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Film / Yamato

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Yamato (男たちの大和, lit. "The Men's Yamato") is a 2005 Japanese World War II film. It was written and directed by Jun'ya Satô, based on a novel by Jun Henmi, and scored by Joe Hisaishi.

April 6, 2005. A thirty-ish woman, Makiko Uchida, comes to the port of Kure, seeking a boat. She is looking for someone to take her out into the open ocean, to the spot where the Japanese battleship Yamato was sunk, with the loss of almost all its crew, sixty years before. An old fisherman, Katsumi Kamio, agrees to take her. He reveals that he is one of the very few survivors of the sinking. She in turn reveals that she's the daughter of Mamoru Uchida, another Yamato crewman, whom Kamio thought had gone down with the ship.

From that Framing Device the main story plays out. A teenaged Kamio joins the Navy in 1944 and is assigned to the battleship Yamato, pride of the Imperial Japanese Navy. He's subject to brutal IJN training by Petty Officers Uchida, Moriwaki, and Karaki. As Japan's military situation deteriorates, the Yamato is damaged in the October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf. Finally, with defeat looming, the Yamato is sent off on a desperate suicide mission, Operation Ten-Go.

This film contains examples of the following:

  • Abandon Ship: Naturally, the remaining commanding officers on board the Yamato give this order when all hope of containing the flooding damage from the American aerial torpedoes proves futile. Unfortunately, it's too little, too late, as the ship capsizes quickly soon after, and then goes up in a massive explosion.
  • All for Nothing
    • The Yamato gets sunk before getting anywhere near the invasion fleet at Okinawa.
    • At one point the anti-aircraft team manage to shoot down an attacking aircraft. Then a Catalina flying boat swoops down, picks up the downed pilot and takes off again, right under their guns.
  • Anti-Air:
    • The Type 96 Antiaircraft guns on board the Yamato. Kamio and Uchida are assigned to them. Unfortunately, the hand-cranked, obsolete anti-aircraft guns are extremely ineffective (nearly hopeless, in fact) at shooting down fast-moving American planes.
    • When American planes are detected approaching the Yamato and its escorts, she opens fire against them using her main gunsnote 
  • Bearer of Bad News: Kamio brings the news of Nishi's death to his mother.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Heavily averted; the anti-aircraft gunners spend as much time reloading as they do shooting. This was a major flaw of the Japanese Type 96 guns.
  • Crew of One: After the rest of men on his anti-aircraft gun mount are killed, Kamio has to aim and fire it all by himself.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Just like in history, Yamato goes down to air attack never even seeing, much less sinking, any of the American carriers responsible; the only American casualties are 10 planes out of a force of 300.
  • Curb-Stomp Cushion: A handful of TBM Avengers and F6F Hellcats are shown falling victim to the Yamato's Anti-Air batteries, but it does little to save the ship, since the American fliers are attacking from all directions.
  • Death from Above: The Yamato and most of the Ten-go force is ultimately destroyed by a force of 300 or so torpedo bombers, dive bombers, and fighters from the American Fast Carrier Task Force.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: True to history, the Yamato does not go quietly; just before slipping beneath the waves, the ship's magazines detonate in a massive explosion. note  note 
  • Dirty Business: Admiral Ito is clearly unhappy about Ten-Go and the fact that the fleet will have no air cover, which makes it painfully obvious to him that he will be sending his men into a grinder, but he can't refuse an order from the emperor.
  • Dramatic Irony: It's cringeworthy every time a character talks about going to Hiroshima, considering what happens to that city just a few months later. And indeed Kamio goes to look for Taeko there, only to find she was hurt by the atom bomb's blast.
  • Driven to Suicide: As Ten-Go goes From Bad to Worse, one sailor picks up a fallen officer's katana and falls on it.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Averted. Kamio is an ordinary enlisted sailor and Uchida a petty officer. While the eponymous battleship can be considered a better posting than most, they're not treated In-Universe as some exclusive, elevated group. The old Kamio certainly doesn't speak of the experience like it covered him in glory.
  • End of an Age: The recounting of his past to Makiko enables Kamio to accept that the Showa period has ended. The time of the battleship as the primary naval weapon is also over.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When Kamio first sees Uchida, the latter keeps getting up and demanding another round during judo practice. This demonstrates his Determinator tendencies and foreshadows his sneaking out of hospital despite not being fully healed to go on Yamato's final mission.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Uchida gains a medical eyepatch after being wounded during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
  • The Faceless: The Americans. The Yamato doesn't even see a periscope from the submarine that tracks it through the Bungo Straits. The Curb-Stomp Battle that follows is nothing but American planes bringing Death from Above. At no point does the viewer see a single American perspective.
  • Foregone Conclusion: As a historical film, you know there's not going to be a happy ending for the Yamato.
  • Framing Device: An elderly Kamio takes Uchida's adopted daughter out to the spot where the Yamato sank, on the 60th anniversary in 2005.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Old Kamio has one after reaching the point in the recount where he tries but fails to save Nishi. There are no prolonged dramatics - he makes a pained gasp, reaches out for support and collapses. The others want to turn the ship around even after he recovers and takes his medicine, but he insists on pressing on since they're close to the destination already.
  • Hopeless War: The late-war situation for Japan is this in a nutshell, with the Yamato being on the receiving end of a Curbstomp Battle and subsequent Senseless Sacrifice establishing this.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: The old Kamio breaks down after Uchida's ashes are scattered at the coordinates of Yamato's sinking.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The American submarine that reports the position of the Yamato does not bother to code the message, which is how the Yamato knows about it in the first place. The captain on the bridge says it's like the Americans, who obviously know the Yamato is helpless, are taunting them.
  • It Will Never Catch On: In 1942, 15-year-old Kamio tells his mom not to worry about the war, because the newspapers say that America is full of individualists and the United States won't fight long.
  • Killed Offscreen: Subverted with Kamio's mother. First we notice her mysterious absence when Kamio returns for a final shore leave before Ten-Go. Then we are shown her photo on the family shrine. Then we flashback to how she died.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: On the eve of Ten-Go, one of the petty officers gathers his men and tells them that, should the order to abandon ship be given, they are to do so, rather than try to fight on.
  • Last Request: Uchida's was to have his ashes scattered at the coordinates of Yamato's sinking.
  • Losing the Team Spirit: On the eve of Ten-Go, some of the sailors begin questioning the purpose of the mission and a brawl breaks out between those eager to sacrifice their lives and those who are not.
  • Lowered Recruiting Standards: The narration notes that by 1944, when Kamio joins the Yamato, naval training is rushed and the new recruits are as young as 16. (Kaito himself is 17.)
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The Yamato takes a beating of 20 torpedo hits, most to her port side, before sinking. In Real Life, the ship was also subject to attack from aerial rockets launched by fighters and dive bombers. In addition, concentrating the torpedo attacks on her port side actually occurred, and was a deliberate tactic by the torpedo bombers. Massive flooding from damage mainly to her port side would have made it more likely for the ship to capsize.
  • Manly Tears: Some of the sailors shed these on the eve of Ten-Go.
  • Percussive Prevention: Kamio refuses to abandon ship, so Moriwaki and Uchida throw him out of the anti-aircraft gun nest.
  • Screaming Warrior: Kamio and Uchida yell defiance at the attacking American planes during Ten-Go.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Operation "Ten-Go" is this in a nutshell, as the Yamato and most of her escorts are sunk hundreds of miles from Okinawa, with zero impact on the battle there.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Kamio keeps a shrine to his fallen comrades, which he visits before setting out to the place where the Yamato sank.
  • Sinking Ship Scenario: Yamato herself goes down after sustaining dozens upon dozens of bomb and torpedo hits.
  • Stock Footage: There's plenty of stock footage used to introduce events that don't directly involve the Yamato, such as the Tokyo firebombings.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The Yamato, just before slipping beneath the surface, has her powder magazine detonate in a massive explosion.
  • Survivor Guilt: Kamio develops this after Ten-Go, unable to forgive himself for surviving where his comrades died.
  • Suicide Mission: Pretty much Operation Ten-Go in a nutshell, as there was no way the Yamato was going to make it to Okinawa, with no fighter escort and near-defenseless against American planes and submarines.
  • Taking the Bullet: Kamio's mother dies protecting Taeko from an American strafing run.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The American carrier aircraft attacking the Yamato put at least 7 bombs and 20 torpedoes, as well as an undisclosed number of aerial rockets, into the ship before she slips beneath the waves.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Kamio has two - the drawing Nishi made of Taeko and the knife Uchida passed to him.
  • The Unreveal: During shore leave between Leyte and Ten-Go, some of the sailors go to a gambling parlour, where one of the things they bet on is whether they will survive the latter. The camera cuts away before the result of this particular bet is shown.
  • Vehicle Title: Yamato, the grand battleship that died a senseless death.
  • War Is Hell:
    • There are many gory, vivid shots of people getting shot or blown up. The sailors manning the exposed anti-air guns have it worst. The results are heartwrenching and horrifying rather than cool.
    • The film also shows the frustration and helplessness of the Yamato's crew to a absolutely heartbreaking degree. They know they are fighting a hopeless battle, they are so overwhelmed by the hundreds of aircraft attacking them that they often freeze because there are so many planes they can't decide which one to shoot at, the American fighters and bombers attack relentlessly and without pause, and their ship and their companions are getting shredded all around them.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Uchida gets mad when his superior nearly breaks his leg while doling out corporal punishment.
    • One of Yamato's officers voices his displeasure that the head of the IJN is cowering in a bunker in far-off Kyushu rather than joining them on the mission to Okinawa. In true Japanese Politeness fashion, he does so while maintaining proper deference to his superior, pretending to innocently assume the Admiral is coming along. This forces the Admiral to lose face correcting the officer and pointing out that he is actually staying on land.
  • You Should Have Died Instead: After bringing the news of Nishi's death, the man's mother asks him, "How dare you be the one to survive?"