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Kaiten pilot
Yūzō Watanabe

Tokkō no shima 9 (The Isle of Tokkou 9)
by Syuho Sato
Hōbunsha, 2018, 179 pages

This final volume of the nine-volume manga series titled Tokkō no shima (The Isle of Tokkou) wraps up the life of the fictional kaiten manned torpedo pilot Yūzō Watanabe with his death in a suicide attack on the American destroyer escort Overhill on July 24, 1945. The attack, which only succeeded due to Watanabe's extreme determination, resulted in the ship's sinking with 113 men dead and 125 men wounded. The author Syuho Sato had the first volume Tokkō no Shima published in 2006, which was 12 years before release of this ninth and final volume. The many years taken to complete this history-based manga series resulted in a high level of quality and historical accuracy of drawings and plot.

Volume 9 opens with Watanabe in his kaiten with great resolve to destroy the enemy ship. Watanabe asks for strength from the spirit of his deceased friend Masao Sekiguchi, who had saved the I-53 submarine on a prior mission when his kaiten lured away destroyers that were dropping depth charges. In Volume 8, kaiten pilot Jun Katsuyama volunteered to be a decoy in order to lead enemy ships away to allow the I-53 submarine to avoid the continuing depth charges in much the same way that Sekiguchi succeeded in doing in a prior mission. Katsuyama's kaiten traveled some distance before it exploded when hit by a depth charge. This allowed the submarine to survive at a deep depth and to launch Watanabe's kaiten weapon toward the destroyer escort Overhill.

Overhill's machine guns try to stop Watanabe's kaiten that they could see was coming toward the ship. His kaiten missed on the first run at the ship, but he is able to turn it back toward the ship. He showed his fierce tenacity by repeating over and over that he will kill them and eventually succeeds. A great column of black smoke rises as the destroyer escort sinks. As mentioned in the review of Volume 8, the manga version is clearly meant to be fictional even though it is closely based on history, since the actual destroyer escort sunk by a kaiten was named Underhill (DE-682) rather than Overhill in the story. Also, there is no case where a kaiten torpedo missed a ship and then the pilot turned it around to make a second run at the same ship.

The I-53 submarine, heavily damaged by depth-charge attacks described in Volume 8, remains underwater for two days until Captain Toyomasu regains consciousness after being seriously injured in one of the attacks. The crippled submarine resurfaces after completion of makeshift repairs and finally reaches Ōtsushima Kaiten Base on August 12. As the submarine heads toward the mainland, the captain and remaining kaiten pilots weep when they read Katsuyama's last letter to his parents and Watanabe's note that he wanted communicated to everyone at the kaiten base.

Chapter 68, in about the middle of Volume 9, diverts from the main plot to tell the story of how the I-58 submarine, part of the same Kaiten Special Attack Corps Tamon Unit as the I-53 submarine, made a successful torpedo attack to sink the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis on July 30, 1945, which resulted in deaths of over 800 crewmen. The I-58 submarine was carrying kaiten weapons, but the captain decided to fire conventional torpedoes.

After the war's end and most men at Ōtsushima Kaiten Base had returned home, I-53 submarine Captain Toyomasu meets with Base Commander Itakura and relates what happened on the final mission. Itakura cries as he reads Flight Petty Officer 2nd Class Yūzō Watanabe's last note that he wanted communicated to everyone: "To all base personnel, please greet warmly the men who return alive. Due to mechanical troubles with the kaiten weapons, several men will return. Everyone, for some men it is not the first time but rather the second or third return. Thinking of them, they were my friends in life and death. For only me to die before them is extremely lonesome." Itakura pulls out the sketchbook of self-portraits that Watanabe gave to him before he departed on his final mission. Itakura says to Toyomasu that they cannot know what he was thinking when these portraits were drawn, but the portraits give some idea of the trials that he went through. Watanabe's nine self-portraits are those on the covers of the nine volumes of the manga series, and the two men's reflections on these drawings serve as a review of Watanabe's history with kaiten from the beginning.

Kaiten pilot Yūzō Watanabe's final approach
of his attack on destroyer escort Overhill