Emperor Meiji and sought to end the Boshin War. This was a pivotal time in Japanese history as it saw an end to the old Feudal ways of Japan and ushered the once secluded nation into the international scene.
There are plenty of references in Japanese pop culture to Oda Nobunaga. He has been immortalized in films, novels, manga, games, and several anime. The most recent incarnation of Oda Nobunaga in anime has been in Drifters which has seen a more brutal approach to his character. In Drifters we see an almost maniacal man, hell bent on destroying the current world and fulfilling his dream of unifying a nation. One of the most unique iterations of Oda Nobunaga, though, has to be the character Oda Nobuna in The Ambition of Oda Nobuna. In this historical comedy, Oda Nobunaga is depicted as a teenage girl who is befriend by the protagonist Yoshiharu Sagara. Sagara is a modern-day young man who finds himself thrown back in time to an alternate reality version of the Sengoku period where all the main historical figures have been replaced by high school aged girls.
So who exactly was Oda Nobunaga and why is he considered an important person in Japanese history? Oda Nobunaga was a Daimyō in 16th century Japan and one of the “Three Unifiers” along with Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Nobunaga started a campaign that would ultimately unify Japan as a singular nation. He is also noted for the introduction of firearms into his military forces. Eventually his success would be cut short by the betrayal of his retainer Akechi Mitsuhide.
I have always loved the world that Strike Witches was set in. The WWII meets alien invaders meets magical girls combination gives something for everyone. Added to the mix is a distinct lack of pants and cute animal ears and it is not surprising that the Strike Witches franchise has had such staying power. What was fascinating for me as I started delving into the series more was that the main characters are all based on real WWII fighter aces. Charlotte Yeager tipped me off as an homage to Chuck Yeager (the first man to break the sound barrier in flight) so I knew I would find out more about the other pilots if I did some digging. One pilot in particular stood out to me though above the rest and that was Sanya Litvyak.
Sanya Litvak’s persona is based on Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak who was a Jewish Soviet pilot in WWII. Lydia started her military career by joining the 586th Fighter Regiment of the Air Defense Force after lying about her pre-war flight hours. She was transitioned to the 437th Fighter Regiment where she scored her first two kills while piloting a Yak-1. Lydia and three other female pilots were assigned participate in future sorties using a tactic called okhotniki, which stands for free hunter. Okhotniki refers to pairs of pilots being allowed to search and engage targets on their own initiative.
On August 1, 1943, at only 21 year old, Lydia Litvyak was shot down over Ukraine and she never returned from her mission. She was rumored to be captured by the Germans and this was prevented from being awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Her comrade Yekaterina Vasylievna Budanova led a search for her body for over 30 years and in 1979, Soviet authorities confirmed that the remains of an unidentified grave in the village of Dmitrievka were indeed Lydia. In 1990 Lydia Litvyak was awarded the title of Her of the Soviet Union.
Who is Shimazu Toyohisa? Many people had that question when they tuned into Drifters, an anime put out this winter by NBC Universal Entertainment Japan that puts various characters throughout history into a fantasy world. Some of these characters are pretty well known such as Nobunaga, Hannibal, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid. However Shimazu Toyohisa, the main protagonist, may not be a known name to many watchers in the West. He was born in 1570 and at 17 years old fought in the Kyūshū Campaign as Toyotomi Hideyoshi sought to unite Japan at the end of the Sengoku period. It was 13 years later, however, that we are introduced to Toyohisa in the anime.
The Battle of Sekigahara was the final battle in Tokugawa Ieyasu’s struggle to unite Japan. You may remember in the anime how Oda Nobunaga was very interested in what happened to Tokugawa Ieyasu and that is because he carried on Oda Nobunaga’s plan of Japanese unification after he was killed. The Battle of Sekigahara was the final clash the bring Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was during this battle that our main character dies. The Shimazu clan was actually fighting against Tokugawa Ieyasu. Toyohisa sacrificed himself to ensure Yoshihiro, the 19th head of the clan, survived. Yoshihiro and the Shimazu clan maintained their land and power during the Tokugawa Shogunate and actually grew it, becoming one of the most powerful clans in Japan.